Industry collapse: Let’s Collaborate – MWUN President
Price Adewale Adeyanju is the President General of Maritime Workers
Union of Nigeria (MWUN), in this interview with TimeNews, he laments
on the illegalities in the Maritime Sub-sector. The way forward,
according to him is for all the unions to collaborate to form a
synergy that will fight these inadequacies.
Recently, there have been series of challenges over maltreatment of
workers regarding salaries and attempt by some employers to lay off
workers over COVID-19, have you resolved these problems and especially
as pertains to JPS Terminal?
We still stand on our feet and we don’t allow any employer to just
wake up in the morning and say I want to do away with workers without
due process. Already we have CBA that all of us signed so before they
can go into that I think they need to call us for proper discussion.
On the issue of JPS let me quickly let you know that JPS has been on
this for almost a year plus, before the emergence of COVID-19. What
the management is saying is that they trying to restructure because
they have a new board. So when they are restructuring you should know
what is going to come out of it. Some of the people that they employed
are not part of the existing workers, not that they are sacking our
members. The people involved in this issue are from another company
that they engaged and brought them to JPS. The management now found
that the job those people are doing are not necessarily needed in the
terminal; some of them are fulcanisers, some are folk lift drivers and
some of them are battery chargers. JPS said they don’t want them in a
way and they said there is no how they will carry out that exercise
without carrying us along but I raised an eyebrow over that; that
before you do anything that has to do with downsizing or whatever the
Union must be fully involved. As I’m talking with you now they just
brought in an agreement we reached with them and I found out a lot of
infractions in the agreement. I‘ve asked them to return it to the
management of JPS for them to review it for those people they said
their services are no longer needed in the terminal as a result of
ongoing restructuring, not that they are sacking our members. So, that
is on JPS and I must let you know that we are still standing on our
word that even other terminal s that have Maritime Workers Union
members anyone that wants to go into that they always write to us in
line with the CBA that we signed with them so this one is
restructuring; they said they trying to restructure their Company. So
we had to sit down with them the previous Friday to sign their
communiqué; that those workers that are going should be given what
belong to them in line with our CBA despite the fact that the ones
going are not even junior staff of JPS, we said no, you must pay them
what supposed to be given to them either they fulcaniser or holding
any other junior position. Then some of them the management said that
their certificates have some issues and that they have written to the
affected schools where those people purported that they graduated from
and they found out that there was a lot of problem there and there’s
no how you will expect the responsible leaders of this Union to go in
and start defending illegality. Some don’t have certificates like they
said; we were there at the meeting with them, some that claim they
have certificate were asked them to produce the original. Some said
they can’t lay hands on them, some said because of rain, that rain has
carted away all the documents. But we said no, go and bring your
statement of result, at least because you graduated they must give you
statement of result so some brought photo copies. However, because of
the way and manner the Union handled this matter we said those that
could not produce their original certificates give them two months to
go and look for them to tell you how we’re still defending some of
them, that is where we are. Then those ones that have problem with
their degree; some said they are Masters Degree holder, some said
they have P.hd whereas you have B.Sc. or Masters degree; I don’t know
if the entry point to work in the Port is P.hd, some said they have
B.Sc. whereas they have School Certificate. When they asked them to
fill in their data in the forms some filled School Certificate, HND,
B.Sc., M.Sc. and P.hd but when they said bring the original
certificate to back all your claims, they were unable to provide any
certificate. I think that is what happened in JPS.
Sir, could you tell us how many of them who are involved in this?
About 11 of them are involved; our members that are there who are part
of our executives are three and they have returned to their work. The
rest are the ones they said are battery chargers and fulcanisers
and the Company said they do not need them. Those are the ones we are
going to sit with the management to pay them what is due to them.
Have you informed these members about this false claim of certificates?
What we did was to invite them here to the Conference hall for us to
confirm whether the allegations are true or if the management is lying
against them, because if you lie against me I will take you to court
for defamation. So they came and we said some of you that do not have
certificates, tell us now, but you know the mentality of Nigerians; some
of them were still saying rain has entered their houses and destroyed
their certificates. I said my friend go to your school and some
started saying that because of COVID-19, schools are shut down and I
said go to the internet, you can get your result there. Those of them
that do not have certificates did not come to us because they
know the JPS Management had already confirmed to us that they have
written to their schools and the schools confirmed that some of them
were not students of those schools.
So some of them were not laid off because of COVID-19?
No, it wasn’t because of COVID -19 but as a result restructuring
because some of the people that they brought in from another Company
were earning more than the original workers of that place and the old
workers now raised an eyebrow that there is need to look at this
disparity in salary. You know the character of management, so they
said okay let us go into restructuring and that was how the idea of
asking everybody to fill in their data came up. That was what
happened, I can quote the management for that and before we can even
conclude I’ve told the management if you lead me wrongly I will take
you to court and the management confirmed to me that they have
confirmed from the schools they quoted that some of them were not even
students of that school and that some do not have certificates. You
know the penalty of somebody who secures a job without genuine
certificate is summary dismissal.
