A group of seafarers under the aegis of the Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (MNOWTSSA) on Wednesday called on the Chairman, National Seafarers Welfare Board of Nigeria (NSWBN), Otunba Kunle Folarin and his Secretary, Hosea Kuje, to step down from their positions in the board having served for more than ten years.
Folarin however lashed back at the group, describing those calling for his sack as “criminals”.
The Secretary General of MNOWTSSA, Comrade Julius Eforkpor, who spoke with newsmen in Lagos lamented that Folarin and Kuje have been at the helm of affairs at NSWBN since the board was establishment in Nigeria a decade ago.
According to him, not much has been achieved under the leadership of the duo.
Eforkpor described their stay in office as “the usual African sit tight syndrome”, adding that the constitution of the NSWBN did not allow its officials to perpetuate themselves in office.
According to him, “Each time members of the board request for replacement, then you are in for a war with the people who are there.”
The MNOWTSSA scribe said the NSWBN may not be able to fulfill its mandate until a new leadership is in place.
He argued that the position of the NSWBN Secretary, which is presently being occupied by an Assistant Director in the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is reserved for an official on the level of Chief Labour Officer.
Also speaking, the Pioneer Chaplain of Mission to Seafarers, Rev. Mike Gbadebo, accused Folarin and his Secretary of using their positions to “promote personal interest rather than the welfare of seafarers”.
He said, “I am 100 percent in support of the stepping aside of the two figures mentioned. Let them tell the seafarers what they have achieved since their inauguration during the time of defunct JOMALIC (Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council) headed by (Tijjani) Ramalan.
“Instead of promoting welfare they see the body as an avenue to promote themselves, personal aggrandizement, irrelevant and incessant unnecessary global trips. In fact their removal is long overdue.
“The key officers in the board are expected to be rotated between various recognised groups namely union, mission, government representative and shipping.”
However, Folarin disagreed with Gbadebo. While speaking to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY via telephone on Wednesday, he said the constitution of the NSWBN did not make such provision for rotation or impose time limit on the chairman’s tenure.
“Who are the groups? The criminals who are trying to siphon money from stakeholders? We shall continue to resist that and nobody will use the board’s name to continue to siphon money from stakeholders.
“Very soon we are going to expose them. Our mandate is from the MLC (Maritime Labour Convention) 2006 certified by former President Goodluck Jonathan. We are going to continue to operate along that line and according to international practice.
“The President of the Merchant Navy is a member of the board so let him write to the board about any issue. The constitution is very clear. The Seafarers’ Board is an institution board, members are derived from each institution. Everybody on the board is nominated by his institution and there is no such provision on the tenure of the chairman. Let them show you the constitution they are referring to,” he said.