By Modupe Gbadeyanka
No fewer than 20 shipping companies have shut operations in Nigeria due to unfavourable government policies. This has led to the retrenchment of over 3000 workers in the last one year, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) disclosed on Thursday.
President-General of MWUN, Tony Nted, while addressing newsmen at a press briefing in Lagos, further said the management of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is also planning to sack a section of the dockworkers, especially the Tally Clerks and Onboard Security men in spite of their importance and relevance in the port operations.
He lamented that the jobs of over 2000 workers were also on the line and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene to save the sector from imminent collapse.
Mr Nted, who declined to name the affected shipping companies, however warned that many more shipping companies were on the verge of folding up and were only doing skeletal services at the moment.
“Today, we lament the action of the management of Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) in also planning to sack a section of the dockworkers, especially the Tally Clerks and Onboard Security men in spite of their importance and relevance in the port operations, as it affects the reoccurring scourge of tonnage under declaration and its negative impact on the nation’s economy.
“Over 2000 workers (tally clerks and onboard security men) are involved. Their reinstatement will go a long way in reducing the number of unemployed Nigerians, and also reducing the misery of their families,” he told newsmen at the briefing.
Mr Nted, on behalf of the union, demanded among others that, “All access roads to the ports as a matter of urgency, should be expanded and rehabilitated to handle cargo traffic in the ports.
“The traditional rail operations in our seaports should be restored to reduce the pressure on our highways and daily fatal accidents and deaths from containers. Waterways should be developed for delivery of laden containers and heavy equipment through our coastal waters into the hinterland.
“The tank-farms which are now dangerously located close to the ports, residential areas and along the expressways and access roads close to the ports should be relocated far away from the seaports to stave-off the perennial gridlocks on the roads.
“The volume of vehicles imported into Nigeria through Nigerian ports has collapsed to an all-time low, with consequent loss of thousands of jobs in the maritime sector.
“The new duty regime for vehicles introduced since 2004 and application of the new rate of exchange rate for duty calculations have made the importation of cars and trucks into Nigeria far too expensive. In the last two years, the number of vehicles arriving Nigeria has shrunk by almost two thirds, while the volume of cars smuggled through the Cotonou border has continued to rise unabated. It is therefore necessary that the Federal Government reviews its stance on the Automative policy so as not to inflict any more suffering on the workers who are already having a hard time with price increases every day.
“The Federal Government should look at making the importation of cars and trucks more competitive to enable the economy to grow. A significant reduction in the duties applicable on cars and trucks will go a long way in alleviating the challenges of our people and spur economic activities.
“Government should, as a matter of urgency, adopt policies towards resuscitating the export of agricultural produces and mineral resources that were hitherto the main stay of the Nigerian economy before the discovery of oil. This will no doubt create jobs in our seaports and increase revenue for the government.”