Is the Union satisfied with tonnage method of payment instead of
salary, adopted by some terminals?
Let me just give clarity on that; you are referring to dock workers.
T.hey have three modes of operations in terms of their wages. They have
permanent employment, payment by tonnage and time related wages. The
payment by tonnage are those ones that are into bulk cargo operations
like ENL Terminal while those that are on permanent employment are
those ones that are probably into automations or into Customs
examinations and some other areas that can say fine let’s be on
permanent employment. Those that are on payment by tonnage I believe
cannot tell me they are not satisfied; they are satisfied with what is
happening. Those ones on permanent employment have CBA; we have CBA
that covers all those three modes of payment that I am telling you
now. We have CBA that covers all of them including their terminal
benefit and gratuity. Even those ones that on tonnage they are
entitled to gratuity, terminal benefits and all the rest like their
counterparts as staff. The only thing that I know that is not there
which I think I will not tell you now has to do with dock workers that
are casual, until I go to the next CBA meeting with the management I
will now handle that; that is to deliberate if they should go on leave.
So that one is between me and them when we enter the meeting this
How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting activities at the Port?
It has reduced the economy and it is affecting economy per say because
unlike before vessel comes in and vessel goes out; things have reduced
now but we just need to thank God that the Port was not closed
otherwise Nigeria would have known the impact of this COVID-19. But
the dock workers, the seafarers and the Nigeria Ports Authority we’re
still managing it with caution because we don’t want this thing to
enter the Port because if it spreads to the Port it will be a big
Looking at the impact of COVID-19 will you still hold your AGM this year?
We’ll do it; we’re going to do it as soon as the government relaxes
the number of people per gathering. In fact we’re having one by next
week; it is part of our AGM too. If it’s by virtual or zoom we’ll do
it before the year runs out because it is a constitutional
requirement. We must do it either by omission or commission.
Notwithstanding, we still heard that some of the workers were victims?
If they contracted the virus we won’t be here; if they did, we won’t be
here. We’re just hearing it in form of speculations because I have
never seen any dock worker, shipping, NPA worker or seafarer that
contracted the virus. How many of them have been identified COVID-19 with,
how many have they isolated? We cannot not just sit down and
start cooking up what you have not seen. If they have caught any
seafarer with COVID -19, we should identify the seafarer, we should
know them. By now, the government should raise an eyebrow that these
people they contracted COVID-19 and they should be put in isolation.
They should bring two, three or four as examples for seafarers because
some of the seafarers are under me; they are part of this Maritime
Workers Union of Nigeria. If any dock worker contracts this virus
either in Apapa or Tin Can, you know what is going to happen; that
means that terminal is gone and that is why we are making noise,
trying to tell the whole world that all the terminal operators
should wake up and provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our
members, not only our members, including the stakeholders, including you
that is even talking to me; before you enter somebody’s terminal you
must be well kitted. The workers that are even doing the job, they are
not well kitted. The PPE, some of them are not providing, the hand
sanitiser, some of them are not providing and the nose mask they are
not giving it. So it is God that holds this Port, it is God that is
avenging this issue of contracting COVID-19 in the Port and we don’t
even pray that this happens to anybody in the Port and even outside
the Port, we don’t pray for that. To avoid it from happening, the
management and everybody should rise up and do the right thing at the
right time by way of providing nose masks, hand sanitisers, safety booth
Sir let us look at the Maritime Industry; stakeholders are of the view
that the Industry is facing total collapse; What is your take on this?
In the past, we had these scanners; where are they now? When you say
100 per cent Customs examination; are they still feasible in the Port?
They’re not feasible, before you even bring any of your container out
it should be 100 per cent examination, the scanners are not working so
the responsible agent that supposed to handle all those areas are not
doing it. When you’re talking about that, look at our roads; the access
roads to the Port; gateway to the Nigeria economy is bad ,
how do you expect the scanners to work when the road is bad and the
people that are coming to do the business cannot have access to the
Port ? It is as bad as that and in this Union we have been crying loud
and clear for all the world to know; for instance look at what is going on
in Tin Can Island Port, it took them years to put the road in place,
go to Mile 2 and even in Apapa here, the roads are bad. So how do you
expect even the scanner to work when the roads to the Port are
In view of all these problems in the Industry, what is your advice to
the government and agencies?
This one is to Customs; when you examine my container at the Port and
somebody will now stop me at Area B, is that not double interest?
