By Gladys Nweke
BUA Ports and Terminal, a subsidiary of BUA Group, has described the reopening of its terminals at Rivers port as timely for the ongoing development of best-in-class terminal at the Rivers Ports that would serve not only users of the Rivers ports but also the recently constructed $400million foods manufacturing complex adjacent to the terminal.
This is as dockworkers at the Rivers ports in Port Harcourt have commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his intervention that led to reopening of the BUA terminals which was shut down in 2019 by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
The terminal was shut down in a move challenged by BUA at the time, and decried by maritime stakeholders. The NPA had late last year decommissioned and shut down the BUA Ports and Terminals Limited, operator of terminal B, Rivers Port, Port Harcourt, for security reasons.
The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, had while speaking at a stakeholders meeting organised by the NPA in Port Harcourt, said the NPA as a responsible government organisation took the step to save lives and limbs of those working at the terminal.
NPA, she had added, took the decision for health and safety reasons after receiving a letter from BUA on security challenges surrounding the quays wall at its terminal. BUA however countered and explained that this challenge was only affecting one of its four berths; and that it only requested the NPA allow them do the necessary repairs at the berth but that the NPA rather than grant the request, proceeded to issue a notice of termination without due process and against the terms of the concession agreement.
However, following the reopening, dockworkers in their numbers took to the docks of Port Harcourt to thank key stakeholders for their timely intervention in the crisis between the BUA Ports and Terminals and the NPA, which halted business activities at the terminal B.
Addressing the dockworkers at the rally, a national trustee of the dockworkers’ branch of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Waite Harry, praised President Buhari for his commitment to due process, which ultimately led to the withdrawal of the notice of termination issued to BUA Ports & Terminals.
The government also directed both parties to resolve all outstanding issues in line with the concession agreement, discontinue the pending arbitration in London, and reopen the BUA terminals immediately.
This pending arbitration could have cost the country or BUA hundreds of millions of dollars in judgment losses, hence the decision by the Presidency to reopen the terminal and stick to due process by following the dispute resolution mechanism as laid out in the concession agreement.
According to Harry this action has saved the jobs of many dockworkers whose only source of livelihood comes from working at BUA. The resolution of the crisis has changed our status from being prisoners of hope due to untold hardship dockworkers faced over the inability of ships to berth at the BUA terminals.
We must also appreciate the Management of BUA Ports & Terminals who continued to support us monthly throughout this period. We are happy that we can now return to our work through this gesture by the federal government, which will also bring economic prosperity to Rivers State and the nation in general. I hope that all outstanding issues can now be resolved by both parties amicably.
Meanwhile, the management of BUA Ports and Terminals has disclosed plans to resume operations at the terminals within the Rivers Ports
The NPA is set to immediately withdraw the notice of termination of concession it had earlier issued BUA in 2019.
In a statement in a statement, BUA has expressed readiness to resume operations at the reopened terminal soon. The statement reads, “We are pleased to inform our stakeholders and the public that we have received official communication to the effect that the notice of termination issued by the Nigerian Ports Authority sometime last year against our Rivers Ports-based BUA Ports & Terminals be withdrawn forthwith.
“The ongoing arbitration at the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) be discontinued, and; the BUA terminals be reopened immediately for operations. ”This decision is in line with our earlier and consistent stand that all parties respect the content and spirit of the concession agreement for the facility.
”We also want to thank you unequivocally – our dear customers, employees, dockworkers and other stakeholders for your patience, support, and for keeping faith with us throughout this period.
BUA remains a law-abiding corporate citizen and is looking forward to working with the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority in resolving any outstanding issues and making the Eastern Ports one of the best in the country.”
BUA has expressed its most sincere appreciation to all stakeholders for their successful intervention and mediation. “Their intervention has saved jobs, protected huge investments and prevented potential judgment losses running into hundreds of millions of dollars from being incurred by either the country or our company in the arbitration process at the LCIA in London which is set to be discontinued.
”We look forward to kick-starting operations at the BUA Terminals to once again provide the excellent services.”