09 July 2017, Sweetcrude, Lagos — Citing dangers inherent in the Ports and Harbours Bill that was recently passed by the Senate, port workers are set to embark on a nationwide protest tomorrow.
The action, which was confirmed over the weekend is planned to take place simultaneously in all the nation’s seaports.
The action is being jointly organised by the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and the Senior Staff Association of Communications, Transport, and Corporation (SSACTAC), Maritime Branch.
Sources close to the union had earlier hinted that the decision to embark on the mass protest was because there had been no response from the National Assembly since the two unions wrote a letter to the National Assembly in June. In the letter, the Union had expressed its opposition to the Bill.
Already, the Ports and Harbours Authority Bill, 2015which seeks to repeal the Nigerian Ports Authority Act 1955 as amended, has been passed by the Senate and is awaiting concurrent passage by the House of Representatives.
The bill was sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives; Honourable Ossai Nicholas Ossai.
The MWUN had earlier petitioned the Speaker of the House of Representatives over the passage of the bill, saying that it spells doom and that it would lead to massive job losses for Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) workers.
They also pointed out several economic and security implications of the Bill if passed.
A visit to the National Secretariat of the MWUN in Apapa, Lagos on Friday was all that our correspondent needed to confirm the imminent protest.
When contacted, Secretary General of the Union; Comrade Felix Akingboye confirmed the imminent protests, even as he refused to give details.
All he told our correspondent was that: “We are mobilising our members in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Onne, Warri, and Calabar for the demonstration. It will hold simultaneously in all the port from 6 am to 6 pm on Tuesday”.
We are opposed to any attempt to further strip Nigerians of our patrimony through further concession in the guise of amending the NPA Act 1955 as amended”, he stated.
According to him, “the promoters of the Bill are only after their personal interests and this is to concession the harbour operations of NPA to private individuals, whereas, all over the world, harbour operation is an exclusive duty of government because of the security implications and huge revenue generation”.
He added that if passed into law, “the proposed Bill has great security and revenue risks for the Federal Government and it would lead to the mass sack of NPA workers.”
“We have carefully perused the Bill and the existing Nigerian Ports Authority Act of 1955 as amended and we cannot see any deficiency in the present NPA Act that warranted the bill except for the latent intention of its promoters to corner for themselves harbour operations which are major revenue earner for the NPA and by extension the federal government without taking into consideration the security implications to the country and of course the havoc it would cause on the workforce as it was previously done during the concessioning exercise,” he argued.
“Government should avoid the same mistakes of the port concession of 2006 which led to the sack of 12,000 NPA workers”.
“The provision of item 6 in the second schedule of the bill is repulsive. It provides that every staff of NPA would not be absolved in the Ports and Harbours Authority. No provision was made for what fate would befall those workers that would be affected including how and who pays their terminal benefits.”
“Condition of service for the new authority will not be governed by statute and their employment with the new authority would be deemed as fresh employment without regards to the numbers of years they have served the NPA.”
“The provision of Section 15 (4) of the Bill gives the authority the powers to employ persons on none pensionable terms and conditions, this is offensive to the provisions of the pension reform act 2004 as amended.”
When contacted on the telephone on Saturday, President General of the MWUN; Comrade Adewale Adeyanju directed all inquiries to the union’s General Secretary.
He nevertheless hinted that the workers would not allow politician and their cohorts to further strip the ports through the Bill.
“We are aware of their plans when the Bill was being debated, there was no invitation to critical stakeholders, especially public hearing. How can you be amending the Ports Act without taking the opinion of port workers?” We are not going back on this”, he told our correspondent.