By DAPO OLAWUNI
There is palpable fear among workers of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) over the Ports and Harbour Bill which has returned to the senate and it is being deliberated upon for final passage.
The Bill which seeks to repeal the Nigerian Ports Authority Act, 1955, as amended has already scaled third reading at the Senate.
The major fear of the Workers is that the Bill if passed into law, would lead to thousands of workers losing their jobs.
Speaking exclusively with DAILY TREND on Tuesday, President of the NPA Senior Staff union under the aegis of Senior Staff Association of Corporations and Government Owned Companies (SSASCGOC), Maritime Branch, Comrade Akinola Bodunde confirmed that the union in conjunction with Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) are worried about the bill and are taking a position on it.
“We and the Maritime Workers Union are on this matter, we have met last week, we are putting up a position paper on it, we shall send it to the people concerned by next week
“We are also trying to know the content of the new Bill because we have stopped it before and it is resuscitating again, we are aware of it and we are working on it
Comrade Bodunde insisted that the Bill if passed into law as previously drafted, will pose dangers to the NPA workers.
“We dont know if there is a new version of it, and that is why we are trying to get the content of the Bill, when we get the content of the Bill, we would know how to attack it accordingly. It may be different from the one we stopped but we dont know yet” he said
Recall that six years ago, SSASCGOC and MWUN had fought the Bill to a standstill, causing the 9th Assembly to abandon passage of the Bill.
However, speaking recently at a function in Lagos, the Chairman Senate Committee on Marine Transport, Senator Wasiu Sanni Eshinlokun hinted that the Ports and Harbour Bill has already passed third reading.
According to him, the red chamber is ready to enact legislations that would ensure effective take-off of the new Marine and Blue Economy Ministry.
He listed some of the bills at the Senate which has scaled third reading to include the NIMASA Cabotage Act, the Ports and Harbour Bill as well as the National Inland Waterways Bill.
“For the Marine and Blue Economy Ministry to take off, we need to take acquainted with the various legislation that has been enacted.
“In terms of status, there are many legislations onboard, we have the NIMASA Act, the Ports and Harbour Bill, the Inland Waterways Bill and a whole gamut of other legislation which are at various stages of reading, about two of them have gone through third reading during the last administration and sent to the President for accent.
“Probably because of time factor, two of these Bills were sent in May this year, so the President was unable to sign it. We shall find a way to re-present them and do the needful.
DAILY TREND recalls that the Ports and Harbour Bill was sponsored at the 9th Assembly by Hon Nicolas Ossai.
The two house unions in 2017 feared that the bill would cede labour operations to private individuals, hence they rejected the Bill and staged a protest at the ports.
In a strong worded letter to lawmakers, the President of MWUN Comrade Adewale Adeyanju and his Secretary General Felix Akingboye had argued that if this bill is passed into law, it will lead to massive job loss to their members and not all the workers currently with NPA will be absolved.
“Habour operations all over the world is exclusive preserve of the government as a major foreign exchange earner to the government and therefore cannot be compromised by this bill through ceding to private operators”, the union stated.
“We have carefully perused the bill viz a viz the Nigerian Ports Authority Act of 1955 as amended and we cannot see any deficiency in the present NPA Act that warranted the bill except the latent intention of its promoters to corner for themselves harbour operations which is a major revenue earner for NPA and by extension the federal government without taking into consideration the security implications to the country and of course the havoc it would cause on the workforce as it was previously done during the concessioning exercise “, the letter read.
It lamented that the concession of the ports impacted negatively on members of the union as no fewer than 12,000 workers were thrown into the already saturated labour market.