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By Innocent Orok

Hadiza Bala Usman, MD NPA

The contract deal gone sour between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the BUA Group, Operators of Terminal B of the Port Harcourt port complex has taken a new dimension as both parties are now occupying the media space in war of words struggling to state their various positions on the matter.

Abdulsamad Rabiu, Chairman BUA Group

BUA Group management, operators of BUA Ports and Terminal Limited in the Rivers Ports Complex on Monday September 30 2019 had published advertisements in some major Nigerian newspapers alleging the NPA of running against the rule of law in decommissioning the Rivers Ports Terminal B operated by the company.

But the NPA in a swift reaction through a media statement issued by its management has accused the BUA Group of blackmail to intimidate the agency from performing its rightful regulatory oversights and trying to malign the name of the Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman.

The statement by the NPA reads,
“Decommissioning of Rivers Ports:Facts Of The Matter: On Monday September 30, 2019, the management of BUA Ports and Terminal Limited took advertisements in some major newspapers where it alleged that the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA ran against the rule of law in decommissioning Rivers Ports Terminal B, operated by the company.

” As a responsible government agency, which holds itself accountable to
Nigerians, the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority hereby refutes
all allegations of wrong doing suggested in the said adverts.

“Management also asserts that this is an attempt to blackmail, intimidate and prevent the Authority from performing its rightful regulatory oversight as well as malign the name of the Managing Director.,”

According to the NPA’, the facts the matter are as follows:
• BUA Ports and Terminal Limited became concessionaires for Rivers
Port Terminal B for a 20 -year tenure in line with the Port Reforms policy of the Federal Government through concession agreement contract dated May 11, 2006. The Terminal was handed over to them
for use with effect from August 10, 2006.

•As part of the terms of agreement for the concession, BUA Ports and
Terminal Limited was required to commence full reconstruction of
berths 5-8 within 90 DAYS of hand over of the facility.

• As of February 2016, TEN YEARS after the handover of the premises to BUA Ports and Terminal Limited, the company had failed to commence the reconstruction of berths 5-8 as required by the agreement. The Authority then issued a letter drawing their attention to this non-compliance.

• Despite receiving the letter, dated February 3, 2016, the company
refused to honour this fundamental and material term of the lease agreement which compromises the integrity of the other adjoining berths in the ports.

• Consequent to the above, the Authority served a default notice dated February 11, 2016 and another one dated July 27, 2016 on the Terminal operator.
The letter reminded that the non-compliance, which led to the deterioration of the berths 5-7 and the total collapse of berth 8 constitutes a breach of the concession agreement and a threat to the safety of lives around the terminal.

• Committed to stop the flagrant abuse of the terms of its operating agreement and save users of the ports from any untoward incident, the Authority, on November 11, 2016, issued a three-month termination notice to the company, citing default notices served on them in relation to the non-fulfilment of the obligations under the lease agreement.

• On receipt of the notice of termination, BUA Ports and Terminal sought and obtained a restraining order from the Federal High Court,Lagos on January 18, 2018 barring the Authority from giving effect to the termination.

• In compliance with the restraining order of the Federal High Court, the Authority, thereafter allowed BUA Ports and Terminal Limited full access to the premise for peaceful operation, without any interference whatsoever.

The NPA also alleged that BUA Group on May 16, 2019 send a letter to the Authority informing them of the dilapidated state of the berth among other things.

“However, on May 16, 2019, after eighteen months of having peaceful
use of the Terminal, the Authority received a letter from BUA Ports and Terminals Limited, informing us of the dilapidated state of the berth and stating amongst others:

“The jetty is in a state of total dilapidation and in urgent need of repair or reconstruction. Our engineers have advised us that the jetty is liable to collapse at any moment.

“The Authority found the state of the jetty as described by BUA Ports and Terminals Limited themselves as very risky, posing a safety hazard to all users in the Terminal and demanding of urgent attention.

“This is more so because the complaint is coming 13 full years after BUA Ports and Terminals Limited committed to embark on this reconstruction by virtue of the lease agreement with the FGN.

“As a result, the Authority found it necessary to decommission the
terminal out of safety concerns. This is a measure to forestall imminent danger as highlighted by BUA Ports and Terminal
themselves and to allow for a comprehensive conditional survey of
the state of the Rivers Ports in totality. All these steps are in line with
international best practices on safety at port locations”.

The NPA further stated that the Authority, as a responsible regulator having received that alarming letter on the state of the jetty by the operators was compelled to act in the manner it did to safeguard infrastructure at
the Rivers Port and to ensure the safety of its users.

“It is pertinent to note that the process for the default notices issued to BUA commenced in February 2016 before the appointment of the current Managing Director.
However, in line with her commitment to the rule of law, she proceeded to implement the recommendations to
safeguard the sanctity of the agreement and protect the FGN from a defaulting concessionaire seeking to defraud the FGN by using its facilities without making the due investment enshrined in the development plan of the concession agreement.

“Resultantly, any inference of vendetta against the Chairman of BUA Group is another of the numerous tactics aimed at distracting the Authority and stopping Nigerians from seeing the flagrant disregard of the contractual agreement by BUA.

“The NPA therefore states that the decision to decommission Rivers
Ports Terminal B results from its unwavering commitment to the rule
of law as well as the safety of all Nigerians. Nigerians should regard
these allegations as attempts by BUA Ports and Terminal Limited to
blackmail and intimidate the NPA and stop the law from taking its
course in the current situation.” the statement concludes.

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