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Maritime workers will return to trenches If Port access road is not fixed – Adeyanju 


Adewale Adeyanju is the President-General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN). In this interview with nigeriamaritime360.com ABIOLA Seun, he discussed about the port access roads, foreigners taking over chandelling and stevedoring companies proliferation of private jetties and terminals in Lagos. 


The shipping sub-sector such as chandelling, stevedoring has been taken over by foreigners. What are you doing about this? 

We as a union are not in agreement with foreign domination of the industry. We think that it is the failure of our government to support capacity building for local participation. We don’t support such things. 
I believe there are laws to that effect, that is where local content department or agencies comes in and I believe the relevant departments should ensure that the due process is followed. I think that when it gets to the point where due process is not followed, we will step in. 
The Director General of NIMASA has also expressed concern about this matter and he is taking steps to do the needful. The union is not pleased with the development. But having said that, we must tell ourselves the truth, where Nigerians are allowed to do these things, they are not committed. Give It to Nigerians to do then you will know they are not ready to do it; wasn’t this the same reasons the FG privatised the ports? We display so much inefficiency. But all of us, Nigerians have learnt from our past mistakes and I believe we are ready to take over the running of our system, so it is time government encouraged Nigerians to get in and be in control of our industry and economy.

The National Union of Petroleum Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) recently urged the FG to declare state of emergency on Nigerian roads. MWUN has also been calling for rehabilitation of port access roads. What’s your take on the NUPENG call? 

If you had listened to what MWUN said, you will understand that our concerns are similar but different because part of these problems on the road is caused by their tankers that are parked indiscriminately on the roads. 
We are a responsible union and we have a clear vision of what we want when we engage government. Yes, we gave government ultimatum and we were invited for dialogue. We dialogued and signed a communiqué where NPA promised that something reasonable will be done. Though, on the Ijora wharf axis, work is going on so we are impressed but where we are at a cross road with government is that of Tincan Island Port road, nothing has been done there, and that is port of the agreement we reached.
So, what NUPENG is saying for FG to declare state of emergency on the road, they are correct, there is much neglect but I am not happy at the level of misuse some of them subject the roads to. Even if government repairs all the roads and it is not well managed, these tankers and trailers will not use it properly and before you know it, the road regulates their movements.

But since large portion of the ports access road is still in deplorable condition, is MWUN renewing its strike threat? 

We only suspended our planned action; we didn’t jettison it because top government functionaries like the minister of works and MD of NPA intervened.
The earlier threat of strike was suspended based on promises the representative of federal government gave 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 end of second quarter of this year.

Any discussion on the repair of Coconut, mile two road? 

The management of NPA said they are ready to take the responsibility of getting the roads repaired. When we issued an ultimatum, a committee was set up by the NPA management; we visited all the bad areas with NPA which is a sign of 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 roads is very important. You are aware we signed an agreement with NPA to deliver the roads by end of second quarter; we are in July 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 Tincan island side.

Sir, we are already in the third quarter of the year and Tin Can Island to Mile 2 is still wearing the old terrible and impassable form. So are you going to resume your protest?

We will not resume protest until the expiration of the agreement which is the end of the 2nd quarter. Who knows, they can perform magic but if at the end nothing is done then we can then renew our ultimatum. Govt assured us they will deliver the roads by end of second quarter, we will not pre-empt them.


What is your reaction to sea robbery cases in ports?

It is an eyesore. In the past we have not experienced this ugly incident of pirates coming to harbour. Last week, as a responsible union, the leaders went round the ports, because we have a stake and we respect our dockworkers, terminal operators and other stakeholders. Because it is something in which they have been using the names of dockworkers. Well, there is an adage that the house thief shows outside thieves the way to the house. So what I did was to go round the port, from one terminal to the other with my executive sounding notes of warning that all of us should synergize with terminal operators, marine police to checkmate this ugly incidence. This is because any vessel robbed also rub off our collective image in the international community.
With this developments, one wonders what is happing to our marine police. What are they doing? Govt should equip them and make them responsive to their duty. 

