By DAPO OLAWUNI
The National Association of Stevedoring Companies (NASC) has opened a ‘Can of Worms’ on Nigerian port system, saying that the port concessioning exercise of 2006 has actually further damaged the port system, and that many jobs taken away are yet to be restored.
The group accused terminal operators at Nigerian ports of incompetence, saying that many of them do not have ordinary toilet facilities to take care of their dockworkers, adding that dockworkers throw “short put” (feaces) in the oceans.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos on Wednesday, President of Stevedoring Companies in Nigeria, Mr Bolaji Sunmola and his Vice, Aliyu Bambado however appreciated the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for coming up with a recent marine notice to address marginalisation of Nigerian stevedoring contractors by International Oil Companies (IOC)
Recall that NIMASA last week, issued a marine notice where it warned stevedoring companies to commence operations at their dedicated locations or face sanctions.
The Director General, NIMASA Dr. Bashir Jamoh, in the notice, has said that the agency has directed all duly registered stevedoring companies with operational areas allotted by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), which are yet to start operation, to mobilise to their work locations.
Sunmola lamented that port concessioning has brought a lot of damage to the Nigerian port system, and that stevedoring, which is an international profession has been relegated in Nigeria, thereby giving IOC’s a leverage to hijack jobs belonging to Nigerians with so much impunity.
He lamented that stevedoring contractors are finding it difficult to kit their dockworkers because they are poorly remunerated, and that they have been reduced to observer status at the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) where welfare packages for port workers are negotiated.
Speaking, Sunmola said “Government policies do not carry along the critical aspects of the operators in the maritime, worldwide, stevedoring is an international practice, so why should it be sidelined in Nigeria in the issues of concessioning?
“By refusing us to just be an observer in NJIC, we have no say, we cannot provide for adequate welfare of the workers, many of the terminals do not have an ordinary toilet for the dockworkers to use not to talk of PPE, the workers do “shut put” in the ocean, and they claim to be terminal operators, they expect us to provide all that”
“To provide standard PPE is very expensive, a boot for dockworkers cost as much as N45,000 for one person, we can do it, but the operation must fund it, now, in a situation where we are not involved in the minimum negotiations for the dockworkers, how are we going to implement it?
“Nigeria is looking to become a hub in West and Central Africa, so, everything we do here must be up to standard.
We are not properly remunerated, and we are struggling to kit our dockworkers”
“The new concessionares that came onboard, most of them have not had any practices of shipping before, except one or two of them doing RoRo operations, they have not added any value to what they met on ground, they only came to take over jobs that have been existing for more than eighty years from those who are already in the practice”
“The labour actually does the job, as far as terminal operators are concerned, they are just warehouse managers”
“When NPA was in charge of activities at the port, we were the ones that negotiate the rates as employers and the Maritime Workers Union are there to protect the interest of their workers, but after the concessioning, we were reduced to become observers. Clearly, I cannot negotiate on behalf of the labour, the maritime workers negotiate on behalf of their workers while I negotiate for my members”
“If the dockworkers gets new rates, definitely the stevedoring companies should also get one, the NJIC is not complete because the terminal operators are not the ones operating in the port, there are some jetties that are still under the NPA, there are private jetties operating bulk liquid and dry cargoes, so if I don’t have anything to do with terminal operators you don’t expect me to negotiate rates with them”
The group lauded NIMASA for standing up for stevedores in Nigeria, saying that this is the first time a marine notice is coming up for stevedores, seeking to enforce stevedoring regulations of 2014.
Since June 2018, the contract for stevedoring contractors was given, but they have have been having denial of access to do the job by IOC’s.
“We have our letter of appointments, but the IOC are refusing us to work, NPA did a thorough bidding selection to the fact that you must have a technical partner to work with, they went along with BPE procedures, but the IOC are doing arrogancy of power, they now want to do the work of NPA, they cannot dictate for the federal government”
“We need to have gainful employment, all these works are there and are being done by all these foreigners, the local content law has seized the job for the locals and Nigeria at some point had the indigenisation decree, I dont think it has been cancelled”
“When it comes to offshore, they dont want us to be there, they claim that we dont have the capacity or the technicality, but the law clearly states that anyone working there without belonging to Nigerian stevedoring companies or registered with NIMASA is doing so illegally, it means all of them over there are working illegally”
“Thank God that NIMASA has woken up to their responsibility of enforcement, it is good and it is in the interest of Nigeria”
“For the first five days, there has been reactions all over the world, there is a thirty days effect to the marine notice to be implemented, the IOC cannot constitute themselves into a powerful movement against Nigerians, they consult their countries before obeying Nigerian laws, they dare not do this in other countries expecially Arabian countries”
“Whatever NIMASA needs to do more, we shall give them all our support” Sunmola pledged.