By Codratus Godson
The lingering case between the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) and their Nigerian contractor, Macobarb International Limited, seems to take a new turn for the worse.
Fresh wailing has emanated from Macobarb (CEO Shedrack Ogboru) saying the multinational gas company has gone ahead to destroy its base inside the NLNG to make way for a fencing project whereas their matter is pending at an important FG agency that monitors the way multinational corporations deal with Nigerian contractors in upping the Nigerian content in the oil and gas industry.
The case between Macobarb and the NLNG is becoming a classic example of the fate of Nigerian contractors in the industry where there is high suspicion of plans to suppress Nigerian companies perpetually. Some industry players are said to have appealed to both parties to sit down and resolve this matter to stop further polluting the industry.
In a report in Nigeria’s leading business newspaper, BusinessDay, now going viral, Macobarb alerts the world on what is happening between it and the NLNG. Reporters covering the running story said efforts for almost one month to get the side of the NLNG proved abortive.
Full report in BusinessDay
Macobarb accuses NLNG of demolishing its base in Bonny despite N969m case pending at NCDMB
* NLNG says it owes nothing to the contractor
(Written for BusinessDay by Ignatius Chukwu)
The indigenous firm, Macobarb International Limited, which demands N969m from the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) for unpaid contract fees and losses over a contract, has cried out again, alleging that its base in Bonny Island of Rivers State within the NLNG complex has been destroyed by the host company without settling the protracted dispute.
The company told newsmen in Port Harcourt in the week that the NLNG has gone ahead to demolish its facility to give way for a fencing project without first resolving the claims dispute despite the matter lying on the tables of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) based in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
The managing director of Macobarb, Shedrack Ogboru, who spoke to newsmen equally frowned at the delay by the NCDMB in the matter that had been before them for almost one year now. Now, the NLNG has allegedly gone ahead to destroy the contractor’s base as if the case did not exist, he further cried.
The dispute is a claim by Macobarb asking the NLNG to obey the terms of the contract and pay the sum of N969m for lost time and downtime arising from failure to pay for equipment and personnel on site. Instead, he said, the multinational corporation has gone ahead to demolish and destroy Macobarb’s entire facility made up of offices and equipment.
The NLNG has since denied any such liability to Macorbab, telling newsmen that the NLNG terminated the contract and paid the contractor the much he deserved. The NLNG had said through their then head of corporate communications, Andy Odeh, that the multinational corporation was not responsible for the loans the contractor took.
Ogboru has continued to press for the N969m claim, saying it was the NLNG that caused the crisis in the contract by violating the critical clause in the contract, which is that NLNG must not owe for milestone executed. He said the NLNG failed severally to pay for approved milestones and that this caused financial crisis and messed up the contract.
He also said the NLNG did not pay off the contractor and detained equipment and men on site and should have to pay for them as provided for in the contract. But instead of paying for them, the NLNG has gone ahead to demolish Macobarb’s base to give way for a fencing project. H said this was why his firm approached the NCDMB for intervention in 2019, but that nothing seems to be heard from them after initial hearings on December 9, 2019.
He wondered if the NCDMB had given verdict on the dispute and awarded victory to the NLNG without the knowledge of Macobarb officials to the extent of NLNG going ahead to destroy Macobarb facilities.
The contractor which had since accused the NLNG of squeezing it into extinction by refusing to pay the said N969m debt said the latest action as indication that the multinational was out to destroy the local contractor as usual.
The managing director raised fears that the NCDMB has been too slow in reaching a verdict, fearing that what the NLNG used to do to other FG agencies that tried to intervene to save indigenous companies may have equally happened to the NCDMB.
The Macobarb CEO said the destruction of the facility began in August 2020 and that he alerted the NCDMB, but that he is disturbed that no reaction came from the Board that was mediating. He said the Board held a meeting with both parties in Yenagoa in December 2019 and asked the NLNG to submit evidence that they paid Macobarb off before or after terminating the contract as they claimed. Nothing was heard from both parties, he lamented.
He said he forwarded the evidence of demolition of Macobarb facilities to the NCDMB.
