Two industrial unions in the Nigerian maritime industry are set to stop activities at the nation’s seaports on Tuesday over a proposed amendment to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Act.
The protest, which would take place simultaneously in all the nation’s seaports, would be organised by the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and the Senior Staff Association of Communications, Transport and Corporation (SSACTAC), Maritime Branch.
Sources close to the unions said that the protest was to force the hands of the National Assembly, which had refused to respond to their letter written last June, expressing opposition to the proposed amendment.
Already, the Ports and Harbours Authority Bill, 2015 which seeks to repeal the Nigerian Ports Authority Act 1955 as amended, has been passed by the Senate and is awaiting the concurrence of the House of Representatives.
The bill was sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Nicholas Ossai.
MWUN had petitioned the Speaker of the House of Representatives over the bill, saying that it would lead to massive job losses for NPA workers.
They also pointed out several economic and security implications of the bill if passed.
When contacted, Secretary General of the union, Mr. Felix Akingboye, confirmed the imminent protests but refused to give details.
He said: “We are mobilising our members in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Onne, Warri and Calabar for the demonstration. It will hold simultaneously in all the ports from 6am to 6pm on Tuesday. We are opposed to any attempt to further strip Nigerians of our patrimony through further concession in the guise of amending the NPA Act 1955 as amended.
“The promoters of the Bill are only after their personal interests and this is to concession the harbour operations of NPA to private individuals, whereas, all over the world, harbour operation is an exclusive duty of government because of the security implications and huge revenue generation.”
According to him, “The proposed bill has great security and revenue risks for the federal government and it would lead to a mass sack of NPA workers. We have carefully perused the Bill and the existing NPA Act of 1955 as amended.
“We cannot see any deficiency in the present NPA Act that warranted the Bill except for the latent intention of its promoters to corner for themselves harbour operations, which are major revenue earners for the NPA and by extension the federal government without taking into consideration the security implications to the country.”
The government, he stated, should avoid the same mistakes of the ports’ concession of 2006 which led to the sack of 12,000 NPA workers.
The President General of MWUN, Mr. Adewale Adeyanju, said the workers would not allow politicians to further strip the ports through the bill.
“We are aware of their plans. When the bill was being debated they did not invite critical stakeholders. How can you be amending the Ports’ Act without taking the opinion of port workers? We are not going back on this,” he said.