By Frank Odinukaeze
* NPA to sanction erring firms
After four years of uncertainty, struggles and rejections,the International Oil Companies (IOCs) have finally yielded to the yearnings and demands of the National Association of Stevedoring Operators ( NASO) to engage the services of the latter in the onshore and offshore operations.
President of NASO, Bolaji Sunmola disclosed this on Wednesday in an interview with MMS Plus at the association’s plenary in Lagos.
Sunmola noted that the compliance level of the IOCs has been on the increase, adding that some companies have since December 2021, started work ,while others may commence operation this week.
“The compliance has been on the increase. There are some companies that have commenced work even since December. But they are still ongoing.The situation is actually improving”, he said, stressing that there is still more to be done.” And I know the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) is not sleeping, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria( MWUN),that had been helping us in this struggle are not relenting. And jointly, we will get there shortly. I can assure that by the time we are having this talk in December, more companies would have come on board,” he stated.
He said some companies have gone into agreement with the IOCs towards commencement of operation.” But it’s not just about agreement. I want the agreement to be operationalzed. Until when they get to site before we can now say hurray,” he said.
Recall that the Federal Government had in 2019,in a meeting chaired by the former Transport Minister , Rotimi Amaech , directed the IOCs to within five days engage the stevedores , unfortunately the five days has turned out to be four years
He decried the slow pace at which the process of engagement by the IOCs has been going.
His words, “But the real problem actually is the slow pace of engagement, and commencement of work. Four years after, we are still talking about engagement. We are still talking about moving forward. These are the real problems we are looking into” he said
Meanwhile,NPA has threatened to sanction any stevedoring company that defaults in its remittance to the Authority.
Managing Director of NPA, Muhammed Bello- Koko,who spoke through Deboh Lawal Head ,Billing and Tariff, stated this at the event.
Bello- Koko warned that the authority would not hesitate to wield the big stick on any company that fails in its obligation to the agency.
The NASO president who was given clean bill of health by the house over a petition by one of the members alleging financial impropriety against him affirmed that the Stevedoring desk established by NPA ,has been working well.
He said NASO has four members in the arrangement and the desk has been doing very well.
“This desk has been more like a clearing house or immediate contact point, which also help the management in taking decision.They have been up and doing, but we wish they will do more” he said.
He noted that Nigeria is losing billions of Naira in terms of accruable taxes from both the IOCs and the stevedores.
He said that the industry has the potential and capacity to employ hundreds and thousands of Nigerians, but all these opportunities are taken to foreign lands.” But we hope all these would be corrected soon. And the loopholes blocked,”he assured.
On the threat by the NPA, to sanction erring stevedoring companies who fail in their obligation to the Authority, Sunmola noted that there is contractual agreement with NPA which all companies that have commenced work should uphold .But the problem according to him is slow pace of engagement and commencement of work.
“If we don’t start work ,how do we pay the royalty? But we keep assuring them that none of our members will owe NPA because if you don’t pay ,your work is at risk,” he said
Earlier in his opening remarks, the NASO president had enumerated the myriads of challenges confronting the association, noting that the issue of acceptance was a major challenge amongst others.
He thanked the members for their attendance, stressing that they have been trying to hold this kind of meeting since five years without success
He said the meeting offers members the opportunity to really talk to themselves on the areas that needed to be addressed.
Speaking at the forum,the deputy president of the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria, MWUN,Mr.Tonye Henry,who stood in for the National President of the Union, Mr.Adewale Adeyanju,stated that NASO has formed an integral part of MWUN. He called on the association to close ranks and work together as a team to ensure progress of the association.
He noted that NASO played a significant role in their tussle with the IOCs over the engagement of tally clerks and on board security men by the IOCs.
In her remarks, Mrs Chinwe Ezenwa,a Board of Trustees(BOT), member of NASO urged the association to work in unity and cooperation and praised the Sunmola- led leadership for their successes, so far ,while stating that more needed to be done.
The high point of the occasion was the revalidation of the mandate of the present Executive,which expired in 2019.
However, elections were conducted to fill vacancies in the Exco.Alhaji Tijani Aliu,was elected unopposed as the Vice president Western Zone,Mr I.Mba elected unopposed as the Vice president Central Zone,Alhaji Ahmadu was also elected unopposed as the Vice president Northern Zone,while Mrs Mary Osemene was also returned unopposed.
Other officers elected are Mr.Philip Akpekehena,Publicity Secretary;Atiku Musa and Ufuoma were both elected as Ex- Officio members, while Bashir Salau was elected as the Chief Whip .
The election was supervised by the registrar of trade, Mr Amos,from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity.The officers will be sworn- in on a later date.