When the Nigerian Ports Authority and its supervisory Ministry of Transportation, including the Ministry of Works signed an agreement with the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), late last year, 2017, the government side were believed to have given firm assurances that the protracted repairs and rehabilitation of the Lagos ports road, pending over years would be fixed and returned to activity by 2nd quarter of 2018, critical stakeholders at that meeting hived sign of relief, by faith.
Thereafter, the journey of expectation started, amid silent apprehension, following what observers described as unimpressive commencement speed. But as it is with every journey of faith as against fixed official undertaking, which should have been the case here, expectations have been dashed, any less official promises have yet again, proven to be unreliable.
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Disappointed, the President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Adewale Adeyanju has vowed to return the union to the trench to compel government to be alive to its responsibilities; if at the expiration of the timeframe guiding their memorandum of understanding (MoU), is not met, in view of strong evidence that there is something on the ground to suggest that the repairs have taken place. Adeyanju who expressed deep disappointment with the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and his adjutant departments and agencies responsible for fixing the Lagos ports access roads, lamented that the port economy is been held to ransom through reckless official grandstanding, divisive politicking and inordinate propensity for pecuniary considerations.
The planed rehabilitation of the failed port access roads under the present administration which came in under the mantra of change, has dragged for three years, under less than noble excuses, and held captive under a regime of controversial contract awards, bickering and power tussle among ministries, with the Ministry of Works as the chief culprit; believed to have frustrated every genuine and straightforward attempts to fix the road. Adeyanju weekend vowed that union will resume its ultimatum to government to fix the roads within a given time frame, or be ready to face withdrawal of activities by dockworkers, at the end of this month, June 2018; following a prior agreement between it and relevant departments of government, including the works and transport ministry, and the Nigerian Ports Authority.
He explained that Julius Berger was awarded the contract to fix the Tin Can Island axis through to Mile 2, but that the Minister of Works either stood down the contract or failed to mobilize the construction giant, which is why that portion of the road is still left untouched, three weeks to the expiration of the agreement between MWUN and the FG.
The union leader not only condemned the apparent lack of direction and sense of urgency by the executive to address the matter, he condemned the narrow political considerations that has been brought to bear on the need for timely intervention, even as he lamented that foreign direct investments window is narrowing because of the protracted disconnect between the economy and the port, while the means of the livelihood of dockworkers is threatened, following low vessel throughput and steady loss of operations by terminal operators, who are dockworkers employers.
Adeyanju who was responding to poser by the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) for the Federal Government to declare state of emergence on Nigeria roads said, “For us in MWUN, our sole interest is for the port roads to be motor-able, to allow investors come in so that our economy through ports operations can continue to grow so that we do not continue to lose our dock jobs to others in the sub region. We want Apapa Port, Tin Can Island Port, Kirikiri and Lilypond Ports to become fully operational again in a timely and efficient manner.
“We are a responsible union and we have clear vision of what we want when we engage government. Yes, we gave an ultimatum and we were invited for dialogue. We dialogued and signed a communiqué where NPA promised that something reasonable will be done. On the Ijora-Wharf axis, work is going on there and there is increasing traffic flow, so we are impressed. Where we are at a cross road with government is that of Tin Can Island Port road, nothing has been done there, and that is part of the agreement we reached.
“So, we align with NUPENG concern, but in addition, we want a situation where all road users, especially our tankers and trailers will not continue to subject the road to abuse. In fact road safety people should also take up the additional responsibility of regulating movements of articulated vehicles on our highways, so that even when the roads are strengthened, they will last.
“The Tin Can Island end, nothing is happening, we don’t know what the Minister of Works is doing. If it has been given to Julius Berger, they should be paid and made to mobilize to site. If you are a businessman and you have not been paid for a contract, will you do the job without fund? Certainly not! So I think the mistake is coming from the same people that awarded the contracts. In fairness to the management of NPA, in our agreement, they agreed to fix the Tin Can Island road up to Coconut. But later we heard that the Minister of Works said it is their responsibility.
“The management of NPA said they are ready to take the responsibility of getting the roads repaired at the time we issued ultimatum. A committee was set up by the NPA management; we visited all the bad areas with the NPA leadership which is a sign of service responsibility. We know what Nigerians are losing in terms of profit and we know what NPA is losing in terms of revenue and customers. The state of the ports road is very important.
You are aware we signed an agreement with NPA to deliver the roads by end of second quarter; we are in June already, so we are waiting for them. While Area B to wharf axis is ongoing with a lot of improvement, we have not seen anything at the Tin Can Island side.
“We only suspended our planned action, we didn’t jettison it because top government functionaries like the Minister of Works and Managing Director of NPA intervened, and because of the respect we have for them, we suspended the protest based on promises they made and based on the agreement we signed. We all know what we signed, that repairs of all the port access roads would be undertaken and ready by the end of second quarter of this year. We can then renew our ultimatum that was why we suspended it. Government assured us they will deliver the roads by end of 2nd quarter, we believe them and we will not preempt them. We are waiting.
But the maritime workers union boss also condemned in strong terms, attitude of road users for alleged abuse of the roads, even as he urged government to institute road use regulation aimed at protecting roads against abuses of indiscriminate parking.
“If you had listened to what we said, you will understand that our concerns are similar but different because part of these problems on the road is caused by heavy duty trailers and tankers which park indiscriminately along the highway.
They cause confusion and all kinds of difficulties on the roads. All the same, if NUPENG is saying that FG should declare state of emergency on the road, they are correct, because there is much neglect. We are a responsible union and we have clear vision of what we want when we engage government. Yes, we gave an ultimatum and we were invited for dialogue. We dialogued and signed a communiqué where NPA promised that something reasonable will be done.”
“On the Ijora-Wharf axis, work is going on there and there is increasing traffic flow, so we are impressed. Where we are at a cross road with government is that of Tin Can Island Port road, nothing has been done there, and that is part of the agreement we reached. So, we align with NUPENG concern, but in addition, we want a situation where all road users, especially our tankers and trailers will not continue to subject the road to abuse. In fact road safety people should also take up the additional responsibility of regulating movements of articulated vehicles on our highways, so that even when the roads are strengthened, they will last”, he said.