Tuesday, October 13, 2020 9:07 am
By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Macobarb International Limited, an indigenous oil service firm that has been in battle with the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) over alleged refusal of the gas company to pay it the sum of N969m contract fees and losses for job executed, is alleging that that the multinational oil firm is now adopting underhand tactics to force it to drop demands for the payment.
Managing Director of Marcobarb, Shedrack Ogboru, told journalists in Port Harcourt that the NLNG has gone ahead to demolish its facility to give way for a fencing project without first resolving it claims for the contract it carried out for it.
He said this was in spite of the fact that the matter is on the tables of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
Macobarb equally expressed worry at the delay by the NCDMB in intervening and resolving the matter that had been before them for almost one year now.
In the claim, Macobarb is asking the NLNG to obey the terms of its contract with it 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.
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 accused the NLNG of attempting to squeez it into extinction by the refusal to pay the said N969m debt.
Ogboru, raised fears that the NCDMB has been too slow in reaching a verdict, alleging that the destruction of its facility began in August 2020.
He said 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.
He, however, lamented that nothing has been heard from both parties since then.
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 Managing Director of Macobarb said it 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.
He added it 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 that 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.”
“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 days 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.
He said the trapping of the equipment of his company for for 559 days in an offshore location thereby allegedly rendering equipment and staff idle led to the N969m claim.
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”
“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 N1billion for the 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”.
More than one week month of trying to get the reactions of both the NLNG and NCDMB through letters and email messages failed to attract any response.