BY GBOGBOWA GBOWA
The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) under the leadership of Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, fnli, HFCPSP has presented challenges faced by the Union to the new Minister of Marine & Blue Economy, as the union intimated him with the numerous challenges it is has been facing over time, ahead of his appointment.
The Union has not only been at the vanguard of the campaign for enhanced welfare packages and decent work environment but has also been at the forefront of championing workers rights to equity, fairness and justice.
The Union in a statement signed by Comrade John Kennedy Ikemefuna, Head of Media, listed a number of the challenges and appealed to the minister to take a holistic look at them for necessary actions aimed at supporting industrial peace and harmony.
The statement reads: “We are constrained to report that while it’s our desire that peace reigns supreme in the maritime sector, there are some avoidable challenges which the Union is currently encountering, which if not addressed promptly may cause unnecessary industrial unrest.
“We have had the issue of International Oil Company (IoCs) continuous refusal to obey Government Marine Notice 106 of 2014 and Extant Stevedoring Regulations. It’s regrettable that the multinational oil companies (IoC’s) operating in Nigeria have continued to exhibit flagrant disrespect and disobedience to Government Marine Notices and Extant Stevedoring Regulations.
“In 2014, the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in its bid to regulate the activities of Stakeholders in the maritime sector issued the Government Marine Notice 106. The Marine Notice is the Operational Guidelines to all Dock Labour Employees and Private Operators of any work location including Ports, Jetties, Onshore/Offshore or bonded terminals, Inland container depots, (IDS) off dock terminals, dry ports and platforms.
“The law stipulates that government approved and NIMASA registered Stevedores/Dockworkers shall be allowed by the IoC’s to the operational areas allocated them by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). It’s most annoying too to state here that since the Marine Notice was issued in 2014 most of the IoC’s have continued to refuse the Stevedores access to their platforms and to do their legitimate business of Stevedoring Activities; thereby shutting out the Dockworkers’ from the opportunity to work and earn a living.”
The statement continues:
“Although, in the face of the arrogance being perpetuated, in spite of the several warning notices given by the Union, and the several interventions of Nigerian Ports Authority and Ultimatums issued to the IoC’s have not yielded any positive result, except for few amongst them who have complied so far.
“The IoC’s continued denial of our members (Dockworkers) the opportunity to work and earn a meaningful living is an invitation to crisis which the fledgling economy can ill afford. There’s also the question of using the NJIC standard as template of payment to both the Dockers, Seafarers which we insist that all the employers of the sector must use in payment but update, it has not been applied in the shipping sector of the industry.
“We as a Union in this appeal is asking the new Minister to ask the erring employers to comply. There’s also the refusal to pay Aged Seafarers Monthly Pension. This matter has been so protracted and ought to have been disposed off. It’s on record that some Seafarers were exited from service in 1985. In 1995, there was another batch of Seafarers who were relieved following the liquidation of the Nigeria National Shipping Line (NNSL) and for more than a decade, the disengaged Seafarers were not paid terminal benefits, gratuity, and pension. However, the retirees were compelled to approach the National Industrial Court (NIC) in 1991 and on March 15, 2001 praying the court to direct NIMASA, the agency responsible for the welfare of Seafarers to pay their gratuity and pension.
“The Union had to conduct a verification exercise which prompted the payment of Gratuity but Pension was withheld, in spite of the existing court rulings and Union’s demand. In view of the foregoing, a committee comprising of members from the Ministry of Transport and Labour, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), NIMASA and Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria was recently constituted through the office of the Permanent Secretary and was midwifed by the Ministry of Labour to verify those Seafarers who are still legible for pension to propose modalities of payment – this is still in the process as we passionately appeal to the Minister to prevail on the said committee to expedite action in this regard.”
The union also complained about the near neglect of onboard security men and tally clerks, and urged the government of President Bola Tinubu to prevail on the relevant authorities to reabsorb above category of maritime workers; even as it called attention to factors militating against capacity utilization of the nation’s ports.
“The Onboard Ship Gangway Security and Tally Men – (Pooling System).This all important discourse cannot be said to have been over flogged because it has not received the needed attention from the government. The presence of On -Board Ship Gangway men and Tally Clerks in port operations is statutory as it’s supported by the Dock Labour Rule of 1967.
“The general public has been misinformed of the relevance of the Onboard Ship Gangway, Tally Men and Pooling System but it’s a global standard. We, therefore, appeal for reinstatement of these categories of Personnel and the Pooling System. This informs why the Union wrote to His Excellency, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, drawing his attention to the security lapses in the ports occasioned by the absence of the Onboard Ship Gangway Security men and Tally Clerks because the presence of the Tally Men curtail sharp and fraudulent practices of under declaration of imported cargoes and exports.
“It’s also imperative to know that the presence of these aforementioned personnel in berthed vessels in our ports, Jetties, and territorial waters is to checkmate unauthorized persons with inordinate intentions either as pirates, stow away, hard drug peddlers, or armed traffickers within the ports axis.