The embittered CEO told newsmen: “The matter seems beyond what ordinary eyes can see. Every single agency that looked into the case sees NLNG liable and Macobarb justified, but it’s the power to compel the NLNG to pay this money that is missing. There is a man in the NLNG who swore to ruin Macobarb and went ahead to stop its payments. He has thus used the NLNG to wreak havoc on Macobarb and some other indigenous contractors that were identified to be very competent and able to surpass most foreign contractors who bid outrageous prices.
“What this man wants is that Macobarb should go to court, because they know that the multinationals use the courts to kill cases because such cases remain there till the claimants die. The man once boasted thus, ‘Be ready for 100 years case’. There is no single place the NLNG pointed out what Macobarb did wrong in the contract given to it.”
The indigenous company CEO said Macobarb gave enough notification that due to payment negligence on the part of the NLNG (Against Progressive Payment Provision of the Contract), that Macobarb was no longer able to fund contract, pay salaries, etc. This was a requirement of the contract terms for a party to alert the system if anything had cropped out to delay the contract.
He said this development put the job on standby mode requiring the NLNG to as a must, pay for equipment and key personnel kept idle on contract due to their own making. This is because, he stated, the contract forbade Macobarb from removing these equipment and personnel from the site.
He lamented; “NLNG conveniently ignored this red flag contract demanded Macobarb to wave, signaling standby payment on contract.”
He went on: “From the moment of this notification, NLNG did nothing, didn’t address Macobarb payment complain for work items delivered and payment certificates raised and signed by the NLNG contract holder and team supervising the project on behalf of NLNG, waited for 559 day to call contract close-out meeting and refused to pay standing time amount as computed using the Contract Standing Time Rates. They have rather gone everywhere since then to make government agencies not to hold them (NLNG) accountable. What kind of contracting process is this?”
Giving more facts of the matter, Macobarb MD pointed to page 28 of the contract terms where the NLNG said if in any situation where the NLNG fails to provide drawings, instructions, approvals, and any of such like for which the contractor has demanded and the job suffers delay or incurs cost as a result (such as repeated failure of payment approvals), the contract shall be extended and such cost incurred by the contractor shall be computed and paid to the contractor. “That is the clause that the NLNG is striving to avoid at all cost.”
He said this was how the NLNG trapped the equipment of a local contractor for 559 days in an offshore location thereby allegedly rendering equipment and staff idle, and that is what led to the N969m claim, and the NLNG is saying it is not responsible, he stressed.
Insisting that the NLNG had liability, Ogboru stated; “The NLNG contract terms which they drafted and we both signed said they will pay for standing time (idle time) for Macobarb equipment and personnel whenever it occurs even if an unusual and unforeseeable rainfall (act of nature) occurs, NLNG unequivocally shall pay for the equipment and personnel. Whys is this simple term difficult to understand and pay?”
He went on: “The same contract holds Macobarb accountable for delays if it brought unacceptable materials and equipment or if it brought unqualified and incompetent personnel to the project. Macobarb shall replace these at its own cost without derailing the schedule (timeline) of the project. There was never a time the NLNG contract-holder and his team supervising the contract documented or accused Macobarb of breaching this clause or to have committed any misdemeanor or failure of any kind. This means such an offence never existed. So, to wake up at the end of the day when a claim for payment is put in to decline approval without stating what offence the contractor committed is bizarre and unknown to contract terms agreed by both parties”
In his lamentations, Ogboru told newsmen: “Local contractors now find that they are highly vulnerable due to ability of a multinational to change the rules in a running contract and get away with it. Macobarb had delivered over 60 contract jobs and got promoted to higher level, rated as best indigenous contracting company, yet, this can happen to it because of one man.
“On this project, two major international contractors submitted bid of over N1Bn for same job, and that is how their jobs are quoted. Macobarb quoted far less and was delivering well before this man stepped in to frustrate the progress, to the anger of the expatriates overseeing the project who wondered what is wrong with Nigerians. In fact, Nigerian companies are in danger with multinationals”.
He expressed sentiments, asking why Nigerians and the leaders should sit and watch the NLNG destroy an innocent company like Macobarb and many others who perish in their own land? Is it because the company is from the Niger Delta?”
Mails and letter sent to both the NLNG and BCDMB on the latest development in the past one month were never responded to. The NLNG had earlier written to newsmen stating that their earlier was their only and last response on the matter.