Raging Succession War in Maritime Workers' Union

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Eromosele Abiodun writes that the relevant government agencies in the maritime sector should take urgent step to resolve the crisis rocking the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria to forestall the imminent carnage during its forthcoming election

Like everything in Nigeria, the upcoming National Delegate Conference (NDC) of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), where a new executive will be elected has assumed a new dimension.

There are allegations and counter allegations between the President General of MWUN, Tony Nted and other union members interested in succeeding him as the next leader of the union.
There are palpable fears in the industry that the election, if not handled well, will throw up crisis in the maritime industry.

With angst and bottled emotions already dictating the direction of delegate conference, the union is divided along ethnic, justice and mercantile lines. Some members are seeking justice, some driven by ethnic considerations, while others want their bread buttered.
THISDAY reliably gathered that a faction is allegedly grouping an ethnic militia for attack in event of uprising, while districts and political factions are pitched against the others, with threat of killing and blood-letting in the port.

Nted, who is the incumbent PG, is alleged to be the mastermind of the simmering crisis by insisting on foisting his anointed candidate, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju on the union, illegitimately.
Nted, who is serving out his two terms of eight years in office by March, 2017, has been accused of denying other aspirants for the position of PG the opportunity to contest.

Nted alleges blackmail

However, Nted has denied the allegations while accusing some unidentified persons of spreading malicious information against his person over the union’s forthcoming general election.
The election is scheduled to hold on March 17 in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos, the MWUN leader alleged that some disgruntled elements and non-card-carrying members of the union have been spreading malicious insinuations about the union and its leadership.

Specifically, he said: “The tenure of this administration will elapse in March and a new leadership will emerge. What is happening in the union is an eyesore. They have written about 15 petitions against me that I want to bring a stooge and I made it clear to them that I have just one vote and I cannot vote for two people at the same time. I am going to vote for just one person.

“In some of the petitions, they are calling that the union be dissolved that there is crisis in the union and those who sign this papers are not members of our union. I have never, for one day criticised any of the candidates and I have made it clear that all the candidates are more than qualified and anybody can vote for whoever he decides to vote for.”

Nted also described the alleged invitation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as nothing but a figment of imagination of those idling about and looking for credible members of the society to discredit and malign.
He said: “But I would make it clear to them that, I don’t belong in the class. I am a private businessman and I have been in the business of buying and selling for over 20 years now. I don’t need to put my hands in shoddy deal to make it.”

Nted added that, already his lawyers have been directed to take legal action against the perpetrators of the unfounded rumours.
He said: “I have asked my lawyers to study the matter and prepare to seek redress in the appropriate court of law. The union recognises every card-carrying member’s right, freedom of speech and association as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In view of the above, the union is not taking it lightly, the malicious, libellous petition and publications by these disgruntled elements and their agents.”

Vote of confidence

Following insinuations about the leadership of the MWUN, members from several chapels of the union last week passed a vote of confidence on MWUN leadership.
At a solidarity rally in Lagos over the weekend, the workers who turned out in their numbers, urged disgruntled members to close ranks and work with the leadership to move the union forward.

Speaking at the rally, President of the Dockworkers Branch of MWUN, Adewale Adeyanju, said: “With joy in our hearts, we the entire members of the union wish to commend our PG, Nted for the good work you have done during your tenure. We further wish to appreciate your peaceful honest and transparent leadership style that have moved the union to the next level and ranked as one of the most recognized and well managed unions amongst the affiliates of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and ITF London.

“Dialogue which is the modern scientific tool for negotiation as opposed to ‘might’ has been your guide. No wonder then that you have always excelled in almost all the negotiations you held on behalf of the union with the stakeholders. Your achievements are legion. Time will not permit us to say all, but we shall mention few.
“Absolute peace in the maritime sector, it is worthy of note that there was no industrial action or disharmony during your tenure. Local and overseas training: under your leadership, local and
overseas training was vigorously pursued; not less than 6000 members have enjoyed local training, whilst over 180 members have been trained in overseas countries like South Africa, Dubai and in Maritime Institute of Technology, USA.”

Under Nted’s leadership, he said, enhanced condition of service and welfare package for MWUN members were negotiated and obtained for the dockworkers.
According to him, “We have a befitting secretariat annex at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, which was built under your tenure. Negotiated with NPA, the reinstatement of 13 staff members that were erroneously disengaged during the port concession exercise. You have negotiated increase in staff allowances.

“You also negotiated the resuscitation of upfront payment of house rent allowance to NPA staff, negotiated approved increase in the payment of Christmas allowance from three per cent to 50 per cent. You also negotiated the upward review of condition of service and financial guild in NPA. You ensured the employment of youths by Agwut International, which led to appreciable reduction in militancy in the ports, negotiated the training of seafarers in line with the STCW ’95’, managing redundancy in spite of the global economic meltdown.”

He added, “Your leadership negotiated ex-gratia payment of Nl.5 million and N1 million in some cases for members who were placed on redundancy due to the prevailing economic recession which is the first of its kind in the industry. Sir, we also want to acknowledge your humane and philanthropic gesture to officers and staff of the union. No wonder then that you were awarded the prestigious award of maritime man of the year 2013.
“We are not unaware of the malicious libelous and unfounded publications currently in circulation especially in the social media aimed to malign you by some faceless and mischievous individuals. Please ignore them, continue with the good work you are doing. The entire members of the union are solidly behind you.”

A prophecy foretold

As if he knew what was coming, Nted had in 2015 described as unacceptable and a shame the leadership crisis rocking the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), following disagreement over the outcome of March 12, 2015 rescheduled election in Abuja.

Nted had in a statement said: “It is unfortunate and sad that the desperation of some individuals had reduced the Congress to a laughing stock both locally and internationally.”
Nted’s leadership in the statement noted that it had been vindicated; pointing out that its President-General, on the eve of the rescheduled election withdrew from the race “because the election had been reduced to ethnic, tribal and sectional contest by those who wished the movement no good.”

Explaining further, he said: “Today, the movement has been taken over by thugs and individuals who do not under what it means to be addressed as comrades. While we are not going to side either of the factions, we insist that the movement is greater than any individual or groups. We will remain neutral as Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria until this crisis is resolved.

“Like we said on March 11, while we were withdrawing from the contest, we said we did not want to be associated with what is happening now because it is a shame. We have been vindicated. There are allegations of manipulation of the election to favour some individuals and we are just going about as if nothing has happened. These are things not associated with labour in general and NLC in particular.”

Specifically Nted added, “How did we get to this degrading and shameful state? What are we going to pride ourselves with before politicians and government officials? If we cannot organise an acceptable election in the movement, what moral justification do we have to criticize politicians when they fail in the process? It is a sad story to hear that we now have alleged election manipulators or riggers.

“When this shame started in the botched February election, our union demanded for a thorough investigation into the alleged printing of multiple ballot papers with different serial numbers among others so that the culprits would be brought to book. If this was done, we believe the rescheduled election would have been better. We now have thugs, individuals parading themselves as labour leaders and NLC leaders. It is very unfortunate and we call on respectable NLC veterans and other well- meaning stakeholders to wade in and save the Congress from this mess it has found itself.”