The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria have (MWUN) threatened to shut down Nigeria’s seaports if its members who were arrested and detained on Saturday by the River State Government are not released.
In a statement released on Sunday, the president of the union Adewale Adeyanju, said it had received with shock and disbelief the arrest of over 20 dockworkers and others by the Rivers State Government on Saturday (May 9th) on their way home after the day’s job.
He said there is restiveness in ports across the country and the appeal for the release of the arrested workers is to douse the rising tension in the ports which could snowball into full-scale industrial unrest if not quickly addressed.
“We wish to use this medium to state that if in the next forty-eight (48) hours starting from Monday 11th May 2020, nothing is done to affect the release of our members, the union will have no option but to withdraw our services in the entire nation’s seaport, terminals and jetties in solidarity with our detained members as an injury to one is an injury to all,” he said.
Adeyanju noted that the union were informed that the affected dockworkers were returning from essential service operations to BUA/PTOL terminal, Port Harcourt, and were arrested and detained by Rivers State task force enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown.
According to him, “all entreaties/explanation made by our members to the task force team led by Governor Nyesom Wike that they were on essential services fell on deaf ears, although they presented duly signed ‘Essential Duty Port Pass’ issued by the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA). Instead, the governor mocked them that they should go to Abuja and work.”
The MWUN president said most terminal operators, shipping companies and port users in Port Harcourt port are closing down shop as a direct result of the actions of the Rivers State government for not allowing port workers and other stakeholders to work.
He said that the action has a direct implication on the Nigerian economy and is a clear threat to the employment and job security of port workers, including dockworkers and employees of shipping companies.
“As direct consequences of governor Wike’s action, some terminal operators have closed down their operations till further notice, leading to loss of jobs by Nigerians and dock workers,” he stated.
The union recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari in his first address to the country on the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown of some states specifically directed that the ports should remain open to operation for essential services/duty.
He said the attention of the public should be drawn to the fact that littoral states like Lagos, Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River etc, all allow maritime operations without the harassment of workers whose services are essential to the functions of the nation’s economy.
“The action of governor Wike is at variance with the intention of the Federal Government on job creation because if the ports are not operational it will definitely affect the operations of oil platforms and other maritime-related operations and consequently, induce many job losses. This we must not be allowed to thrive.
“Consequent to the above, we call on President Buhari, the Honourable Minister of Transport, Mr Chibuike Amaechi Rotimi, and other well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on Governor Wike to immediately release our members – dock workers and others who were arrested and their staff bus impounded on Saturday 9th May 2020 while on their way home having rounded up the day’s work.
“This is because the port is the gateway to the nation’s economy and its closure may adversely affect revenue accruable to the Federal Government from the sector and spell doom to our ailing economy especially in the face of dwindling world crude oil price.
“We wish to appreciate all port operators and our members for coming out at this critical time to work and keep our nation’s economy flying. We also wish to commend the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces for keeping faith with the Nigerian people at this most auspicious of times,” the statement read.
Hope Rises For Nigeria’s Underutilised Eastern Seaports
Prospects of revival of the country’s eastern seaports heightened last Thursday at the occasion of the inauguration of the new Board of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
Describing them as underutilised, the Chairman of the new Board, Akin Ricketts, lamented over their state, while noting that such a situation had far-reaching impact on the country’s economy, as it was responsible for the congestion which has crippled business at the western ports of Apapa and Tin Can Island; all in Lagos.
Ricketts then pledged that his new board would strive to resolve the situation by improving the conditions of the eastern ports. The eastern ports comprise Port Harcourt and Onne (Rivers State), Delta in Warri (Delta State) and Calabar (Cross River State). As envisaged, the eastern ports are to service the eastern part of the country comprising states located east of the River Niger.
For several years, the western ports have been under a state of strangulating congestion, with roads leading to them routinely clogged by unclaimed imported vehicles and assorted cargo, which in turn delay and deny onward passage of cleared cargo to their destinations for as much as six months in some cases.
This is because of the critical importance of the seaports to a Nigerian economy with preponderant dependence on imports of consumer goods, as well as industrial raw materials and equipment.
Incidentally, the problematic state of the country’s ports is not new, while the causative factors are also not far-fetched. For instance, one of the reported age-long problems of the eastern ports is that of narrow and shallow channels connecting them to the ocean, with associated high cost of dredging, as well as clearing such waterways.
Other issues that have made them less attractive to port users include the differential in freight charges when compared to western ports, and the deplorable state of infrastructure in them. Yet another is the challenge of security for maritime operations in the eastern zone.
Presently, many ship owners and operators in the eastern zone rent private vessels which are manned by armed naval personnel to escort their vessels of interest into and out of Nigerian waters. And this is usually at significant cost to the vehicle operators. Little wonder that over 60 per cent of cargo coming to Nigeria end up in the western ports, even when the importers may not be from that zone.
Meanwhile, it would be recalled that as apparent responses to the challenges of these eastern ports, the NPA in 2018 announced that it planned to invest N1bn to tackle the problem of reviving the eastern ports. Also, in 2019, the NPA announced a reduction of 10 per cent in port operational charges for use of the eastern ports by categories of ships, namely those with 250 of 20-foot equivalent containers, general cargo of 16,000 metric tonnes, combo vessels of 16,000 metric tonnes, as well as roll-on roll-off vessels with 250 units of vehicles.
It would seem that such measures are yet to sway the port users to step up significantly their use of these eastern ports as the affected ports still lack the operational ambience and infrastructure for trouble-free patronage by port users.
Many observers attribute the current problems of the country’s port system to the 2006 measures by the Federal Government to concession the ports and the attendant withdrawal of 30 per cennt incentive granted to vehicle owners who use the eastern ports under their control by government.
However, while the concession was to attract better business for the ports (including the eastern ports), the reverse was the case.
Hence while the concern of the chairman of the new NPA board remains valid, the onus still lies on the management of the agency to bring the eastern ports into full operational status.
Source: Daily Trust
Gov Emmanuel Commends Buhari On Ibom Deep Seaport Project
Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has applauded President Mohammad Buhari determination to fast track the actualisation of Ibom Deep Seaport, IDSP.
The governor also thanked the Federal Ministry of Transportation and all relevant federal regulatory agencies including the NPA, ICRC and others for working tirelessly with Akwa Ibom state government to actualise a vision that will transform the economic fortunes of the entire country.
He poured encomiums on the Technical Committee on Realisation of Ibom Deep Seaport for its dedication and high sense of patriotism displayed in pursuing the project.
These commendations came on the heels of an announcement that the Federal Government is set to move to the next level of the procurement process of the Ibom Deep Port project.
Emmanuel, who speake through the state’s Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Akan Okon said, “The government and people of Akwa Ibom State are very happy with this development and we must appreciate President Mohammad Bihari for his visionary leadership and thank the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi and all relevant regulatory agencies who diligently and tiredlessly with our state government and contributed to the success so far recorded.”
“This certification is a clear evidence that Federal Government appreciates the extensive benefits Ibom Deep Seaport will attract to the country in terms of expansive business and employment opportunities.”
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