The President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) Comrade Adewale Adeyanju in an exclusive interview with DAILY TREND NEWS in Lagos last week said that 60% of dockworkers working in hazardous environments at Nigerian Port terminals are prone to cancer and other health challenges.
He revealed that the union has set up a monitoring committee to carryout random inspection on a daily basis at most of the jetties and terminals to ensure that its workers are well kitted while at work.
Adeyanju told our correspondent that the union is declaring a war on any stevedoring contractor or terminal operator that fails to provide the adequate kits needed for dockworkers to operate.
What is the update on the faceoff between the union and IOC’s over payment of stevedoring contractors?
I think there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are waiting for the meeting to be convened by the Ministry of Transportation, the last time during the striking period, I was called, they pleaded with us to suspend the strike action and that they are on top of it. This meeting is going to be for all stakeholders involved, the IOC, the terminal operators, the NIMASA, the Shippers Council and the NPA who happens to be the principal stevedore in charge of awarding the contract, so we are waiting for them.The NPA is working underground, there was an ultimatum they issued to the IOC who are not ready to comply with the directives coming from the NPA.
I learnt that some of the IOC have started complying while some are still trying to be funny, you know that in Nigeria if you don’t use good weapon to the hardened ones, they will not respond. I learnt that about 6% of them have started complying, but I may not know everything until that meeting is held where the labor and others are going to be part of the meeting.
Cumulatively, can you tell us the amount of money involved?
I am not working in the finance department of NPA, so there is no way that I can tell you the amount involved, the only authority that can tell you about this figure is the Nigerian Ports Authority who knows that the revenue is leaking somewhere and somebody is seating on it for couple of years, they are the ones to tell the whole world, it is not for me as a union who is protecting the welfare of my members.
Recently you said the union was diversifying into owning business ventures, how far is this coming?
Very soon we are going to set up the management team that will manage the company that we have registered, the certificates are with us already, we have registered on export, stevedoring, manning agent and so many things that has to do with maritime operations, so very soon we would set up the management team that will kick start the operations.
Are you optimistic that this would generate funds for the union?
I am 100% optimistic, because if we have been having it in the past, by now the management of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, the way people see us is that we are the most buoyant union, they don’t know that we only trade on human being, we trade on 2% which is nothing, the workers are being downsized, the economy is not moving. If you go to ENL terminal now, unlike in the past when we had vessels coming in and discharging cargoes, now they hardly work on four vessels in a month, this is affecting our members and the Union as well, this is why we felt that we should go into business that will augment what we met on ground so that we would not be relying on 2% that has nothing to do with the system.
How can we reduce dockworkers casualties at Nigerian ports? We heard some of them are not well kitted
We would continue to sensitize our members and orientate them about safety, it is safety first in everything you do, an accident would never ring a bell to you that it is coming, you are the one that would guard against it, what we need to tell the terminal operators and other stakeholders who are regulating us is to train the dockworkers more than it was before, if you don’t put on your safety booths and you want to go and work onboard a vessel that is slippery, anything can happen, where you are supposed to have nose cover but you don’t, and you want to go and work on a wheat vessel, what would happen is that you are going to inhale some hazardous shafts that will eventually damage your brain, your eyes or your nose. So, all those kits needs to be put in place before you even climb onboard a vessel, the coveralls, safety booths, the hand gloves. If you are going to work on a fishing vessel, you know you must put on a jacket, you must wear all these kits and your helmet must also be there, this would show that you are a responsible dockworker. A dockworker that is putting on a rubber slippers and not properly dressed, anything can happen, it all bothers on training and sensitizing our members on safety gadgets, if you go to APMT, you cannot enter there without a coverall or reflective jacket, if you go to the Customs also as they are, you cannot enter their office without them giving you something that would identify you as a visitor. So, as a worker that is producing the golden egg that everybody is talking about in this country today, dockworkers should be well kitted, it is not about the accidents that happens, but the side effect of it in the near future, 60% of dockworkers working in these environment at the port that is hazardous are prone to cancers because they are not well kitted and the union intends to draw a war, and a notice to all stakeholders to tell them this time around that enough is enough. We are setting up an inspectorate that would be going round the ports everyday to look at areas that are not in compliance with these safety regulations we are talking about, any stevedoring contractor that does not obey these terms, we would not allow such to work, and we may not equally work on that day. These are some of the checks we intend to put in place by making sure that everyday we do routine check at each of the terminals.
The dockworker that died recently, what is the compensation being done for his family?
We held a meeting yesterday and we have concluded the compensation, we have concluded something reasonable for the family, the ENL terminal which the guy is working with, they too are going to contribute their own, the chatterer whom the guy died onboard their vessel have equally paid a reasonable amount of money. I don’t want to tell you what the amount is until we see the green light coming from the shipping company, after we have all agreed on the amount then we would blow it open to the world.
A dockworker was recently arrested at a terminal in Apapa for attempting to smuggle Tramadol, is that they are not well paid?
You cannot expect all the twelve children you have to behave in the same way, even if they are well paid, some of them will still misbehave, you cannot tell me that it is because he is not well paid that made him got involved in pilfering, as a dockworker, you are to do your work and get out, they are well paid, you are aware of what we got for them recently, and we are going for another one to review their salary upward by next year, it is done every two years. So if you are saying it is because he is not well paid and that was why he went to pilfer a container, he is on his own, nobody sent him, no reasonable dockworker will get himself involved in that type of rubbish. So, when you have twelve children, they cannot all behave the same way, those ones that find themselves in these crisis, they are the bad eggs we are talking about. The union will not allow anybody to destroy the good name we have built, somebody cannot because he wants to make money at the expense of the owner of the cargo, the guy caught in Apapa is gone out of the port, and the union has supported the management of the terminal to dismiss him, he is no longer our member, and we cannot support illegality.
On the NJIC agreement for seafarers, a lot of controversy is surrounding it, what is the current situation?
I think we still need to commend the management of NIMASA, you know that if you are dealing with some of these powerful business men who believes that they just want to make their money and go, you find it difficult to put them on the table. However, what I heard about four days ago is that they have reconvened that NJIC for the seafarers, the unions have signed their part of the agreement, it is the shipowners that have refused to sign part of their own, now they are trying to review some of the aspect the shipowners were kicking against, Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is give and take, and it is about negotiations and discipline. If they agree then we would sign the agreement.
It seems the shipowners are so reluctant to pay Nigerian dockworkers the way they pay foreigners
They cannot be reluctant to obey the law of the land, God has established this country, you cannot flout it, just like the IOC’s, you are making a hell of money in this country and you don’t want to engage the services of Nigerian dockworkers while the law has asked you to engage us, so why are you denying us, are you telling me there is no revenue leakage? Even before the emergence of the IOCs in this country, we have had stevedoring contractors and we have dockworkers and we have been doing the job, so they should go and pay what belongs to dockworkers.
It seems the traffic gridlock along mile 2 Tin Can axis is coming back with trucks queuing up to Sanya bus stop
I think this has to do with the road repairs going on at the port, if you go to Tin Can port now, a lot of activities are ongoing. But as a responsible Nigerian, it is wrong for you to park your trucks on the road when you know that government has commenced repair works, they should look for a place to put the trucks while the project is going on, but Nigerians don’t comply until you use force on them.