By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has warned the Rivers States Governor, Nyesom Wike to release the 20 dockworkers that were arrested by the government recently or else, the union would withdraw all its members from Nigerian ports in a nationwide strike.
The 20 dockworkers worwere arrested for allegedly violating the lockdown directive in Rivers State, while one of the union’s bus was impounded by the government.
President General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju in a statement issued at the weekend issued a 48 hours ultimatum to Gov Wike starting from Monday 11th of May, to release his members or face the wrath of the union.
Adeyanju argued that dockworkers as providers of essential services to the nation must be given unfettered access to the ports. He argued that the withdrawal of service by the union would have a lasting impact on the nations economy as all ports, jetties and oil platforms would be shutdown completely.
Recall that Gov Wike had invoked a total lockdown of Rivers State last week Thursday.
The union said “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 effect 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.”
“The leadership of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has received with shock and disbelief the arrest of over 20 dockworkers and others that their whereabouts cannot be accounted for by the Rivers State Government on Saturday (May 9) on their way home after the day’s job”
“We were informed that the affected Dockworkers were returning from essential service operations to BUA/PTOL terminal, Port Harcourt and were unlawfully and forcefully arrested, and detained by Rivers State Taskforce on enforcing COVID-19 lockdown”
“All entreaties/explanation made by our members to the task force team led by the 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”
“Consequent to the above, most terminal operators, shipping companies and port users in Port Harcourt port are closing down shop as a direct result of the unsavoury activities of the Rivers State government for not allowing port workers and other stakeholders to work”
“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 dockworkers.”
“Already, there is restiveness in the entire ports across the country and this appeal to release the arrested workers is to douse the rising tension in the ports which could snowball into full-scale industrial unrest if not quickly apprehended now.”
The union argued that the action of Gov Wike is at variance with the intention of the Federal Government on job creation because of the ports are not operational, it will definitely affect operations of oil platforms and other maritime related operations and consequently induce job losses.