One of the challenges facing the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is the issue of non-payment of dockworkers and unfair disengagement of others but the new NPA boss would have to resolve this soonest. As an activist, Ms. Hadiza Bala is expected to take the welfare of staff seriously.
There has been crisis in the dock/labour sector of the maritime industry over the issue of payment of disengagement benefits, while there have also been insinuations of ghost dockworkers and questions of who qualifies to be called a dockworker as onboard security men are also been classified as dockworkers.
During the handing over ceremony of the newly appointed Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman, dockworkers from ENL Terminal, a seaport terminal in Lagos, stormed the headquarters of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for a protest.
While the ENL Terminal has disclaimed the protesters, the Deputy President of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Dahiru Abubakar told MMS Plus that the union is set to negotiate with the companies based on the terms of agreement for the protesters because each category has its own wages as per the work specialization.
According to Dahiru, the protesters were disengaged workers of the ENL terminal. These workers complain that they have not been paid salaries and that the terminal was guilty of using temporary workers because they pay little salaries to the temporary workers.
However, it is the duty of NPA management to ensure that operators deliver port services at the standard that port business deserves in the 21st century and the welfare of dockworkers should be pertinent as they are the key players that guarantee efficient operations at the ports.
Meanwhile, it is not only the dockworkers that are aggrieved. There are thousands of NPA workers whose appointments were terminated in series of the downsizing and rightsizing in the wake of the reforms that led to the handover of the nation’s seaports to concessionaires are yet to be paid their full entitlements.
Why should a multi-billion naira organization like NPA terminate workers appointment and keep them waiting for years before paying them their terminal benefits?
This kind of scenario should not be allowed to happen in NPA now that Hadiza is in the saddle. It is pertinent to note that some of these former employees in NPA have lost their lives while waiting to collect their pension and gratuities. Some of them have been thrown of out of medical facilities because of their inability to offset their bills. The story of their wards and children in schools are not different. They have been thrown out of school because the school authorities can no longer listen to their persistent plea that their parents should be given more time to raise their fees from alternative sources.
Hadiza should note that the 1991 retirees of the authority took NPA to court at the Federal High Court, Lagos and won. The judgment was also upheld up to the Supreme Court, yet the entitlements of some of these former workers of the authority remain unpaid.
Salaries and allowances of the workers must be given a priority, while the dockworkers should also ensure that they do their job with integrity and love for the industry and the nation.