By Bimbola Oyesola, [email protected]
Workers in the maritime sector of the economy have threatened to shut down operations in ports nationwide, if the Federal Government fails to compel the international oil companies (IOCs) operating in the ports to comply with the rules of the country.
Subsequently, the workers, under the umbrella of the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN), have issued a seven-day ultimatum, starting from Friday, April 9, 2021, to the Federal Government, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to, as a matter of national interest, immediately compel the IOCs to comply with statutory regulations, and also implement the communiqué earlier reached with the IOCs.
According to the president of the union, Adewale Adeyanju, the action became necessary in view of the continued denial of members (dockworkers) of the union employment opportunities by the IOCs at designated oil and gas locations, with negative impact on the welfare of the members, in addition to the IOCs continued disrespect for the nation’s laws.
“We wish to draw the attention of the general public to the continued silence of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and ultimately the Federal Government to the non-compliance of the international oil companies to extant stevedoring regulations and the COU Marine/Government Notice No. 106 on Stevedoring Regulations, 2014, issued by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, which has been widely published in the print and electronic media.
“We wish to further inform the general public that failure of the Federal Government and its agencies to compel the IOCs to comply with the rules on or before the expiration of this seven-day ultimatum, the union will have no option than to shut down all forms of operations at the ports, terminals, jetties and all locations in the country to press home our demands,” he said.
He noted that the extant stevedoring/marine notice was the operational guideline for all dock labour employers and private operators of any work location, including ports, jetties, onshore or offshore oil and gas or bonded terminals, inland container depots, off-dock terminals, dry ports and platforms.
The MWUN president stated that the law stipulates that government-appointed and NIMASA-registered stevedores and dockworkers shall be allowed access by the IOCs to the operational areas allocated to them by the NPA.
He said, “We wish to further draw the public’s attention to the repressive practice of the IOCs by denying our members access to their operational areas and, consequently, denying the dockworkers the opportunity to earn wages.
“To worsen the matter, these IOCs have flooded the operational areas with aliens/foreigners at the expense of local workers and in breach of statutory regulations, including the Local Content Act, NIMASA and NPA acts that prescribe indigenising of workforce.”
He recalled that the matter became worrisome in 2018, which forced the union to declare a three-day national strike before the intervention of Ministry of Transportation, which summoned a stakeholders’ meeting, including the IOCs and the union.
Adeyanju said, at the end, a communiqué was reached on how to address the matter.
“It is regrettable that, up till now, the content of the communiqué has not been implemented. It is also very painful and sad that the Federal Government and its agencies, especially the Ministry of Transportation and NPA, for the past four years, have failed to compel the IOCs to not only comply with the statutory regulations but to also comply with the communiqué reached at the stakeholders’ meeting of 2018.
“We have endured enough promises and the usual government gimmicks of ‘we are looking at the matter’,” he said.
He stated that, after serial deception and unfulfilled promises, the union has decided to take its destiny in its hands, “We believe that these IOCs have something to hide, which they do not want Nigerians to be aware of, and this is especially bothersome in this era of increasing insecurity across the country. We need to ask why the IOCs are afraid to allow registered and approved stevedores and dockworkers access to their operational areas as prescribed by the law. Government and our members have lost huge sum of money both in revenue and wages.”