The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria on Friday said the ports would remain shut until the Nigerian Ports Authority paid the nine months’ salary arrears of dockworkers.
The President-General of the union, Tony Nted, stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
Nted said the NPA had reneged on its agreement to pay the salaries owed the dockworkers.
He said: “The maritime workers union decided to shut down the ports yesterday to withdraw the service of our members, based on some of the irregularities being perpetrated by the Nigerian Ports Authority.
“The first one was the issue of tally clerks and onboard security men that have not been paid for the past nine months.
“If we talk about nine months’ arrears, we also have other arrears: about 10 per cent increase to workers, the entire dockworkers.
“The terminal operators have made their payment and NPA has not made its payment.
“As I am talking to you, is about 15 months’ arrears that have not been paid to the
dockworkers, in addition to the nine months arrears and that is one of the issues.”
Nted said the NPA also decided to engage the services of foreigners at the expense of the Nigerian dockworkers against the provisions for jobs for locals.
He said: “Then, another issue: we believe that the Nigerian Ports Authority in connivance with some of the shipping agents wanted to move away the dockworkers from the ports.
“The other day, they brought a vessel to Ladol.
“Industrial Chef was the name of the vessel and they used the white men to offload the vessel, which the law did not permit them.
“And as I am talking to you, there was a vessel in Bonny mid-stream, the name of that vessel is MV Hawk.
“It is still also being discharged by the white men.
“The dockworers were not allowed to work.
“And all these we brought to the attention of the Nigerian Ports Authority even before the vessel arrived, but nothing was done.
“The law on these issues are very clear.
“The law says before any vessel would offload within the mid-stream, they must get the approval of the Honourable Minister.
“Do not forget why this law: because of the arms that are getting into this country and nobody knows what this vessel brought in.
“So, for allowing you to offload at the mid-stream because of the draught, the vessel cannot come to the key apron, it means that the agent must get approval from the Honourable Minister of Transport.
“In the absence of the Minister, the Permanent Secretary has the right to give approval to that vessel to berth, but with a proviso in that agreement that all statutory payments to the Nigerian Ports Authority must be made.
“All security agencies that will monitor the vessel must be on board and stevedoring charges must also be paid to the stevedores so that dockworkers will get their money before the vessel commences operation.
“The port will remain shut until all these two issues are addressed.”
Responding, the General Manager, Public Affairs of the NPA, Captain Iheanacho Ebubeogu, said the delay in the payment of the salaries was due to the Treasury Single Account process.
Ebubeogu said the authority had to follow the provisions of the TSA to ensure it did not fall short of what it should do in the course of duty.
Ebubeogu said officials of the Finance Department of the NPA had held a meeting with the leadership of the union appealing for patience as the payment was being processed.