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Thursday, 3 December 2015

Protest as NPA plans sack of 5,000 dockworkers

The National Association of Stevedoring Companies (NASC) on Thursday kicked against the decision by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to lay off 5,000 tally clerks and onboard security men. The President of the association, Mr Bolaji Sunmola, gave the indication in an interview with newsmen in Lagos.

Sunmola said the matter would be taken to the Federal Ministry of Transport for resolution, adding that the NPA was ready to throw thousands of workers into the labour market alongside their employers. NPA had indicated at a stakeholders’ meeting on Nov. 10 in Lagos that it would disengage tally clerks and onboard security men by Dec. 15.
In a letter dated Nov. 23, the NPA notified 10 stevedoring firms of its decision to disengage the tally clerks and onboard security men. The letter was signed by NPA’s Executive Director, Marine and Operations, Mr David Omonibeke. NPA explained that sequel to the stakeholders meeting on Nov. 10, management had resolved to discontinue with the services of tally clerks and onboard security men.
It noted that this was based on the fact that the authority had ceded cargo handling to terminal operators in the concession areas. The 10 stevedoring firms are currently engaged in Lagos, Tin Can Island, Onne, Rivers and Calabar ports. They are Matral Marine Services, Bashisa Global Ltd., Westland International, Dockworth Services International and Long Shore Stevedoring (all in Lagos Port Complex).
Others are Excellent Dominion, Blue Ocean Cargo Handling (Tin-Can port; Patrade Nigeria Ltd. (Rivers port); Insight Marine Ltd. (Onne port) and Fairdeal Agency Ltd. (Calabar port). “The terminal operators are responsible for stevedoring operations in their respective areas as provided in the concession agreements,’’ the NPA said.
The letter also directed NPA’s personnel to stop accepting bills from the stevedoring companies after the expiration of their contract on Dec. 15. Sunmola said: “From this day (Dec. 15), Nigeria will be losing the independence of reports and accounts without bias of happenings at the quay apron of Nigerian ports’’.
He said that this would make Nigerian ports vulnerable to all sorts of shady practices. “Cargo surveyors can never be substitutes for the tally clerks and onboard security men. “We maintain that payment of tally clerks is never a drain to NPA’s revenue,’’ he added. Sunmola said the association was aware of the move by NPA, adding that members of the association had started talking with the Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, to call NPA to order.
“We are talking with the Federal Government about it through the minister of transport‎ and we hope that something will be done on or before Dec. 15,’’ he said. Efforts were also being made by the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN) to ensure that its members (tally clerks and onboard security men) continue to work.
A dockworker told newsmen anonymously that the nation’s ports might be returning to the pre-port concession era, when the leadership of MWUN paid the dockworkers and there was no order. “If you remember, the MWUN was collecting wages from the ship owners and the NPA and paying the dockworkers.
“It was very chaotic and it took the determination of Chief Ojo Maduekwe as the Minister of Transport to put a stop to the practice,’’ the dockworker said.

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