The decision of the Hadiza Bala Usman-led Nigerian Ports Authority to decommission the Terminal B Jetty in the Port-complex, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, which is operated by BUA has sparked outrage nationwide.
The Jetty which is set to play a vital role in the transportation and distribution of Products from the Firm’s Multi-Billion Naira Sugar Refinery and Pasta/Wheat/flour Factory was shut down by the Nigerian Ports Authority under ‘suspicious circumstances’.
The Agency claims that the jetty was in a “state of total dilapidation and in urgent need of repair or reconstruction” adding that their “engineers have advised that the jetty is liable to collapse at any moment…” hence the decommissioning.
The statement by the NPA read; “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.”
However, Under the Port Reform Programme of 2005 where the Federal Government of Nigeria leased 25 terminals to different port terminal operators, the principle of the agreements reached with the firms is that they would operate the facilities, while the NPA will be responsible for repairs and infrastructural upgrades.
Delivering a Robust Response to the Development, BUA, in a statement on Wednesday, revealed:
“It is on record that NPA has not complied with any of its obligations under the Lease Agreement.
“It is the responsibility of the 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.”
“It was the failure of the NPA to provide the required security that led to the nefarious activities of hoodlums and vandals who over a period of time cut the pipes and stole beams of the berths thereby affecting their stability and consequently making remedial works imperative,”.
The firm further disclosed that it had issued the letter to the NPA, seeking for it to grant approval to begin the said remedial work on the facilities in the terminal.
According to the firm, the Managing Director of the NPA, Bala-Usman, ignored the fact that the letter was asking for permission to carry out repairs as is provided for in the lease agreement but instead chose to decommission the terminal for the exact reasons it noted in the request.
“The NPA has deliberately and mischievously ignored the essence of the request of BUA (i.e approval for remedial works), rather it celebrated the safety concerns that BUA raised, which is in line with the BUA’s obligation under the Lease Agreement to inform the NPA of any such issues before taking remedial action.”, The group’s statement read.
The NPA had in 2016 first-served BUA with a notice of termination on the grounds that the ‘notice’ was not in line with the provisions of the lease agreement. According to the statement, the court demanded that both parties enter into arbitration as provided for in the contract.
The firm said the agreement does not give powers to the NPA to decommission the terminal. Contrary to Bala-Usman’s assertion that the terminal was unsafe for business, BUA insists that the state of disrepair in the jetty does not warrant a foreclosure of the facility.