Mr. Umar Omeiza Jimoh is the immediate past National President f the Senior Staff Association of Communication, Transport and Corporation (SSACTAC), Maritime branch and present Deputy President-General (DPG) of mainstream body of the association. In this interview with Segun Oladipupo, he tells you the challenges he faced as the president, how management of organisations renege on their promises thereby causing problems between the association and the organisations, how some government policies affect decision making at work places among other germane issues.
Sir, having completed your term in office as the National President of SSACTAC, Maritime, you successfully transited to another leadership; how were you able to carry your people along all the years without problems within and among your executives and members?
In the first place, we believe strongly in faith that is why when we were voted into the office, we saw it as a position of challenge that we must deliver and also be accountable to both God and those that gave us their mandate to be there. We saw it as a position of trust given to us by the entire workforce of Nigerian Ports Authority and other outfits that form part of the association.
We felt it was a job we must do in accordance with the constitution of our association and in tandem with the labour laws and other relevant laws of this nation; we also had to study and relate our job with commissioner of service with various organisations under the kits. We also believed in the rule of law, we believed there was nothing to hide so, we placed our cards on the table for everybody to see and decisions were taken by all of us and we all joined hands together to execute any decision taken, we also joined hands together in all ramifications of union activities.
We were involved also in zonal executives; it is not only the branch executives that took decisions, that was why we had Joint Consultative Conference (JCC). This forum also takes decision, we met twice in a year hosted alternatively by people in Lagos and the Eastern port and we took positions on issues that affect the organisations, the work place, the welfare of workers, we reviewed from time to time and we worked in harmony with every management, we complemented their efforts. We are not just out to collect, we also contribute and arising from our contribution, we can now say bring and I must tell you that our relationship was a very wonderful experience.
We carried everybody along, we gave respect to those that we must give respect to, we recognised everybody’s contribution and suggestions and every management was fond of us because we gave proactive suggestions, we contributed our own quota, we made sure that the productivity of the work place was growing and as am talking to you today, it is still growing, we have contributed our own quota from various departments to ensure that the production is growing and the industry is better for it today.
Every customer we delivered services to was happy to patronise us and they are getting the best value for their money, that is why we are here. We don’t see ourselves as being different from the organisations because it is the work place first before the employees. We made sure that the work place was in good health and it will permeate to the workers. Where the management did not recognise, we made it a point of duty that we must bring it down to their own understanding what we have done this and that and it has helped in moving up the organisations.
Let me tell you also that we don’t come to demand, it is what has been given to us by the system; Nigeria is gazetted, when Mr. President comes and pronounces minimum wage increase like this, we now ask for our own. We are very responsible association, we ensure all righteousness is fulfilled before we now say that we can no more work or going on strike. Anytime we decide to go on strike, it is always the management that is adamant, that doesn’t want to dialogue or they refuse to abide by the joint communiqué that we both signed; that is where the problem comes from.
We are literate and I can assure you that in our profession, we rank among the best in the world; this has proven itself in various international conferences, that we have attended.
What were your challenges as the helmsman of SSACTAC, Maritime?
One of the challenges is that you will go and have an agreement with the management of an organisation and that management will renege on fulfilling the agreement they signed, this is one of the problems. When you agree on an issue, then let your yes be yes and your no be no. We know the predicament of management of our government organisations. However, issues that are within their purview to settle, they should not renege on it when they agree with workers, that is the one of the problems.
Another problem is government somersaulting policies. Stakeholders are not carried along in the maritime sector before policies are made. One of the policies we are talking about is the increase in duty of vehicles; before you do that, you must have gotten something to give in place or consult with the stakeholders but this was not done.
Meanwhile, the vehicles you stopped coming through high duty still enters Nigerian market. At the end of the day, Nigeria would have cheated on itself and impoverished the citizenry through the policy thereby increasing the neighbouring countries’ revenue profile and also making the lives of their citizens better there. You see that at the end of the day, Nigeria has lost. If you must stop them, you must give them the necessary ground like tax rebate to encourage or assist them, let them also produce vehicles that withstand the competitiveness of other vehicles.
Not just to produce vehicles, they should produce vehicles that are sound and Standard Organisation of Nigeria should be empowered to ensure that we have sound vehicles produced by these companies then let them produce in thousands and have retail centres across the country then we can do this. Where this s not done, then we are not ripe for that.
We must also consider the purchasing power of the citizens; how many citizens can afford to buy N18 million Coaster from these companies? Then what are you telling me that you have hampered or allowed rickety vehicles to convey the citizens within the country which are very prone to accident? How many Nigerians can buy cars worth N5 million but with N1.5 million, you can buy what we call grade one vehicles.
Put these entire things together look at them vis-a-vis what we want to do to strengthen the local manufacture of cars. We took the same position when we said vegetable oil production in Nigeria should be enough for us; what happened? It was chaos, after six months or so it was reverted but because we all consume the same vegetable oil that is why they are able to listen. Now they have wherewithal to buy even if it is 20 million or 50 million vehicles and on that note, they don’t care about the plights of the commoners.
People have been shouting and we are using this medium to revert to the status quo and develop this industry before closing shop and ensure that the prices are affordable. It could be affordable by introducing many policies either you buy through your bank and you have 40% bank financing through your salary through your work place to key into it. When they key into it and hold briefs for their workers, the workers can afford it. There are many ways of doing it.
One of the physical that we can see is the erection of the SSACTAC secretariat; what other things can you point to as part of your administration’s achievement?
As I have told you, we have it as common responsibilities in everything we need. One of those things was strengthening the internal democracy, we ensured that we entrenched democracy internally that has proven itself over the years. There is no agitation, no enmity before and after election.
They know that all the time, it is free, fair acceptable within the stipulated rules and guidelines in Nigerian context and also in our own constitution and our by-law so, that is one of the things we were able to achieve. We also strengthened the union administration, we have adequate and qualified personnel handling our activities, we have about 80 employees among who are the drivers, office assistants, accountant, secretaries and they are well trained.
They have performed over the years where they were and we have what we call very good internal administration. These people are pensionable and as I am talking today, we do not owe them a dime on pension and they are also entitled to their gratuity in case they want to leave. Their pensions have been paid to their various PFAs. This is one of the achievements we were able to do, when we are not around, these workers can take decisions based on previous message.
They cannot brief for us but they can serve as agents to the association and perform even if we are not around. If they need to write any letter to any quarter, they do on our behalf, sign it and work is going on so, we were able to achieve this. We promised a befitting secretariat, we wanted to move the secretariat from inside Ajegunle, we couldn’t because of financial wherewithal however, we were able to give a befitting secretariat at today.
Can you tell us the actual amount it cost you to erect the secretariat?
Let me tell you that management is a continuum anywhere, any day. Our predecessors bought the building and you can see before it was bought, I believe they bought it for N7 million then and when we came, and construction was going on, we had to move from the port, they renovated up there with little money we had but it was not standard, we now renovated it this time to meet the level of our standard and that is what we did and of course, we spent money that we had from union dues and did not owe anyone.
You have not said the actual amount
Yes, I will not tell you how much exactly we have spent or so because it involves facilities and all accessories we needed in the office like computer and every other thing. I cannot bring it off hand; I need to consult the book before I can get it or I believe if you meet our accountant, he will give you exact figure. I am not trying to hide it but I wouldn’t want to give you a wrong figure but I know we bought that place for N7 million.