“There’s no doubting the fact that there’s an urgent need to dredge Calabar, Warri and PortHarcourt Ports. These ports are shallow, therefore, can’t accommodate big ships as it were. Consequently, dredging the Calabar port which has lingered for too long had devalued the port finances to the coffers of the government, because it has virtually become non effective functional, hence, the urgent attention it needed; same as Warri and Port Harcourt Ports respectively.”
Also speaking on the issue of the protracted issuance of biometric identify cards to dockworkers, and about rank stagnation of junior works of the different agencies, MWUN said:
“The completions of issuance of biometric identify cards to Dockworkers and Seafarers identity documents (SID) to Seafarers. The Union is also putting up a passionate appeal through this medium to the Honourable Minister to prevail on Nigerian Maritime Administration And Safety Agency (NIMASA) to fast-track the issuance of the biometric identity cards to Dockworkers and Seafarers identity documents.
“On the employment of junior cadre’ employees in the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), NIWA & NIMASA, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria has noted with dismay that for over two decades that the NPA, NIMASA and NIWA have not employed junior cadre employees but have consistently employed management personnel.
“We further observed too that these agencies have been carrying out what may be termed “coded employment”. The Union is also making a passionate appeal in view of the observations mentioned to the Minister to direct an “open” employment of junior cadre workers as this category of staff are fewer in the agencies as it stands today.
“There’s also the need for promotion and upward salary review of NPA staff. We as a Union want to draw your attention to the fact that since 2004, a clear passage of nineteen years, salaries of employees, be it at the managerial level, supervisory or at the junior cadre, the Nigerian Ports Authority has deliberately refused to do an upward review of salaries and promotion. The workforce has been stagnated of salary and promotion review rights.
“This is against all norms of career growth and progression. And in view of the current dreadful economic situation in the country, we also plead that the Minister uses his good office to formally direct the NPA management to urgently initiate and implement the process of upward review of salaries of all cadres of workers in the Authority”, it sated.
The Union also raised alarm about the state of insecurity and adverse revenue situation at various operational platforms owing to the absence relevant and constituted authorities.
“It’s pertinent to see the presence, visibility of NPA and NIMASA officials in all the Jetties and Terminals across the nation Seaports, but suffice it to say that there’s no presence of the officials of Nigerian Ports Authority and NIMASA in most of the Jetties in the country; which makes it a reverse order.
“Therefore, this situation has led to a huge revenue loss to the government, while also contributing to national security risk; hence, we appeal to the Honourable Minister to urgently direct the deployment of both NPA and NIMASA personnel to these Jetties and Terminals where their presence is not in place.”
On a general note, the MWUN said: “As a Union in the Maritime sector, it’s indeed a big blow to the industry and the country at large that hitherto, that Nigeria has no national carrier vessels. This is unfortunate as Nigeria with all her resources and acclaimed as the “Giant” of Africa has no national shipping line or an ocean-going vessel.
“In view of this and putting into cognisance the magnitude of Nigeria’s strength in Africa nay the world, MWUN is appealing to the Minister to please use his patriotic embodiment to also initiate the move towards establishing a National Shipping Line to restore the status of the country and her past glory as this will create employment for our teeming jobless youth across the country.
“These challenges confronting the Union cannot be concluded if the dilapidated Ports Access roads and the Quay Apron are not mentioned. It’s a common knowledge that the Ports access roads have become impassible and have all become death traps to road users. The bad state of the roads had created the most unwarranted gridlock, loss of revenue from profits during delivery of services and consignments. We have witnessed series of accidents resulting to loss of lives and property: so it is with the dilapidated Quay Aprons of Calabar, Warri, Onne, Port Harcourt.
“No doubt, Lagos had been in a deplorable state and have since remained a disaster waiting to happen. And for the deplorable roads, Onne and PortHarcourt should be seriously looked into as this very bad condition of the roads does not project the image of Nigeria in good light in the comity of Maritime Nations. “Hence, the Union wants to implore the good office of the new Minister of Marine & Blue Economy to return sanity to these dilapidated monuments and also to bring all erring administrators, stakeholders, and employers of labour in the maritime sector to comply with all the rules and regulations as stipulated in the books so that in harmony we can effectively and efficiently place the industry amongst its counterpart across the world.”
Last but not the least, the Union warned against attempts to resuscitate the proposed and outstanding Harbours and Ports Bill, warning that such attempt will produce very negative consequences.
“Comrade Adeyanju, the Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is personally making a very clear and objective submission to the Minister not to allow the newly constituted National Assembly to exhume the obnoxious “Harbour Bill” which had been laid to rest in the past, as this again for the second time, will unsettle the smooth running of the newly created ministry of Marine & Blue Economy and the nation at large.
“The Senate should restrict themselves to policies that will bring better living conditions to Nigerians, rather than coming up with negative and controversial policies capable of grinding the nation to a halt.”