By Kenneth Jukpor & Yusuf Odejobi
Comrade Adewale Adeyanju is the President-General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN). On Tuesday last week, Adeyanju had an exclusive chat with MMS Plus newspaper where he spoke about recent strike ultimatums to AP Moller Terminal (APMT) and some International Oil Companies (IOCs). He also discussed the impending MWUN branch elections, his new agenda following his reelection and other salient industry issues. Excerpts:
MWUN has given ultimatum to APMT and some International Oil Companies (IOCs) amid plans to down tools, how would you reconcile this with the already tensed situation at the nation’s ports?
We will not paralyze the activities of the nation because we all know the present predicament at the ports. The truth is that even shutting down a particular terminal is not ideal coupled with the gridlock and other challenges at the ports. So, we’re currently looking at the options but some wicked employers of labour don’t want to be considerate. We would rather have them do the right things at the right time, than using the old style of shutting down the ports and the nation’s economy.
We have the Ministry of Interior. It’s high time they need to look inward on the issue of expatriates coming into this country either for short term or long term employment. Several companies are taking advantage of the government not monitoring them; some of them have even exceeded their expatriate quota. They can go back to Immigration to adjust what’s on their passport but we don’t know what’s on their passports. What do they come to do in the country? By the time they enter the ports, they’re given employment at the detriment of Nigerian workers. That is the current situation at APMT.
Why should APMT have to bring someone from neighboring countries to do the work that Nigerians are qualified to do? We are not just making noise, we had a meeting with APMT and they accepted the fact that they truly brought people from Cotonou and other African countries to do the jobs qualified Nigerians can do. Don’t we have chartered accountants that can manage the finance department at APMT? What they did was to bring someone from Ghana; it is a slap on the face of this country and its citizens; especially the qualified accountants.
APMT is not following the rules and regulations that govern this country. If they want to train Nigerians using the expatriates it is allowed, but they must leave when they’re done, so, Nigerians can take over. We are asking for the timeline for the expatriates, the number of days or months they’re to spend but APMT is saying no and we’re also saying no because we have qualified people in this country.
What has been the role of maritime regulators in this struggle, has there been an intervention by Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC)?
NSC hasn’t called us but I’m sure they’ll call us at the right time. As a union, we are waiting for them to reach out to us to discuss these issues. If they don’t call us now they’ll surely call us soon because we have an existing agreement, a communiqué was issued at the last meeting and part of the communiqué that was agreed on, has not been implemented till now. I’m talking about the earlier meeting we had with APMT.
NIMASA is supposed to be the arrowhead to lead this fight, but they also haven’t called us. The affected companies have been taking advantage of the patience of maritime workers union but this time around we must let the world know what is going on. Only few companies have complied with law with respect to the IOCs.
Workers in the oil sector have different unions, are there efforts by MWUN to try to bring all the companies to be under the union?
It’s one step at a time. It’s one thing for the companies to recognize the Act that established dock workers and another thing altogether to talk about the unions. When the IOCs recognize the Act, then we can begin to talk about bringing the unions together.
Let’s allow the law to take its place first because these companies know what the law says, but choose to disregard it. They should allow the stevedores registered by NIMASA and the stevedoring contractors work there. This call to allow the dock workers to work for their own contractors is to create jobs for Nigerians.
Perhaps, there are some things they don’t want Nigerians to know about. The revenue that is supposed to come to the government, do we know the actual figures? Can they account for it? Currently, is there a representative of the government there? Doesn’t this explain why they can declare whatever they want as annual crude oil exploration? That is why stevedoring contractors must be part of what they’re doing and wherever you find a contractor you must see a dockworker. This explains why we are clamoring for the right thing to be done.
How about the issue of welfare of workers for shipping companies, has there been an improvement?
Presently, there is no update on that, but we have declared a state of emergency. If we look at the current take home of the shipping workers it’s not something to write home about. A worker can also be on a particular level for several years without promotion and that is why we’ve decided that for our second term we are facing the shipping companies.
I must also commend the efforts of the Shipping Branch President. He is doing very well from the look of things, nevertheless, there is still room for improvements. There should be a progression for workers in terms of promotion, welfare and the rest but those things are not there.
When will the branch elections of MWUN take place and what are the plans to forestall any crisis?
If we can do the national elections without any problem, then the branches will also be done smoothly. I know how to manage the dock workers and seafarers and I believe that we’ll achieve peaceful and successful branch elections by God’s grace.
I don’t see any elections that can be tougher than my first tenure election, so, there is no cause for alarm this time around. The four arms know my steps and they know my stand on the branch elections. If we can successfully conduct the national election without rancor then I can assure stakeholders that there will be no issues in the branch elections.
You were recently reelected President General of MWUN, what are your new goals for the union?
My goal is to renew what I have been doing before and that is diversifying and going into investments. MWUN must be business driven. We have two trucks at the moment and we’re expecting more and we will commission them after the branch election so that they can go into proper business.
MWUN can even go into export business because that is the new trend now. We’ve gotten all necessary documents required for that. What we’re doing is laying a solid foundation for MWUN and not to continue relying on the stipends paid as dues. If we venture into businesses, it will give us more revenue. In summary, we’re venturing into any business that will bring in money.