By Kenneth Jukpor
Comrade Adewale Adeyanju is the President of Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN). In this exclusive interview with MMS Plus newspaper, he speaks on several pertinent issues at the nation’s ports, ranging from MWUN’s partnership with Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) to manage port access traffic, effects of the dismissal of tally clerks and onboard gangway men, the need for biometric cards for dockworkers, among others.
NARTO recently struck a partnership with MWUN to enhance the regulation of trucks at Nigerian seaports, dry ports and jetties. What’s the goal of this partnership?
NARTO, MWUN partnership is one that will produce a very good result for the port sector especially on the problematic issue of truck movement along the port access roads. NARTO have proven to be well-organized and this isn’t the first time we are going into partnership with them. This time, this collaboration will be one of the best so far at Nigerian ports.
Both groups signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the MWUN headquarters in Lagos and we are optimistic that the new partnership would positively impact the nation’s maritime industry and enhance the welfare of truck drivers.
What’s the level of progress with the NARTO, MWUN partnership at the moment?
There was a committee set-up comprising NARTO and MWUN eggheads to prepare all necessary documents, strategies and arrangements. It is when the committee comes forward with its blueprint that we will circulate it to stakeholders and the whole world. However, I’m very excited about this arrangement and I’m optimistic that it will be beneficial to the port sector and both organizations.
Since the removal of tally clerks and onboard gangway men at the ports, there have been allegations of security breaches and sharp practices. What’s your take on this?
The truth is that the job of tally clerks and gangway men is defined and seen as normal practice across the world. Onboard gangway men and tally clerks form an integral part of dockworkers and it isn’t right to exterminate them from the ports. The law made provision for the operations of tally clerks and gangway men but under a former Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Alhaji Habeeb Abdullahi the appointment of stevedoring contractors managing these officials was terminated.
So, MWUN is appealing to the government to ensure that tally clerks and gangway men are brought back to the ports to play their roles. When you see security breaches and threats at the ports especially with imports of arms and hard drugs, these issues could be limited if people were manning the gangway. Gangway men are skilled workers and their jobs shouldn’t be taken over by armed security officers. This practice of utilizing armed officers for the gangway is also against the laws of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
There is also a new challenge when we allow Navy or Policemen with arms onboard vessels because dockworkers can’t work well with people holding guns around them. It gives the impression that they are being intimidated. MWUN says a big no to this practice.
The Ministry of Transportation and other relevant authorities should review this decision to stop the contracts of stevedores which led to ousting tally clerks and gangway men.
Is there a connection between the ports concession and the termination of tally clerks and gangway men jobs at ports?
There is no connection between those activities. Port concession was a separate operation while tally clerks and onboard gangway men are also separate issues. We are also insisting on the return of these officers because we observed that some shipping companies and terminal operators are using security officers to intimidate dockworkers. We aren’t saying they shouldn’t bring their security men, but there are skilled workers duly engaged and registered by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and these professionals should be brought back to do their jobs. It’s against ILO Convention to have security men manning the gangway.
What’s the position of the stevedoring association on this matter?
We are working together, but we can’t wait for them anymore because they have their core interests while we have ours. Our appeal is based on the challenges at the ports and the fact that tally clerks and gangway men are professionals whose services are still relevant at ports today.
On the aspect of collaboration, we are on the same page and we will continue to work together to ensure that this matter is addressed. They’re our employers and we can’t rule out the significance of working together with them.
Has MWUN been able to secure the biometric cards for dockworkers via NIMASA?
The process is still ongoing and it has been very successful. Last week, we had a meeting with NIMASA and had a demonstration of the process. By next week, the agency will begin port to port visits to do the biometric capturing of dockworkers to produce the cards. This is a good development and I commend the management of NIMASA and the union.
The essence of this arrangement is to ensure that people who aren’t dockworkers aren’t allowed to impersonate. We want everyone to be verified and it is this physical verification they are going to commence next week.
SIFAX Chairman, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi marks his 60th birthday this week. As one of the employers of maritime workers, how would you describe him and the leadership style of his organizations?
Dr. Afolabi is a great philanthropist. He is also one of the best employers of labour in the maritime sector and the union can attest to this. He is a frontrunner when you talk about the employment generated at the nation’s ports today.
We congratulate him and wish him good health to witness more successes in his lifetime. He has been a wonderful brother and friend, so MWUN will continue to partner with him.
There aren’t many adjectives to qualify him for his business exploits and investments that go beyond the maritime sector. He is a true friend and a man of his words.
It’s one thing to be wealthy but a completely different thing to channel it into business ventures that encourage and reward workers. Dr. Afolabi has empowered several people at the ports and other sectors. He isn’t a tribalistic fellow and there are lots of lessons to learn from his life.