By Babajide Okeowo
A coalition tagged Concerned Maritime Operators, CMO has expressed concerns over “illegal revocation of the leases” granted its members’ companies to conduct jetty and barging operations along the stretch of waterways across the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway from the main facilities of the Tin-Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC), Apapa, Lagos State by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)
They complained that the operational licenses of the six affected indigenous companies granting each of them their respective one-year leases are all still valid, having only commenced between January and March 2021.
The grouse of the operators was contained in a statement by the Coordinator of the CMO, Mr. Oladapo Oduneye while noting that 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.
“The action of the NPA is high-handed and at best a travesty against justice, because the various leases, which are all fully paid upfront, had only gone a negligible fraction of their respective tenures before the revocation hammer hit them.
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 Authority.
Consequently, no less than six thousand persons employed directly and indirectly by the affected operators have been rendered redundant under the prevailing galloping inflation and insecurity sweeping across Nigeria.
Similarly, 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.
Clearly, in giving effect to the conditions in the License Agreements signed between the respective licensees and the NPA, the Authority’s 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 favor 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 into” the coalition alleges.
The group also accused the NPA of taking undue advantage of certain provisions of the agreement to revoke the licenses.
“The sections of License Agreement the NPA has taken undue advantage of state in part: “(a) Determination of TOL: – License is determinable by either party by the issuance of seven-day notice to the party of his intention to terminate the license.
“(b)The License shall be revoked without giving the required seven-day notice if the Federal Government directs the immediate removal of the occupant.
“(c)The License shall also be revoked without issuing the seven-day notice where the Authority requires the space for use.”
Of course, none of our members ever invoked that first clause, and, on the second clause, we firmly believe that a Buhari administration that has consistently supported indigenous entrepreneurs in words and actions will suddenly do a volte-face in this instance.
On the matter of the third clause, we vehemently protest that the 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.
Chapter Four, Section 44 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended, on the matter of “Compulsory Acquisition of Property”, states in parts: “(1) No moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by a law that, among other things –
“(a) requires the prompt payment of compensation therefore and
“(b) gives to any person claiming such compensation a right of access for the determination of his interest in the property and the amount of compensation to a court of law or tribunal or body having jurisdiction in that part of Nigeria.”