BUA Ports and Terminal has described the recent claim of the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) that it closed the company’s terminal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for health and safety reasons, as misleading and inaccurate.
Disputing NPA’s claim in a statement issued by the company, BUA disclosed that the port authority failed to carry out any of its own obligations under the Lease Agreement, which are necessary and required for any meaningful reconstruction to take place and it had failed to respond to it’s several requests for approval to perform remedial action on the berth.
According to the statement, BUA had contacted a renowned construction company to effect the needed repairs at the terminal and thereafter paid the sum of 4.7 million euros but the approval letters sent to the NPA for work to begin were without reply, thereby making any construction work impossible.
It said, “The failure of the NPA to provide security for the terminal as required in the lease agreement has given way for nefarious activities of hoodlums and vandals that over a period of time cut the pipes and steel beams of the berths thereby affecting their stability and consequently making remedial works imperative.
“It is gratifying to note that the MD of the NPA admitted issuing a Notice of Termination but interestingly omitted to acknowledge that NPA failed to abide with the provisions of the Lease Agreement, especially the dispute resolution provisions. The Agreement provides that certain steps must be taken where there is a dispute, which if cannot be resolved amicably, should be referred to arbitration.
“As a responsible corporate citizen, which appreciates the coercive powers of the NPA as an agency of Government, BUA approached the Federal High Court for the protection of its rights and investments. The court dutifully granted an injunction restraining the NPA from giving effect to the Notice of Termination and also ordered parties to proceed to arbitration in accordance with the terms of the Agreement. In essence, NPA was enjoined to await the outcome of the arbitration proceedings.”
Rather than wait for the outcome of the arbitration proceedings, BUA alleged that NPA itself had initiated and issued a letter decommissioning the terminals, which is tantamount to an effective termination of the Agreement.
Grey Area: Disputing BUA’s claim in a letter signed by Jatto Adams, the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications of NPA, the port authority stated that its action didn’t disobey the court order which restrained NPA from terminating the lease even though it had shutdown BUA’s terminal. NPA said the terminal was closed over a year after it received the court order.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has reacted to accusations of breaching a court order in the case involving BUA Ports and Terminals Limited, a subsidiary of BUA Group. The port authority and the company have been in a dispute over a port terminal in Port Harcourt.
NPA had decommissioned the whole concession arrangement which BUA Group got in 2006, claiming that the unsafe operational environment of the jetty (BUA concession area) needed urgent repairs and reconstruction.
But the General Manager, BUA Ports and Terminals Limited, Mohammed Ibrahim, said the withdrawal of license by the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman was against the requirement of global judicial/dispute resolution and undermined the NPA concession agreements.
Ibrahim argued that BUA had on several occasions sought approval from NPA to perform remedial works on the terminal. However, the NPA didn’t grant the approval, yet it shut down the terminal or decommissioned the concession.
But according to NPA’s recent reaction, the port authority said the terminal had been closed before BUA wrote to NPA regarding the state of the quay walls at the terminal. NPA said that was when BUA informed it that the terminal was close to collapsing.
BUA’s lease is meant to last for 20-years before the need for renewal but the company has only been in charge for 13-years. Why shut down the terminal if the company in charge is willing to repair and still has 7-years to operate at the terminal. Does the NPA intend to repair the terminal on behalf of BUA and hand it back to BUA.