Recession: over 7,000 port workers sacked in 2016-MWUN
The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria MWUN has lamented some of the fiscal and monetary policies of the Federal Government, which negatively affected the maritime industry and led to the sack of over 7,000 workers.
It is estimated that the both cargo and vessel traffic into the nation’s seaports declined by more than 50 per cent, causing some terminal operators to disengage many of their workers as part of measures to remain afloat in the face of the recession induced by some of these policies.
The President-General of the union, Mr. Tony Nted, who briefed newsmen on the state of the nation’s seaport industry, said that these policies are taking their toll on the industry.
He cited the discriminatory foreign exchange policy introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN.
The forex policy, which recognises the official market controlled by the CBN, where the naira exchanges for N305 to the dollar and the parallel market window controlled by the forces of demand and supply where the naira exchanges for N500 to the dollar.
The CBN had as part of measures to contain the increasing demand for foreign exchange in the face of acute scarcity barred. a total of 41 items of import including raw materials from accessing foreign exchange at the official market with the attendant reduction of imported cargo into the country.
The President General said: “The purpose of this press briefing is to highlight the position of the union on some policies of the government as they concern the maritime industry. Recall that the union highlighted some of these challenges negatively affecting our union members and other port users and stakeholders in the port during the last National Executive Council NEC, meeting/special delegates conference, held on December 20, 2016”
The President General noted that many shipping companies operating in the country have been forced to relocate to other West African countries such as Ghana, Togo and even neighbouring Republic of Benin due to their inability to access foreign exchange for their transactions.
According to him, many other companies including indigenous ones have had to close shop due to some of these economic policies of the government, which have cumulatively led to massive retrenchment of port workers.
“In recent times importers and manufacturers have found it extremely difficult to access foreign exchange and even when it is available, the cost is outrageous. The negative effects of this include massive loss of jobs, closure of industries and factories and relocation of businesses/companies to neighbouring countries, which culminate in the loss of revenue to the Federal Government and compound the insecurity in the country”, he said.
He also decried the decision of the relevant agencies of the Federal Government to abandon the port access roads, which he said are in the highest deplorable conditions, thus making it almost impossible for the movement of cargo in and out of the ports
“The abandonment of the access roads to the seaports, which have been in a state of disrepair for several years despite the union’s relentless efforts towards drawing the attention of the government to address the situation. As we speak, the roads have become a death trap to every road user despite strong assurances from the Federal Government and the Nigerian Ports Authority that the contract has been awarded. Currently there is nothing on ground to suggest that such contract has actually been awarded”, he lamented.
He said that apart from the death of scores of port users including members of the union, who hav either been killed or maimed for life, several other people have had to be robbed or have their bags and other personal belonging snatched by hoodlum, which take undue advantage of the perennial gridlock of the roads.
He therefore warned that the union has kept quiet for too long and might be compelled to apply weapon at its disposal to ensure that the issue was urgently addressed.
Nted, whose tenure would expire next moth, however commended the Federal Government over its decision to ban the importation of used vehicles through the land borders, arguing that the policy would bring back traffic to the ports and by so doing create jobs for the members of the union.
He also made a strong for the government to grant a one-month waiver to enable importers, who their vehicle consignments have been trapped at the borders to enable them clear the trapped vehicles and afterwards commence strict implementation of the policy.