By Taiwo Ogunmola-Omilani, Lagos
Maritime workers have said jobs of most Nigerians are being threatened in the maritime sector as a result of the bill before the national Assembly which is tends to repeal Nigeria Port Authority act 1955.
As a result of this promise, Maritime workers Union of Nigeria reemphasized the need for this government not to allow the repeal of NPA act 1955 which it said would lead to job loss in the sector. The bill was sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives, Ossai Nicholas Ossai.
The MWUN had earlier petitioned Speaker of the House of Representatives over the passage of the bill, saying it will spell doom for the sector and lead to massive job losses for NPA workers. They also pointed out several economic and security implications of the bill if passed. The union further said the bill seek to legitimize sacking of the existing staffs.
“A cursory examination of item 6 in the second schedule of the said bill seeks to wickedly legitimize sacking of workers as it unambiguously state that not every staff of NPA will be absolved by the new Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority. No proviso is also made concerning the fate of the employees whose services will not be transferred, including how and who pays their terminal benefit.
“More worrisome is the fact that the bill in section 15 (4) will give the new authority power to employ on non-pensionable terms and conditions. This effectively institutionalizes the evil of actualization of the workers and negates the provision of the Federation government pension Reform Act, 2004 as amended”.
Acting Secretary-General of the union, Felix Akingboye said, “We are opposed to any attempt to further strip Nigerians of their patrimony through further concession in the guise of amending the NPA Act 1955.” “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 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 is a 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. “
Addressing the newsmen, President General of Maritime workers, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju and his counterpart, Comrade Benson Adegbeyeni said there is impending threat to the survival of the nation’s ports and the job security of their members by the detestable bill pending at the national Assembly for the repeal of the Nigeria Ports Authority Act, cap 126 LFN 2004, and establish the Nigeria ports.
The duo lamented that since the presentation of the bill to the House of Representatives, none of the stakeholders including the two unions in the Maritime sector which the bill stand to affect gravely were invited or notified to speak on behalf of their members.
They went further to say that the bill is summarily seeks to repeal the Act of 1955 as amendment which set up NPA and replaces it with the aforementioned bill which by all intent and purpose, has grave consequences to the security of the nation among others.
Comrade Adewale said the most disturbing aspect of the bill is that it would throw more than half members and other workers into the already saturated labour market, saying this is contrary to the promise of the present government.
According to unions, it is important to bring to your notice that the bill portends grave consequences for the security of this country as it cedes harbour, jetty and terminal operations into private hands. This is especially serious in view of the dangerous influx of illegal arms and ammunition into the country, which we all are seeing the consequences as evidenced in insurgency, kidnapping, militancy and other violent crime.
The unions insisted that there is nowhere in the world where harbour operations is handed to private operators, saying it is highly sensitive and exclusive preserve of government besides being a high foreign exchange earner. “Having examined the act setting up NPA and our experiences since then, we have not been able to understand the reason or reasons for this bill except to through the back door, appropriate national assets to few unpatriotic individuals for their aggrandizement thereby denying government of the huge revenue in foreign exchange accruable to it through the maritime sector.
“You all can recall in 1990 when a private jetty and warehouse were used to import and stockpiled weapons which were deployed in an attempt to import and stockpiled weapons which were deployed in an attempt to unseat the federal government. Again, most recently, you will recall the discovery of over 440 cartons of dangerous weapons in containers in two operations in our ports. But for the vigilance of our members and some government agencies, those weapons would have found their way into general circulation”, he said.
Maritime workers therefore appealed to the National Assembly to throw away the bill insisted that it seeks to do more harm to the majority and favour the few individuals promoting it. “We are determined to ensure that Nigeria and Nigerians are not short changed by this obnoxious bill. We appeal to National Assembly to listen to the voice of reason and obey the wish of the people”, he said.
The union stressed further that “ a cursory examination of item 6 in the second schedule of the said bill seeks to wickedly legitimise ‘sacking’ of workers as it unambiguously states that not every staff of NPA will be absolved by the new Nigerian ports and Harbour authority. Where then is government’s avowed claim to create jobs for jobless Nigerians?
“To worsen the matter, no provision is made concerning the fate of the employees whose services will not be transferred, including how and who pays their terminal benefits. More worrisome is the fact that the bill in section 15(4) will give the new authority power to employ on non pensionable terms and conditions. This effectively institutionalizes the evil of actualization of workers and negates the provisions of the federal government’s pension reform act 2004 as amended.
“At present, the NPA has over 14,000 pensioners it pays their pensions monthly, as it is this bill is silenced on who will takes over the responsibility for the payment. Or is the promoters of this bill telling us that the pensioners will be abandoned to their fate with nobody or institution to their monthly pensions after using their productive lives to serve the nation?” he asked.
In a separate interview with the Maritime President, he said if the bill sees the light of the day all the workers under the maritime union would be affected. He said, “I cannot tell you the actual number of workers that will lose their job because i will go out of proportion.
Let us say we have 100,000 dock workers and 70 per cent is being laid off, what remains? So it comes across all branches of maritime union. We also have our workers in across Nigeria and that is why we are saying no to that bill.
What is there business in scrapping NPA act”, he quarried. With the plea of maritime workers, Nigerians are waiting if they will go ahead to pass the bill. All hands are on deck to stop this bill by all means.