House Committee Decries NIMASA’s Treatment of Maritime Labour

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Eromosele Abiodun

The House Committee on Maritime Safety has accused the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) of undermining maritime labour stressing that something should be done to reverse the trend.
The Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Mohammed Bago, made the remark during a familiarisation tour to the National Association of Stevedoring Companies (NASC) in Lagos.

He said that the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and concessionaires were working toward harnessing the operations of stevedoring companies.

Bago said he agreed with the allegation made against NIMASA by the leader of maritime Labour that the agency was not allowing tally clerks and onboard security men to operate at the ports.
The committee chair said that NIMASA had enormous power in Nigeria in terms of maritime service.
He said due to lack of understanding and lack of commitment, the Department of Labour in NIMASA had not been given priority.

The chairman said shipping development had been given much attention by NIMASA, while the stevedoring companies were not given enough attention by the agency.
Bago, however, commended the efforts of the NASC for creating time in spite the short notice to accommodate them and to listen to their views, adding that the operators should improve on their synergy and pass their views to the committee.

He said that the committee would work toward a retreat by bringing all the maritime stakeholders together with the hope of moving the country forward.
However, the Director, Maritime Labour and Service of NIMASA, Mrs. Juliana Gunwa, said that the agency was presently holding stakeholders meeting to look into the operation of onboard security men and tally clerks.
Gunwa said that the agency had been having peaceful relationship with the operators in the maritime labour industry in the last few years.

“The issues raised by stevedoring association are all being looked into because the Federal Ministry of Transportation had approved a Ministerial regulation which is supposed to take care of some of these issues. The executive management of NIMASA had given an approval for these regulations to be formally presented to stakeholders in December 15, this year. These will go a long way in solving the issue of members of stevedoring companies not being allowed to participate effectively at the jetties, offshore and others, “she said.

She said that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had yet to review the concession agreement, adding that NIMASA had been having good relationship with the union.

Gunwa said that the Management of NIMASA was working toward being able to be on top of enforcement duties.
The National President of the NASC, Mr. Bolaji Sunmola, said the NPA without regard to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Act refused to pay the tally clerks and onboard security men.
Sunmola said that NPA eventually locked the tally clerks and onboard security men out of the ports.

“Whereas the NIMASA Act provides the procedures and conditions under which a registered dockworker could either be removed, suspended or dismissed. We took our protest to the Minister of transportation with no favourable response. We are now talking with the owners of the NIMASA Act and wish to humbly request that this breach of the law should be revisited under parliamentary overview. For now, we are hearing that the work of the tally clerks is about to be contracted to cargo surveyors. This matter Needs urgent investigation by the House Committee, ’’he said.
He also complained about the refusal of private jetties and offshore terminal operators to accept stevedores and stevedoring companies appointed by the NPA.

“Bearing in mind that the duties of loading and off-loading of cargo in this area belong by law to registered stevedore/stevedoring companies, it is obvious that government is losing a great deal of revenue. As registered and licensed stevedores under the NIMASA Act, we demand a monopoly of the job and protection from any form of encroachment by other unauthorised port users, seeking for contracts within the terminals as is the position of the law at present, ’’he stated.

He added, “Stevedoring activities had remained regulated since the inception of NPA beginning with the Dock Labour Administration of 1967, the National dock labour Decree No 13 of 1979, the Joint Dock Labour Industrial Council established by an Act of Parliament in 1999.’’
According to him, the stevedores and dockworkers are the eyes of the government in these economic zones and this act therefore, has security implications.

Sunmola mentioned the Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council of 2003 and the NIMASA Act 2007.
A maritime lawyer, Osuala Nwagbara, said that government was losing huge revenue with the absence of tally clerks and onboard security men at the jetties and terminals in Nigeria.

The President of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Mr. Abdullahi Iroje, said that NIMASA was not allowing tally clerks and onboard security men to operate at the jetties.
“We have more than 70 jetties in Eastern ports, especially Warri, Sapele and other ports. If the tally clerks and onboard security men were checkmating their activities, many revenue will go into government’s pocket, “Iroje said.
He said that the onboard security men were meant to protect those who go onboard the vessels, while tally clerks tallied the cargoes at the ports.

‘Maritime Sector Can Bail FG Out of Recession’
The nation’s maritime sector can bail Nigeria out of economic recession if the federal government gives the necessary attention to the sector, the League of Maritime Editors has said.
President of the League, Mr. Ovie Edomi argued that even at hard times, the nation’s maritime industry has the potential to generate more revenue for the government.

Edomi who spoke at a one-day seminar titled, “How to Improve Maritime and Allied Industries Revenue in a Depressed Economy,’ said that for this to be achieved, the government must be ready to make the necessary sacrifice.
He said part of the measures would be for government to consider as fast as possible infrastructures rehabilitation at the nation’s ports in such a way that it impact positively on the ease of doing business in Nigerian ports.

Edomi also noted that efficiency in the ports system as a result of improved facilities will reduce cost of doing business in Nigeria and will in turn discourage those who have chosen to divert cargoes meant for Nigeria through the neighboring ports.

He thus stated that all the agencies of government in the ports should be awake to their statutory responsibilities as this will promote efficiency.
He added that this should include checking the excesses and arbitrary high charges by service providers, one of the reasons why some Nigerian businessmen patronise neigbouring ports.

According to him, once facilities were working efficiently at affordable costs, the trend will in turn lead to improved revenue generation from the ports as more and more people will use the nation’s ports.
Edomi said: “It is pertinent for me to state at this stage that as Editors and Publishers, we saw this great nation in the era of oil boom to the extent that in the 70s, the Nigerian nation was thinking of what to do with her foreign reserve.

“Today the situation is different; the giant of Africa is in a recession. As Editors and watchdog of the society, we believe that there are vast opportunities/resources in the maritime industry. In fact, after oil the next highest source of generating revenue is the Maritime industry.

“Some people argue that if Nigeria harnesses her Maritime potentials, the country can generate three times what the country currently generate from oil. If the experts say this, as gatekeepers and agenda setters, we feel that policy makers need to take a second look at peerless editorials, as well as opinions expressed by experts on the issue.”
Edomi explained that the lecture was part of League’s contributions to economic development in the maritime sector by identifying ways in which the industry can improve on their revenue generation.

According to him, if the nation must achieve any economic reckoning in the vision 2020 framework, the country must not only create jobs and develop capacity, the seamless transition in the way image makers manage their bosses as well as the various agencies, institutions of government must be given deep consideration.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has said that it was committed to addressing all security issues on the nation’s territorial waters in order to boost robust maritime operations and achieve increased revenue generation.

The Head of Corporate Communications Team of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Hajia Lami Tumaka, commended the League for the efforts.
Tumaka advised the organisers not to be discouraged due to the recession, adding that one day, their efficiency would be rewarded.

She added, “the recession the country is facing is affecting everybody. I will want the maritime media to report people’s views on solutions to the situation we found ourselves. The media should support NIMASA in searching for alternative means of getting revenue for government. It is encouraging now that every pieces of land nearby are being used for farming. I believe we will soon surmount the situation the country is going through’’