The recent protest carried out at the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa by workers of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) who were forcefully retired in 2006 and 2007 as a result of the Federal Government’s port reform programme seems to have paid off as a directive has been issued for their immediate enrolment into the monthly pension scheme.
The retired workers, numbering about 5,000 were retired prematurely to trim down the workforce of the NPA and rather than pay them gratuity and enrol them into the monthly pension scheme according to their conditions of service, the Federal Government paid them a lump sum of five years’ salary which was termed ‘severance benefit’. The idea behind the severance benefit was to pay the workers off and reduce future liability on the NPA.
“We never supported the severance benefit payment. Our workers were forcefully retired and were also forced to collect it against their will,” then President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Onikolaese Irabor, had told SHIPS& PORTS ON RADIO in 2006 at the height of the retrenchment exercise.
The retired workers did not give up as they had consistently impressed on government the need to obey their conditions of service which conferred them the right to benefit from pension and gratuity.
But in a new twist, the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Dr. Bright Okogu, has directed the Ministry of Transport to pay the retired workers their full benefits.
In a letter with reference number BD/2000/252/T2/160/124 dated 25th October 2006, addressed to the Minister of Transport with Director Human Resources Management (HRM), Oqua E. Eta in attention, Okogu stated: “the mode of exit from Service for those who were severed did not make any difference in respect to their terminal benefits. Therefore, they should be enrolled for monthly pension when due just like their counterparts who exited service normally.”
Eta in turn sent a letter with reference number T.160/S.T03/T5/506 dated 6th November, 2013 to the Managing Director of NPA to comply with Okogu’s directive.
“Kindly expedite action and accept the warm regards of the Honourable Minister,” the HRM Director of the Federal Ministry of Transport stated in the letter obtained exclusively by SHIPS& PORTS DAILY.
Chairman of the 2006/2007 NPA retirees, Charles Binite, during a chat with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY in Abuja, expressed appreciation to the Federal Government for what he called “the hard won victory.” He appealed to the management of NPA to expedite action on the directive and pay outstanding pension arrears to the retired workers.
“The implication of the directive is that the severance package we got in 2006 and in 2007 will be treated as pension for five years. It means we are being owed pension arrears of over two years and we appeal for prompt payment and compliance by the NPA management,” he said.
On Thursday 3rd October, 2013, the retired workers had blocked the entrance of the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa paralysing operation at the premiere port.
The management of NPA had quickly invited the protesting retirees’ leaders to a meeting which culminated in an agreement to vacate the port premises and allow NPA seek further clarification on the plight of the aggrieved retirees.