By Aisha Cole
Port workers are set to embark on nationwide protests on Tuesday over their disagreement with some sections of the Ports and Harbour Bill, which they observed could lead to massive job losses.
A source close to the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) told the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Lagos that the protests would take place simultaneously in all the seaports.
The source said that the union observed inherent dangers in the bill which was recently passed by the Senate.
He said that the protests were being jointly organised by the MWUN and the Senior Staff Association of Communications, Transport and Corporations (SSACTAC), Maritime Branch.
According to the source, the decision to embark on the mass protest was because there had been no response from the National Assembly since the two unions wrote a letter opposing some sections the Ports and Harbour Bill.
NAN reports that the Ports and Harbour Authority Bill which seeks to repeal the Nigerian Ports Authority Act, 1955 as amended, has been passed by the Senate and is awaiting concurrent passage by the House of Representatives.
The MWUN had earlier petitioned the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Yakubu Dogara, saying that the bill would lead to massive job losses for NPA workers.
The union also pointed out several economic and security implications of the bill, if passed.
When contacted, the Secretary-General of MWUN, Mr Felix Akingboye, confirmed the imminent protests, but refused to give details.
“We are mobilising our members in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Onne, Warri and Calabar, for the demonstration.
“The protests will hold simultaneously in all the ports from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday,’’ Akingboye said.
“We are opposed to any attempt to further strip Nigerians of their rights through further concession in the guise of amending the NPA Act, 1955 as amended,’’ he said.
According to him, 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 operations are an exclusive duty of government because of the security implications and huge revenue generation.
“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.
“Harbour operations are 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 job losses, as done during the concession exercise,’’ Akingboye said.
He advised that government should avoid the mistakes of the port concession of 2006, which led to the sack of 12,000 NPA workers.
“The provision of item 6 in the second schedule of the bill is repulsive. It provides that every staff of NPA would not be absorbed in the Ports and Harbour Authority.
“No provision is made for what fate would befall those workers that would be affected including how and who pays their terminal benefits.
“The Conditions of Service for the new authority will not be governed by statute and their employment with the new authority would be deemed as fresh employment, without regard to the number of years they have served the NPA.
“The provision of Section 15 (4) of the bill gives the authority the powers to employ persons on non-pensionable terms and conditions.
“This is offensive to the provisions of the Pension Reform Act, 2004 as amended,’’ Akingboye said.
When contacted, the President-General of the MWUN, Mr Adewale Adeyanju, said that all enquiries should be directed to the union’s general secretary.
“When the bill was being debated, there was no invitation to critical stakeholders, especially during the public hearing.
“How can you be amending the Ports Act without seeking the opinion of port workers?
“We are not going back on this,’’ Adeyanju said.