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Maritime workers threaten shutdown at nation’s seaports

By Gloria Ehiaghe
29 January 2018   |   4:09 am
The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has vowed to shut down the nation’s seaports over Federal Government’s failure to fix dilapidated access roads.

The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has vowed to shut down the nation’s seaports over Federal Government’s failure to fix dilapidated access roads.

The union issued a seven-day ultimatum for the removal of abandoned trucks on the Oshodi-Apapa Road, which leads to the Apapa and Tin-Can Ports. It demanded that roads to the seaports be motorable, failing which members would embark on an indefinite strike, beginning Tuesday, February 6, 2018.

If the union makes good its threat, the economy could lose billions of naira daily. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Apapa Command, had, in September 2107, disclosed it realised N32.1 billion the previous month, a minimum of N1 billion everyday.

Apart from the Apapa port, which has remained virtually inaccessible due to bad link roads, ports in Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri and Onne have been largely under-utilised. This means that trucks carrying export goods to the Apapa port have to spend about three weeks on roads within the area before gaining access to the terminal.

With the prolonged delay, the quality of most of the goods depreciates before they get to their destination. This explains why Nigerian goods are often rejected for failing to meet international standards. This basically pertains to perishable goods.

Tola Faseru, the President, National Cashew Association of Nigeria, was once quoted as saying: “Export warehouses are filled with commodities. Instead of being promptly shipped out, they are rotting away.”

Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man and cement manufacturer, had, while offering to assist in repairing the link roads, also tried to quantify the loss Nigeria incurs from running seaports without good access roads. “The economy loses more than N20 billion daily. It affects businesses across the country,” he said.

The figure amounts to N7.3 trillion per year, an equivalent of the country’s annual budget.

MWUN’s threat was contained in a statement signed by President-General, Adewale Adeyanju, and Secretary-General, Felix Akingboye.

The statement recalled a 21-day ultimatum issued by the union last year, May 14, 2017, calling for the roads to be fixed. The union disclosed that before expiration, the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) met with the workers, pleading it had begun repairs. It also explained that major works were not captured in the 2017 budget. Consequently, the union suspended its planned action.

“Nine months after we suspended the ultimatum, the roads have completely deteriorated and have claimed several lives and properties. In fact, we lost two of our members on the Oshodi-Apapa Dual Carriage Way, which has completely failed.

“From Berger Bridge, there are countless craters and potholes. To worsen the already terrible situation, from Otto Wharf, the road has become a park and mechanic workshop for heavy-duty trucks abandoned by drivers and owners in the last few months.

“People defecate, sleep, cook, wash clothes, bathe and do whatever they like on the road. As a result, it is now a haven for criminals who seize every opportunity to assault and rob innocent Nigerians including our members who trek to and from work, daily, on the unmotorable road.”

The union said: “Today, only few vessels berth at our seaports, as most ship owners and businessmen prefer neighbouring ports, especially Cotonou. While these ports are booming, ours have become deserted because of failed access roads at the gateway to the nation’s economy.

“Last week, we took an assessment tour of the road. To our dismay, the Apapa axis, said to be under reconstruction by a consortium of private individuals, is at a standstill. Yet, we understand that NPA has paid the substantial part of a N270 million pledge it made on the reconstruction. In fact, at the rate work is going, that part of the road will not be completed in the next two years.”

The union regretted the depreciation of business activities at the ports, stressing that as a major stakeholder, it found the situation unacceptable. “We are afraid that if things continue like this, it would lead to the retrenchment of workers and we cannot afford to lose any of our members to joblessness.”

It, therefore, declared: “If by Monday, February 5, 2018, the trucks are not removed and the craters and potholes filled, the union will withdraw all its members from ports nationwide.”