So this resurgence of sea-robbery is an ugly development. And you know what is happening in the country as regards to unemployment and job losses. We are worried that those who have lost their jobs in the port can be tempted to come back as robbers because only the house thief will lead others in to the house.
 For our dockworkers, they are responsible, I am talking of dockworkers of today because we train them and have been able to  improve the payment package, they are well behaved. I didn’t go to them to read the riot act because I suspect they are involved, no, I went to talk to them so that the world will know that we are cautious and doing the right thing by also letting our dock workers know of the consequences of getting caught in this dubious web. Any area we hear vessels are attacked or the issues of stow-away, the leadership of that terminal will be held responsible, it is part of union law.
We didn’t stop there; we emphasized the need to cooperate with the terminal operators and resident security agencies to be able to tackle this problem. We also advised our members to form an in-house vigilance task force to be on the lookout because there is need for all of us to protect the industry we get our wages from. Dockworkers are now registered, documented and can be queried, it is not like before where anybody can be a dockworker, that era is gone. To be dockworkers now, you must write an application, be interviewed and screened; you must have minimum educational qualification. There is a code of conduct because today, dockworkers have terminal benefits, they are pensionable, unlike before where they operated as casuals.

Sir people that believe the sack of tally clerks and gangway men may have swelled this recent piracy upsurge, there. How true? 

It is part of the contributing factor we are talking about. When we know that the environment is not safe, there must be watchmen to secure house and that is the job of the gangway men, and this service is by law and they form an integral part of the dockworkers. Before you can ask them to get out of the port, you have to first repeat the law establishing it at the national assembly.

Who threw them out?

It is government that threw them out, not terminal operators. It is government that sacked stevedoring companies who are their employers. Stevedoring services licenses are issued ten years and are subject to renewal. Since terminal operators took over port operations, government erroneously believe it is the responsibility of terminal operators to take care of stevedores, and that is why we are seeing all these lapses. As a responsible union, we have written to relevant authorities of government. We wrote to the Minister of Labour and Transportation on need for them to reintegrate stevedoring services into ports operation. But let us even talk about those who worked for ten years and were laid off, where is their benefit. They have to pay them and then decide who mans the gangways to deal with recent issues.  

Somebody has to manage the gangway, it is by law and it is a global requirement. Tally clerks same thing, but if government is saying the ports were concessioned, but who is now responsible for protecting ships at harbour.

But has the union informed the FG of this gap?

We wrote to government, the matter is before the ministry of Labour and Transportation. Now, they have seen what is happening. Just about 3 weeks ago, the union and ministry of labour met, it is ongoing but we have not resolved, you are aware we declared trade dispute on the issue and the matter was in court. But we realized that as responsible group, we can dialogue and settle amicably and to avoid crisis, that has been our stand but government has been foot dragging. The union is interested in seeing that lives and properties at ports are protected. The matter of tally clerks and on-board security men is before the government, they are the ones delaying.

What if nothing useful comes out from the ongoing dialogue?

You know that the union of today is responsible and we have confidence in the present leadership of the NPA, we regard the MD  as the mother of the port industry and I believe when the matter eventually gets to her table, she will treat it with dispatch. I think what she is waiting for is for this matter to be brought to her attention for dialogue.

What’s your opinion about private jetties springing up and allegations of smuggled arms through them? 

It worries us that our members are not allowed to work at private jetties. If NPA, Security Agents, Dockworkers are not part of whatever is going on there, your fear about security implication is right and condemnable. I have heard from the grapevine that very soon, stevedoring companies will be appointed to manage all private jetties nationwide, where NPA, dockworkers and other relevant stockholders will be involved. If we have dockworkers in these jetties, we can raise the alarm on security matters. 

I remember in those days, I worked in mid-stream and Trevor jetty along creek road by the time we are coming from anchorage, we can see 3 or more boats there, any cargo you discharge mid-stream is going to land at Trevor jetty. Customs, marine police, NPA are all there but you go to other jetties, they are not there. Our position is that NPA should be allowed into those private jetties in Nigeria, irrespective of whether such jetty has been privatized or not let there be dockworkers, seamen, marine police, customs there. But when it is secluded as big man’s management, anything can happen.


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