Dockworkers at the Rivers ports in Port Harcourt have commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his "commitment to due process", leading to reopening the BUA Terminals, which was shut down last year 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 workers 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, Waite Harry a praised the President for his commitment to due process, which ultimately led to the withdrawal of the notice of termination issued to BUA Ports & Terminals, in line with the concession agreement.
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.
According to Comrade Harry, "this action has saved the jobs of many dockworkers whose only source of livelihood comes from working here. 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 back to our work through this gesture by the FG which will also bring economic prosperity to the state and the nation in general."
"I hope that all outstanding issues can now be resolved by both parties amicably," he added.
Recall that in 2019, the NPA issued a notice of termination to BUA Ports and Terminals, concessionaires of the Rivers Ports Terminal B in a move that BUA said was illegal and ran contrary to the concession agreement.
Meanwhile, the management of BUA Ports and Terminals, a subsidiary of BUA Group, has disclosed plans to resume operations at the BUA Terminals within the Rivers Ports. This is as the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) is set to immediately withdraw the notice of termination of concession it had earlier issued BUA in 2019.
BUA had in a statement on Wednesday 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 (NPA) 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.
A cross-section of the dockworkers during the procession
"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 committed and has put in place structures to develop a best-in-class terminal at the Rivers Ports to serve not only users of the Rivers Ports but also, the recently constructed $400million foods manufacturing complex adjacent to the terminal.
"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 wishes to express its most sincere appreciation to all stakeholders for their successful intervention and mediation. Their intervention has saved jobs, protected huge investments and prevented potential judgement 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 that have become the trademark of our BUA brand," the statement concluded.