The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) branch of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and the Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government-Owned Companies (SSASCGOC) have voiced their strong opposition to the proposed Ports and Harbour Bill in the National Assembly, which seeks to repeal the existing Act that established the NPA.
The two internal unions in the country’s marine sector issued the warning, saying that if the Bill becomes a law, it could threaten the security and the economy of the country and cause many Nigerians including NPA employees to lose their jobs.
At a joint briefing in Lagos on Tuesday, November 7, the President-General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, Prince Adewale Adeyanju, and his NPA counterpart, Akinola Bodunde, claimed that some individuals were secretly introducing the Bill that the 8th National Assembly had rejected and discarded.
They urged Nigerians to oppose the Bill, which they alleged was intended to appropriate and transfer national heritage to a small number of people.
According to them: “We wish to note that the bill if allowed to be passed into law, will have far-reaching grave consequences on the security of the nation as it will cede harbour, jetty and terminal operations into private hands.
“We are therefore not surprised that the bill is being vigorously sponsored by certain unpatriotic individuals within the maritime sector, who are hell-bent on appropriating our commonwealth and cornering same into the lining of their pockets and that of their cronies.
“We would have thought that given our persistent cry and various notices pointing to the deplorable state of our various nation’s seaports, decrepit state of port access roads, collapsing quay aprons, and the general failure of infrastructures within our ports.
“The focus of this 10 National Assembly would have been to find solutions to the myriad of problems bedevilling our ports, terminals, Jetties, and Oil and Gas platforms and even the need to dredge all the ports, particularly Calabar, Warri, Onne, etc for increased efficiency; and not to clandestinely and recklessly seek to misappropriate public infrastructure through unfriendly legislation for the benefit of individuals whose only interest is capital accumulation and not the general public.
“We are further surprised that the sponsors of this bill outrightly ignored our demand to call the International Oil Companies, IOCs, operating in our sovereign territorial economic zones, who have deliberately refused to obey our extant Maritime regulations, standards, and laws but, find it expedient to sit in the comfort of their hallowed chambers to push for laws that will be detrimental and inimical to the welfare and wellbeing of the working class, Nigerians and our nation’s security and sovereignty.
“The Joint House Unions, MWUN, and SSACGOC use this medium to convey our views to the leadership, members of the National Assembly, and the new Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy that this is certainly not the right way to go as this ploy by these selfish individuals in the maritime sector will cause chaos and anarchy in the industry which has enjoyed sustained peace since the idea of projecting the harsh Bill was killed in 2018 will not be allowed to come to fruition.”
The unions also claimed that a draft of the Bill shows that it offers entirely non-pensionable, non-transferable, and non-terminable work without access to terminal benefits.
They maintained that the Bill has to be removed so it does not conflict with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s pledge to create five million jobs in Nigeria through the newly established Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.
The said: “This is the height of inconsideration by the proponents of the Bill to the right of workers to the necessary payment for services rendered by a worker, in accordance to known law, industrial relations practice, equity, and good conscience.
“We believe that allowing this Bill to be passed into law will effectively institutionalize the evil concept of casualization of workers and negate the provisions of the Pension Reform Act 2004 as amended.
“This is in direct contrast to the avowed promises of Mr. President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to ensure the provision of about five million jobs for Nigerians through the newly-created Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.
“Having said this, We, the two in-house unions in the maritime sector; MWUN and SSASCGOC, will not fold our hands and allow a few unpatriotic Nigerians within the industry to rip off the nation’s commonwealth and render our sector unproductive via this infamous Bill that will only create poverty, hopelessness, hunger and generate avid bitterness amongst the already impoverished workers and Nigeria citizenry.
“Consequently, we confirm our absolute vote of confidence on the Nigerian Ports Authority ACT as it currently relates to the Nigerian state and the well-being of the workers in the sector and we will vehemently resist all attempts to push this hellish bill further. We, therefore, demand its withdrawal in its entirety with the laid down laws.”