The Nigerian Ports Authority’s (NPA) plans to lay off 5,000 tally clerks and onboard security men has continued to stir a lot of controversies, hence MMS Plus spoke to a key maritime stakeholder who pleaded anonymity as he revealed critical secrets on how the Chief Tony Anineh’s led defunct NPA board circumvented jobs of cargo surveyors. Also find out the controversies surrounding tally clerks and onboard security as well as the reason for their bonding with dockworkers in this mystery interview.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) plans to fire over 5,000 dockworkers. Is the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) planning to embark on a strike or how are they taking it?
It is the dockworkers that are registered with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), so NIMASA are still in control. There is this group called tally-clerks and onboard security, they are under the federal government. During the retrenchment of dockworkers before the concessionaries took over, the tally clerks and onboard security claimed that they were the property of the federal government by refusing retrenchment but the federal government has no way of settling these people and at the end of the month the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has to pay them.
While NPA was doing that, few of these tally clerks turned into cult, thugs and Chief Tony Anineh as Chairman of the defunct NPA Board, used these opportunity to settle PDP members that lost bids to get into the House of Senate and Representatives. They mandated the management of NPA to be paying them in various categories. Some earn N5million, some earn N 2.5million and some are even up to N 10million monthly. NPA needs an explanation as to why they have to pay tally clerks and also pay cargo surveyors for the same job. The last time anyone was recruited as tally clerks or cargo surveyors was about 28 years ago and nobody under 20 years was recruited. In other words, while they were screening the dockworkers they supposed to screen them too so those that are aged are supposed to go. At a time, the union demanded that those cargo surveyors that were given contracts should inherit the agile tally-clerks and onboard security. Therefore the NPA was to pay the cargo surveyors and the cargo surveyors were to employ and pay the tally-clerks. But the truth of the matter is that the NPA cannot tell where the offices of most of these cargo surveyors are.
This was the nonsense that Chief Tony Anineh created when he was chairman of the NPA Board. The problem now is if NPA pays cargo surveyors, how would they pay the tally-clerks? How many are these tally-clerks? What are their ages? Instead of the number of these tally-clerks to reduce from the initial 1,300, it has increased to 1,900 workers and in some quarters they claim they are over 3,000. Another issue is that you would never find the management of these tally-clerks and onboard security. Nobody claims to be in charge and the NPA was mandated every month to release N500million to these tally-clerks and onboard security.
Who mandated them?
The ministry of Transport, the ministry was also part of the business. From the information available to me, I learnt that one of the permanent secretaries is one of the beneficiaries as a cargo surveyor. It is a very dangerous trend and the day this thing will explode, you will be surprised to hear names of highly respected people in the society. Anineh gave these jobs to those PDP members who failed in their bids to get into the House of Representatives and House of Senate. He used it to settle these PDP people to appease them financially.
Do you know the name of the company of this permanent secretary?
No, I don’t know. The dockworkers know who they are working with. The President General (PG) of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Tony Nted called for one press conference three weeks ago, that was where he revealed some documents of the beneficiaries of the tally clerks, onboard security and cargo surveyors. When I tried to trace those names in the NPA, they told me that they did not have those names but we got this list from the ministry because after Anineh gave the names, you had to go to the ministry and get a recovery memo to take to the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) so that they put you on the line and you begin to collect your money. So this thing is so big and I don’t know how the PG was able to get these names and we know how they do their things even at the union.
The issues that bother the NPA, most times are not exposed to us even if you go to the dockworkers, the one that happened to the shipping branch, even as a national officer I don’t attend shipping meeting, seamen meeting or dockworkers meeting. It is only when the NPA has meetings that I attend. There are some certain things that happen that I cannot say how it happened, but because I am an insider I try to make sure I find my way to get certain information. So there are lots of issues on this matter.
Now the PG is calling for an explanation and even the NPA can’t explain some of these things. When the NPA say they want to disengage about 5,000 among these people, you can imagine the actual number is supposed to be 1,300 but they are 1,900 and we wonder how it got to 5,000. NPA for me has no business with dockworkers. If NIMASA decides to go round and check those that are aged, then that matter should be solely for NIMASA but for NPA to go into media and say we are going to discard another 5,000 I don’t think it is their issue. Secondly, the dockworkers are claiming that they have over 3,000 tally clerks and onboard security officers but if you ask them to assemble 1,000 tally clerks and onboard security, “my broad them no go see am”.
So are these ghost tally clerk’s men?
Yes, but who are the owners of the companies? After sharing the tally clerks and onboard security, they were attached to some companies. Do you know that some of these tally-clerks and onboard security had their licenses expired last year and the NPA said they will renew it. These same people went to instigate the dockworkers to barricade the roads that the NPA should pay them. When they come out to the media or to make claims, they do not say they are tally-clerks or onboard security, they claim to be dockworkers. Nobody knows who a dockworker is and who is a tally clerk? Why is it that the company who NPA give contracts to as a tally-clerk company would not come and claim their money from NPA? This is because they do not have records of any job done. They can’t come and say we worked on this or that vessel and this is the amount you owe us. NPA is tired of giving them money and these same people are claiming that they are the property of the federal government.
