*Decision at Variance with FG Policies
*6,000 Jobs at Risk
Maritime operators in the country have flayed the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) decision to revoke leases granted to jetty and barge operations along the waterways of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway from the main facilities of the Tin-Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC), Apapa, Lagos State.
Describing it as “illegal” the operators under the aegis of “concerned maritime operators” roundly condemned the decision saying that the one-year leases are all still valid, having commenced between January and March 2021.
The operators maintained that the revocation by the NPA was in bad taste as each of the operational licenses of the six affected indigenous companies has not elapsed.
In a statement issued in Lagos and made available to Maritime Bits, the operators said: “The efforts of the affected companies, individually and collectively, alongside those of our other members, have contributed immeasurably in finally ameliorating the hitherto intractable gridlock that haunted the Lagos ports access roads by moving huge volumes of cargoes safer, cheaper and more conveniently via the waterways, contributing immensely to facilitating the Buhari administration’s ease-of-doing-business policy”.
They averred that the action of the NPA was not only high-handed but also at best a travesty against justice, even as they pointed out that the various leases which were all fully paid up front had only gone a negligible fraction of their respective tenures before revocation hammer hit them.
According to the statement which was signed by Barrister Oladapo Odunoye as Co-ordinator, this arbitrary action of the NPA saw the wanton destruction of the structures, equipment and other investments belonging to the licensees at the lease sites located between the TCIPC first and second gates by Port Novo Creek in a ruthless illegal mission enforced by a joint task force of heavily armed military and paramilitary personnel mustered and deployed by the management of the NPA.
They expressed dismay that following the decision of the Federal Ministry of Transportation parasatal, no fewer than 6,000 persons employed directly and indirectly by the affected operators have been rendered redundant.
Besides what they called the “prevailing galloping inflation and insecurity sweeping across the country”, the revocation has cost the affected operators huge losses in terms of revoked contracts with foreign investors, painting Nigeria before the international community as an unstable investment destination.
“It is baffling that under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, which has done and continues to do so much in deploying stimulus packages to alleviate poverty through supportive policies, including boosting local content and financial incentives to entrepreneurs, an institution of the Federal Government, such as the NPA, is engaging in antics that are antithetical to gainful legitimate businesses and will throw several persons into the already congested unemployment market. We unequivocally state that, in rendering those ill-conceived revocations, the NPA had taken a dim, callous and selfish stand on the issue”, the operators added.
According to them, in giving effect to the conditions in the licensee agreements signed between the respective licensees and the NPA, the revocation orders on our affected members’ leases or temporary occupation license (TOL) were not informed by strict adherence to the principles of the public interest, but skewed to favour some land grabbing vested interests set on a course of hostile takeover of a hitherto dormant location that the smart and hard work of our members breathed a new lease of life.
They maintained that the sections of license agreement the NPA has taken undue advantage of were in clear breach of what was expected from each party in the agreement.
Describing it as “unconstitutional”, the operators vehemently protest the decision as it argued that NPA cannot justifiably claim that it “requires the space for use”.
“We posit that the action of the NPA in effecting the premature revocation of our members’ leases on the said space is without due processes and quite unconstitutional”, they added.
The NPA which presently has Mohammed Bello KoKo as its Acting Managing Director is a federal government agency that governs and operates the ports of Nigeria. The major ports controlled by the NPA include the Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port in Lagos; Calabar Port, Delta Port, Rivers Port at Port Harcourt and Onne Port also in Rivers State. With corporate headquarters at 26/28 Marina, Lagos, the NPA which was established in 1954 has the responsibility to regulate the port industry in the country.