By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has urged the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola to look into the lingering matter of unpaid benefits to disengaged seafarers of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) after 28-years of liquidation.
President General of the union, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju in an exclusive chat with DAILY TREND on Wednesday urged the minister to address the lingering matter in order to avoid collision with the labour union.
While speaking earlier at the Commissioning of the Mission to Seafarers Centre in Apapa Lagos which had the Minister in attendance, Adeyanju said the union would be visiting the Minister in Abuja soon to discuss major challenges confronting the blue economy sector.
He assured that the union is ready to collaborate with the Minister in order to ensure that the rights and privileges of the seafarers which has been denied for the past 28-years is given to them through his office.
Speaking with our correspondent, Comrade Adeyanju who doubles as the Deputy President of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) said “Seafarers who have contributed immensely to the growth of the maritime industry in Nigeria are yet to be paid their entitlements for 28-years, despite the fact that there was a court judgement to that event.
“We are urging the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy to look into the matter and ensure that during his own tenure that the rights of the Workers are released to them.
“Already, our letter is before his table, that he should look into this matter, we know where he is coming from and his pedigree, he is a public servant who have contributed to the economy of Osun State, being an accountant also, he should look inwards and ensure that these seafarers who have contributed to the service of the nation are given their rights.
“The Minister should know that we are coming to meet with him, the four arms of the union.
“Seafarers all over the world are like floating prisoners, they would be onboard at sea for more than one year, anything can happen, turbulent weather among others.
“Under the administration of the new Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, he should come up with the idea of having three to four vessels where we can refloat the shipping line, Nigeria is not too small to do that, all stakeholders can contribute towards this project.
“This is imperative in order to ensure that the cadets that are being sent for training in India can have a job when they graduate.
“The former Minister of Transportation, Muazu Jaji Sambo had set up a committee involving two Ministries, the Transportation Ministry and Labour Ministry, a committee was set up to carryout physical verification of the aged seafarers, giving us hope.
“However, up till now, that Committee have not met. We are urging the Minister to direct the two permanent Secretaries in the two Ministry to make sure that the committee that was set up continue their job and do physical verification of all these aged seafarers and pay them what belongs to them. Now that they are trying to involve NIMASA, NPA and Shippers council, everybody should be involved and pay off the seafarers so that we can close down the matter, we have been on it for 28years.
“It would not be good that during the Minister’s tenure, the union would carry placards and start protesting, his government is new, he was just pronounced as the minister of Marine and Blue Economy.
“We want a new thing to come in, not an old wine in a new bottle, we don’t want this matter to stain his administration. Past ministers have come in but they did not do anything”
The MWUN President General noted that even though some of the affected seafarers are dead, majority of them are still alive.
According to him “They were still here three days ago, those that have died have their next of kin, we have the books, we are still going to Calabar, Port Harcourt and Onne Port for more verification”