Apapa Port gate

Economic activities at Nigeria’s eight seaports spread across Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri and Calabar were for the better part of Tuesday crippled as port workers embark on a warning strike to proposed passage of Ports and Harbours Authority Bill currently at the National Assembly.

The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria MWUN and the Senior Staff Association of Communications, Transport and Corporation SSACTAC had last week threatened to embark on a strike action if the Federal Government fails to jettison the proposal to further concession harbour services under the Ports and Harbours Authority Bill, which is expected to amend some sections of the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA Act.

National President of the union, Adewale Adeyanju, who spoke during the strike, which took place between the hours of 6 am and 12 noon on Tuesday, said the decision to cripple port activities for this period was to protest contentious amendment of the NPA Act, which seeks to transfer harbour services to private operators.

According to him, the strike, which he described as total, having cut across all the seaport locations in the country, was a warning strike designed to register the workers’ opposition to the proposed transfer of harbour services to private operators under the guise of amending the NPA Act.

It was gathered that during the six-hour closure of the ports neither trucks nor other port workers were allowed in and out of the ports, a development that might fuel congestion and accumulation of demurrage and rent charges on the part of shippers.

“Our members nationwide today, from Rivers Ports to Calabar Ports down to Onne, Lagos and Tin-Can Island Ports Complex trooped out to protest amendment of the NPA Act by some perceived vested interests under the guise of the Ports and Harbours Authority Bill.

“We practically grounded ports’ activities from 6am today and just called off the strike by noon because the protest is a warning strike. If they don’t stop the policy of throwing workers out of their jobs under the guise of amending the NPA Act, what will follow next will be worse than what happened today”, he had warned

It was further gathered that if the Bill is passed into law, it would lead to further massive loss of jobs by members of the two unions.

Investigations show that item six of the second schedule of the Bill states that not all the staff of the NPA would be absolved into the new Harbours Authority, a development that agitated the minds of the workers, especially given that over 12, 000 members of the two unions lost their jobs during the port concession programme, which took place between 2003 and 2006.

He alleged the purpose of the bill is to strip workers of their common wealth through further concession of harbour operations in the guise of amending Port Act of 1955.

Some members of the two unions, who spoke in different interviews on the sidelines of the protest, disclosed that there are a total of 280 private jetties, none of which is manned by any member of NPA or the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, with the dangerous economic and security implications.

The workers argued that they were deceived into believing that the old port concession programme would not lead to any loss of job, which turned to loss of more than 12, 000 jobs, a development they will not allow to happen again.

They also argued that the harbours segment remains the most sensitive segment of the port services industry remains the most sensitive and highest foreign exchange earner, which no country would willingly relinquish to private operators under the guise of concession, especially given the worsening cases of agitations and security challenges across the country.

Recall that the Ports and Harbours Authority Bill sponsored by Ossai Nicholas, is currently awaiting passage by the House of Representatives for it to become a full fledged legislation having earlier been passed by the Senate, the upper legislative chamber.