I learnt that the ministry is organizing a stakeholders meeting where NPA, NSC and NIMASA will sit together on this tally-clerk matter. NSC wanted to claim them (tally clerks) on the grounds that part of the cargo deed duties that NPA is collecting includes the money for tally-clerks and onboard security. NSC says if they are taking over, the NPA will stop collecting that money so NSC will collect the portion that belongs to tally-clerks and onboard security and be paying them. But the labourers in the ports are supposed to be screened by NIMASA, and they now going to register them. Do they have any template or road map on what the tally clerks and onboard security jobs are? The tally-clerks and security don’t load and unload cargo. Once a cargo berths, they go in and check that the cargo inside is not damaged as at the time of arrival and they would snap a picture so that anyone that wants to make a claim, they can show him a picture as at the time the cargo arrived, so he probably has to go to the port of origin to make claims instead of the destination port. While people are loading or offloading, cargo surveyors take position to snap pictures and when they are done at the ports the picture is with the captain for whoever wants to claim any damage. They can supply the picture at the point of loading and the picture at the point of destination.
These are the duties of the cargo surveyors around the world but the cargo surveyors in Nigeria are now working with the dockworkers. They say injury for one is injury for all. At the initial stage, dockworkers at NPA operations were paramount to under-declared cargo, that’s why the government made this body to take care of the situation. So dockworkers joined the under-declaration and over declaration. The cargo surveyors probably said, “if una wan enjoy this place, make una join hands with us so that if we say this cargo na 7,000 them bring, don’t say its 10,000 based on what you see but you can reduce to 9,000”. They do this and share the money on the extras. Outside this, there is no reason for a dockworker to be fighting for a cargo surveyor. They want to continue to enjoy this benefit because, when the job is left for only the dockworkers, they can only be paid based on the tonnage they load and offload. If they allow the cargo surveyors to go the federal government also wouldn’t give dockworkers a listening ear because they are linked to contractors that will be paid based on the work they do. But who do we blame and how do we start to differentiate them? It is very complicated.
There are three different categories here- we have cargo surveyors, tally clerks and on board security men and Dockworkers.
The cargo surveyors are doing the work of tally clerks and onboard security that is why the NPA is saying they better pay the contractors that Anineh sent to them “the big-boys” than to be paying these other individuals that have no offices. In doing that, what they have achieved is to streamline the cargo surveyors. Retire those who have reached the retirement age and mandate the cargo surveyors to inherit the agile tally clerks and onboard security officers that have been displaced. As a result, they no longer act or behave like dockworkers, tally clerks or onboard officers but as the staff on the cargo surveyors. This will ensure they do their jobs as it was designed and collect their salaries for the job done as at when due. The dockworkers still don’t want these people to go, they still claim them for their selfish reasons but tally clerks are not dockworkers.
Can the D.G make the documents in his possession available to the press?
Yes, he gave about five copies to the press on that day because the press insisted that they needed the documents.
When these labour activities are carried out, the maritime industry is what is affected not the labour union and it should be the industry that ought to be reporting it.
The MD of NPA called for a meeting recently and in that meeting he disclosed that the mandate given to the NPA was to run the tally clerks and onboard security for 10 years and on the 15th of December the 10 years will elapse. As it is at the moment, the federal government has not given the NPA any mandate to continue. Therefore, after the 15th of December the tally clerks and onboard security must go because NPA would stop paying them. The union are saying that won’t go because it is their jobs that is about to be handed over to the cargo surveyors.
The ministry has said it would call for a stakeholders meeting so they can design and re-organize. That was when Nigerian Shippers Council laid claims that the cargo surveyors around the world operate under the shipping jurisdiction. The NSC may claim that the cargo surveyors should be under them and once that is done, it means that henceforth they will belong to the Shippers Council. The NSC is supposed to come up with a template and road map on how they intend to manage cargo surveyors. If they want the system to attain the global standards, they have to work with the world body of cargo surveyors; I think the headquarters is in Germany. They can train these people on how they ought to do their jobs so that even if contracts are going to be awarded to Nigerian companies that will be paying the workers, they should know their job specifications. They shouldn’t feel they are dockworkers because they do not load and offload.
I believe NSC would claim them because it falls under their jurisdiction in other parts of the world. Otherwise, since NIMASA is tasked with managing dockworkers they could as well venture into it. But they will have to develop a template and get the mandate from the federal government to run it because they are also laborers in the ports. Whosoever takes over, what matters most is the nomenclature of the job. Whosoever takes over has to work within the confines of the law as per international best practices.