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Why NPA, BUA are at daggers drawn

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the BUA Group have been at daggers drawn since the NPA decommissioned BUA Ports and Terminals Limited, operator of…

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the BUA Group have been at daggers drawn since the NPA decommissioned BUA Ports and Terminals Limited, operator of Terminal B at the port in Port Harcourt.

The termination of the concession agreement, which has rendered the relationship between the two entities frosty, was for security reasons, going by the position of NPA.

Speaking at the quarterly stakeholders meeting organised by NPA in Port Harcourt recently, its Managing Director (MD), Hadiza Bala Usman, said the action was taken because the BUA Terminal had not complied with the port’s development plan.

Daily Trust recalls that in 2005, the Federal Government initiated the Ports Reform Programme under which 25 terminals were leased to different operators.

The concession pact indicated that the firms would operate the facilities, while NPA would maintain them in terms of repair and upgrading.

The NPA boss told the stakeholders that as part of the concession agreement, there were certain developments that each terminal operator was supposed to do at their terminals.

She said in line with the concession agreement, BUA was required to rehabilitate and reconstruct its terminal, but that it did not do so for years.

Usman said, “In November, 2016, a notice of termination was issued to the BUA Terminal for non-compliance with the port’s development plan.”

She further revealed that when NPA did an inspection, BUA’s concession agreement was terminated for failure to adhere to that development plan, and that BUA instituted a court injunction that prevented NPA from taking over the facility.

She said since NPA got the injunction in January, 2018, between January, 2018, and June, 2019, BUA enjoyed using the terminal in totality “with collapsed quay walls and berths.”

Speaking further on the development, she said, “We now received a letter from the same BUA, drawing our attention to the fact that the condition of the quay wall was deteriorating and not safe and was at the point of collapse, and that they were very concerned. As a responsible regulator, we looked at the state of the quay and wondered how BUA could have used it for one and half years in that terrible state. With safety issues uppermost, we had to decommission the BUA Terminal based on health and safety reasons.”

Reacting, the BUA Group and its Chairman, Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu, have faulted the position of NPA.

In a statement on the development, BUA Group said NPA failed to adhere to its responsibilities in the concession pact.

BUA said, “It is on record that NPA has not complied with any of its obligations under the Lease Agreement. It is the responsibility of NPA to dredge the ports, repair, renew and rebuild the quay walls, as well as provide security for the terminals; it did not do any of these.”

The BUA Group added that it was the failure of NPA to provide the required security that led to the activities of hoodlums and vandals who over a period cut the pipes and stole beams of the berths thereby affecting their stability and making remedial works imperative.

Daily Trust learnt that the BUA Terminal wrote a letter to NPA seeking approval to carryout remedial work on the facilities in the terminal.

The firm said NPA decommissioned its terminal instead of granting the approval for the requested remediation work.

The BUA statement further read, “The NPA has deliberately and mischievously ignored the essence of the request of BUA (approval for remedial works), rather it celebrated the safety concerns that BUA raised, which is in line with BUA’s obligation under the Lease Agreement to inform NPA of any such issue before taking remedial action.”

The BUA Group argued that unlike the position of NPA, that the terminal was unsafe for business, its state of disrepair did not warrant the termination of the concession.

BUA has gone to court to restrain NPA from implementing the decommissioning policy. The firm has also served NPA a contempt of court.

While the rift between NPA and one of its concessionaires lingers, the National Trustee of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Waite Harry, told journalists that the development had brought hardship to its members who were “daily pay” workers.

Comrade Harry said, “The implication is that our members can no longer pay their children’s school fees, rent and other personal bills because they have been out of job since the rift between NPA and BUA Port Terminal started over three months ago.”

He, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to intervene in the matter to save the dock workers from the untold hardship by prevailing on NPA to allocate ships to BUA so that work would resume.

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