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  Dockworkers Threaten Oil Companies Over Evasion of Tariffs

    mardi 9 mars 2004

Vanguard (Lagos) Victor Ahiuma-Young

DOCKWORKERS branch of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has alleged that many oil and shipping companies are refusing to pay the Stevedoring contractor appointed by government to collect tariffs after discharging oil-related equipment and material on-shore and off-shore. The union said because of this development, workers are not being paid salaries and warned that should these companies, Mobil, Chevron and a host of others, continue in this manner, the union should not be held responsible for whatever consequences that might follow as workers have become restive.

President of the union, Comrade Anthony N. Emmanuel told Vanguard that the affected companies and the appropriate authorities had been notified and asked the companies involved to desist from their illegal act to avoid unpleasant consequences.

In a release on the same matter, the union stated : "The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, Dockworkers Branch is sounding a note of warning to all oil companies/shipping companies that are discharging oil-related equipment/material within the onshore and offshore, and refusing payment of Stevedore to the Stevedoring contractor appointed by the Federal Government in such areas, thereby depriving Dockworkers of their livelihood. The ILO convention that has been ratified by the Federal Government, guarantees regular employment for Dockworkers. Decree 37 of 1999 that established JODLIC now JOMALIC made it clear that any person who is not registered as a Dockworker has no right to work in all the seaports in the federation including Midstream and offshore as a Dockworker."

"The Decree also made it clear that all Dockworkers be registered with a Stevedoring contractor, and this has been the practice. We therefore warn that the union will not be held responsible for any unpleasant consequences that may arise in their future operations within the midstream/offshore as a result of their action. These actions of the oil companies/shipping companies make us to doubt if they are actually paying tariffs, tax and other dues to the Federal Government of Nigeria as they are refusing to pay those who are doing the strenuous job."

In another development, the union has given conditions under which it could support government-planned concessioning of the ports.

President of the union, Comrade Emmanuel, at a press conference in Lagos, warned that should the government conditions not meet their conditions in the course of the concessioning policy, the workers would paralyse all ports operations nationwide.

According to him : "We are fully aware that no reform is without its advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, we are not unmindful of the fact that the concessioning process will lead to reduction of Dockworkers to be engaged in the port because, no terminal operator can engage the present number of Dockworkers on a permanent basis as full fledge workers. We are therefore requesting that the Dockworkers be adequately catered for in the concession regime.

We are aware that funds have been sourced from the World Bank by the government for the execution of the policy and for settlement of terminal and severance benefits to all NPA workers that would be affected in the reform exercise, we also request that 25 per cent of the fund should be set aside for the settlement of severance benefits for all Dockworkers that might be affected by the exercise. This is because, as we said earlier, terminal operators would not be able to cope with the number of Dockworkers as permanent workers since section of the port would be concessioned"

"We are only saying that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Both NPA workers and the Dockworkers operate in this same industry and besides, the Dockworkers work in the technical section of the port. In all the seaports across the country, no fewer than 20,000 Dockworkers earn their daily livelihood at the port. But with reforms underway, it is estimated that almost one third of the Dockworkers workforce may be laid off. We are a law-abiding union and we stand for any policy that can boost the nation’s socio-economic and political development. The ports belong to the government the decision on how the port should be administered lies in the hands of the government. But the human element or factor that I mean the workers should be allowed to decide their future as a citizen and as a Nigeria worker. If this is done the port reform will be a success. We strongly believe the port industry is the major source of revenue earner after the oil and gas, therefore we support whole-heartedly efforts aimed at blocking leakages, wastage and all other forms of sharp practices within the port."

However, suffice to say that the reform can only succeed to the extent if the port workers are adequately rewarded remunerated and catered for. Therefore, the Dockworkers should be seen as the most important tool to be used to achieve the aims and objectives of the reform. On this note we declare our support for the reform and based on the discussions so far with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) that welfare of the Dockworkers and that of Nigerian Ports Authority workers will be a priority in the reform. However, we sound a note of warning that anything short of this may lead to the collapse of the reform."

Posted to the web March 9, 2004

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