Tension is rising at seaports across Nigeria, with the organised labour seeking clarification on a purported approval by Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to end the regime of tally clerks and onboard security personnel, generally known as dockworkers, within the ports.
The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), an umbrella body for categories of junior and middle-level workers in the maritime industry, BusinessDay gathers, is battling to calm rising tempers at the ports in Lagos, Calabar, Warri and Port Harcourt, where enraged dockworkers are said to be mounting pressure to shutdown operations.
The union says it believed that the purported approval to sack about 3,000 dockworkers couldn’t have been given by the minister with whom the stakeholders in the maritime industry met, in January this year.
Aham Ubani, general secretary of MWUN, said on Wednesday that the leadership of the union had written to Rotimi Amaechi, seeking a clarification on the alleged approval to sack over 3,000 dockworkers.
The MWUN has had a running battle with the management of the NPA in the last one year, over an irregular payment of the salaries of tally clerks and onboard security personnel, and an alleged engagement of a consultant as cargoes surveyors to whom several millions of naira had been allegedly paid, to take over the responsibilities of the tally clerks.
The tally clerks and onboard security personnel are statutorily charged with the responsibilities of physical enumeration of goods onboard vessels berthing at any of Nigerian ports to ensure the goods match what is declared in import manifest.
“The news report of the approval which was no doubt planted by the management of NPA to hoodwink the minister of transportation into taking hasty and anti-workers decision is certainly not in the interest of our economy, and is indeed a direct assault on the prevailing industrial peace in our seaports nationwide.
“The is capable of igniting simultaneous turmoil in Lagos seaports, Port Harcourt seaports, Calabar seaports, Warri ports. But the president-general of our union, Anthony Emmanuel Nted has prompted, intervened by reassuring the angry dockworkers that no such approval was given by the minister and that the union has written a letter to the minister requesting for urgent meeting on the tally clerk and onboard security matter,” Ubani told BusinessDay.
He accused the NPA of being behind the reported approval to sack the workers in order to “secure the illegal engagement of cargoes surveyors,” as no such issue was discussed at the stakeholders meeting held in Abuja on January 20, 2016, in which the union and the NPA management were present.
The union will remain calm as it awaits the minister’s clarification on the issue, he said.