Comrade Adewale Adeyanju is the President-General, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN). In this exclusive interview with SHIPS & PORTS’ Abolanle Oluwatola, the labour leader speaks on his recent election as the Deputy President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and how the maritime industry fared under the outgoing administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, among other issues.
Congratulations on your recent election as the Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). How does it feel to occupy such high position in the labour movement?
I feel elated and at the same time it is not new. I also give the glory and honour to Almighty God that made it happen. To all the stakeholders within the maritime sector, the dockworkers, seafarers, shippers, Nigerian Ports Authority and the press; we everybody for their support.
What should we expect from the NLC going forward in terms of fresh ideas, inputs into government policies and fight for the wellbeing of Nigerian workers?
It is a new dawn in the new Nigeria Labour Congress in all the sectors. The maritime sector has not been enjoying the visibility it deserves from the outgoing President of Nigeria, President Muhammudu Buhari. The maritime sector suffered a lot under the last administration but with the emergence of the new NLC, where the current President Ajaero had paid us a visit – this shows that good things are about to come from the present crop of leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress. The maritime sector is not just for the seafarers, dockworkers, shippers and the Nigerian Ports Authority but also for the wellbeing of all Nigerian workers. We have been clamouring for the welfare of workers in the sector under our command so what we are planning to do now is to meet all our stakeholders and draw up our plans for the welfare of the workers and the stakeholders.
Will you say that workers in the maritime sector, especially your members, fared well enough under the outgoing administration?
Well, there is no way I am going to give them a pass mark. However, we need to give thanks to the terminal operators who have been engaging us over the years concerning the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for the dockworkers. The peace we are all enjoying today is as a result of having a good understanding with the terminal operators who sign a CBA agreement with us every two or three years that involves the employers, employees and coordinated by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). There would be improvement on all that we have achieved so far, so that the take-home of the workers can be better because what NPA paid them about a year or two ago cannot measure up with what is happening in the country now. We pray that good things will begin to happen now.
You have been at loggerheads with some International Oil Companies (IOCs) on the engagement of approved stevedoring contractors and dockworkers on their platforms. What is the update on this?
About two weeks ago, we received a directive from the National Secretariat of NLC where we raised this issue of the International Oil Companies (IOCs), the multinationals who have no regard for Nigerian laws. We issued another ultimatum to the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Minister of Transportation over the attitude of the IOCs. We questioned why they were enjoying the immunity that has been the order of the day. The Minister of Transportation then issued them a seven-day ultimatum for compliance or severing their activities within the port. As we speak, the level of compliance is about thirty to forty percent. Some of them have complied but not all. However, we want a hundred percent compliance from them.
Many shipping companies operating in Nigeria have not allowed their members to unionise. What are you doing to correct this?
I agree with you. I think it is part of the reason why we declared a state of emergency in shipping. If you look at what is going on now, you will see that the regulatory agent for the shipping industry have invited us for a meeting because of the ultimatum we gave out. Nigerian Shippers’ Council also called us last week trying to midwife the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the shipping industry and that of the union. I think there is hope with the way things are now since the Minister of Transportation has directed Nigerian Shippers’ Council to midwife this meeting and the window of discussion had been thrown opened. We are on course.
You fought strongly for the review of the salaries of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) workers, but what we’re hearing is that the review fell short of the union’s expectation. What do you plan to do about this?
I think we should first thank the management of Nigerian Ports Authority who listened to us while we were agitating for the review of workers salaries in NPA. But you know that there is no how you will see a human being that is satisfied. We are like Oliver Twist. We want to ask for more but right now, we appreciate them for this review even though we are open for dialogue.
So, what is the next line of action?
You leave that to us. When you have gotten one, you review that one in your hand first and that is why I said our door is open for more dialogue because we can only ask for more. The salary had been static for 18 years and now it has been reviewed so that is a start. Let us enjoy the little one he has given us before we ask for more.
What are your expectations for the maritime industry and for maritime workers under the incoming Tinubu’s administration?
I think all we need to do is to be prayerful to God to give him good health to do the job. We expect him to do more than what the outgoing administration did because the maritime sector was not touched at all in terms of development. Imagine the state of the roads leading to our ports. Look at Tin Can Island road for example; it is like we do not have a government regulating the road. A journey of 30 minutes can take you three hours from the first gate to the second gate because of some artisans who have turned the road to their room and parlour. They even bring their wives and children to live there. The Minister (of Transportation) has never deemed it fit to visit that place in the morning or at night to see what these artisans have turned the road, which happens to be a federal road, into. These are our complaints about the road and investors are leaving as a result of these issues. Go to Cotonou and see the face of their port, it is very clean unlike ours which looks like no one is regulating or managing it. However, let us wait till his inauguration and then, we can reel out our demands. I believe that God is going to give him wisdom to ensure that the maritime sector is well taken care of. We believe that Tinubu’s administration is going to correct all these anomalies so that the road leading to the gateway of Nigeria’s economy can be opened.
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