You’ve already asked me to go and I’ve paid all the dues required for
the container to leave the Port but the Customs at Area B will stop
me, the Customs at Ijora will stop me, the Customs at Mile 2 will
equally stop me and they say it is federal unit. How do you expect the
economy to move, how do you expect investors to come. Go to Cotonou;
you can’t try it there; Cotonou is not as big as Tin Can Island
Port. How do you expect the Clearing and Forwarding agents to prove
that this is their job, how can they prove that they are professionals
when Customs have taken over the responsibility that belongs to
clearing and forwarding agents? So my advice to them is to reduce all
these over-zealousness from Customs against the investors and other
agencies that are pretending that Mr. President is fighting corruption
because they are riding at the back of Mr. President that he is
fighting corruption and what they’re doing is more than corruption;
what most of these Customs officers are doing is more than corruption.
So I wish Mr. President to beam his searchlight into Customs as well.
Some freight forwarders and importers are really not happy with SON
over the issue of sampling; they accused of stealing some of their
cargos. How do you see it?
It’s illegal. All those things are illegal. How many agents do you ask
to come and collect samples in the ports? I have ‘iphone 6’ you ask me
to bring 10 pieces for sampling, this one will come in the name of
SON, this one will come in the name NAFDAC, another one will come in
the name of another Company. Then what remains for me as the investor,
as the owner of the cargo, what remains for me?
But they are meant to be returned after investigations?
Are they returning it? Who’s returning it; it’s a way of stealing, we
call it stealing, steal for front back for back, that is what they’re
are doing, it’s illegal. In those days when they’re doing sampling;
the consignee and everybody will be there, they’ll be looking at it
and say okay this is the sample of this cargo and they return it to
that carton. Now it’s not like that. The whole of the first consignment
in the front of the container, the Customs, the SON and all of them
will remove all, then what remains for me? It is illegal. The
government should look into it and that was why when they said they
disbanded some of the agencies at the Port some of them were crying
So what is your Organisation doing about it?
What are we going to do? It’s to collaborate; NAGAFF and all other
clearing and forwarding organisations should have a board, let us have
a board. Let all the associations including the unions collaborate and
have a board. When we collaborate I think most of these things will be
put to an end.
Importers, Freight Forwarders have continue to lament about
high Demurrage charges, how do you see the intervention of
the Nigerian Shippers Council?
I think the issue of waiver has to do with understanding each other;
it is only NPA that can issue waiver because of this congestion and
all the rest. It is the responsibility of NPA to say because of so and
so demurrage I’m going to give you this certain percentage of waiver;
10 per cent, 20 per cent or 30 per and it’s going to be known by every
party. Look at what happened to APMT because they were trying to be
funny and the association had to picket the terminal because NPA has
said because of the COVID-19 let’s give them some percentage waiver
which I think everybody agreed but only PTML was able to do the right
thing at the right time and nobody went to picket that place. The
Union, we are in support of NPA because they are the rightful agency to
handle this and they said part of the demurrage that you have incurred
on this issue, let us waive out a percentage part of it, but some
terminal operators because they want to make money did not comply;
these are the interest we’re talking about. They’re not thinking of
Nigerians, they’re not thinking of the interest of the association,
they’re not thinking about the interest of the clearing and forwarding
agents, even the importers as well. They said no, NPA, they’re just
talking out of no point but when the government announced through the
Shippers Council, I think everybody knew where they belonged.
What about the attitude of the freight forwarders themselves? They
have their own problems too.
Those ones have multiple associations, this one is ANCLA, this one is
NAGAFF and so on and so on; why can’t they have one or two
associations. That is why the Customs is not respecting some of these
associations because some of them are not working together so that is
what is happening.
The Maritime Workers Union four associations – NPA, dock workers, the
Seafarers and shipping; we have only one board and that is why we call
it Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria. All these associations of
clearing and forwarding (freight forwarders); NAGAFF and all of them
why can’t they have one umbrella so that they can speak with one
voice? When they have one voice most of all these illegalities that
the Customs and some other agencies are doing won’t arise but because
they have seen that if this one is talking this side, the other one is
talking the other side. Are they protecting their members? They are
not protecting their members because of their interest; that interest
they’re looking for that is what is killing their association.
So what is the way forward finally?
Let all of us come together to have one common interest; my interest
will not supersede your own interest. If we have only one interest the
sky is the limit for all us in the Port as stakeholders. Let’s have
one association, let’s have one unit; they say unity and faith, is
that not our motto? That’s the strength, the strength that bind all of
us together should be there; let us put our interest aside. All these
clearing and forwarding associations are not carrying the interest of
their members at their back, we should be one for us to move forward
we should sit down together – the NAGAFF, the MWUN should come under
one umbrella that covers everybody.