Operations at the seaports nationwide were yesterday partially grounded as maritime workers staged a protest over the contentious amendment of the Nigerian Ports Authority Act.
The aggrieved workers barricaded entrances to the Lagos and Tin-can ports carrying placards with various inscriptions between 6:00 a.m. and noon yesterday, while trucks that were scheduled to lift containers at the ports could not load cargoes due to absence of workers.
President-General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Adewale Adeyanju, stated that the nationwide struggle was a warning strike aimed at stopping further amendment of the NPA Act.
According to him: “Our members nationwide today from Rivers ports to Calabar ports down to Onne, Lagos and Tin-Can ports trooped out to protest amendment of the NPA Act by some perceived vested interest under the guise of the Ports and Harbours Bill.
“We practically grounded ports’ activities from 6:00 a.m. 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.”
Also, Deputy President-General of the MWUN, Tonye Harry Lionel, stated that there was nothing wrong with the existing Act, which the National Assembly was about to repeal.
He said the protest at the Onne seaport was to show maritime workers’ discontentment about the bill, which he said, was inhuman and could not be allowed to sail through.
“What kind of life are they bringing into the activities of the ports when they are about sending the workers away to bring in their friends. How many people will they bring in. We know the number of workers that are expected to work at the ports. We have dockworkers, we have seafarers, we have the shipping companies, we have the Nigeria Ports Authority, how many people will they bring. By this bill, if they remove all the workers at these ports, how do they think they can bring life to the ports? They are not prepared to bring life to the ports,” he said.
Meanwhile, the workers had said that their decision to shut down ports’ activities yesterday was done in the interest of maritime workers nationwide.They pointed out that before the ports’ concession, there were 14,000 maritime workers, but right now, there are only 3,000 workers.