The issue of the proper identification of dockworkers came to the fore once more recently during a meeting between the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the National Association of Stevedoring Companies (NASC).
At that meeting, NIMASA through its Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, Hon. Ibrahim Zailani, said that the agency has concluded plans to issue new identity cards to dockworkers, as part of new security measures at the ports.
He said that the contract for the renewal of the identification card had been awarded to a private concern, adding that the cards would be ready and available to the dockworkers by the end of this month.
“I want to assure you all that we have concluded all the process towards the renewal of dockworkers’ identity cards at the ports. As a matter of fact, we are planning to consider the award of the contract this afternoon (June 4, 2012) to a private concern. So we are going to renew all dockworkers identity cards possibly this month,” he said.
There is nothing wrong with creating a credible means of identification for dockworkers, because of their critical roles in the operations of the nation’s seaports. It is equally not a bad idea, considering the level of insecurity in the country, because we need to know who enters and leaves our seaports.
However, it would be recalled that NIMASA under its erstwhile Director-General, Mr. Temi Omatseye, the dockworkers biometric identity card project was initiated.
The initiative was lauded by stakeholders, notably the leadership and the membership of the of the Dockworkers Branch of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), who unanimously declared that the biometric identity card gave them a sense of belonging that they had not felt since the ports concession programme took effect in 2006.
The initiative was launched amidst funfair, as the agency invited members of the press, as it has always been the case, to witness the event. At the event which witnessed the issuance of the biometric identity cards to about 60 dockworkers working at the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa, Lagos, Omatseye stated that the occasion was just the first, as other identity cards will be issued subsequently to other dockworkers.
He said that the identity card is to checkmate the influx of persons into the nation’s seaports, adding that electronic gates will be deployed at the ports’ gates to check the entrance of dockworkers that do not have the identity card.
Until Omatseye was asked to leave office unceremoniously, nothing was heard of the dockworkers’ biometric identity card anymore, and, according to Ships & Ports findings, even the present executives of the MWUN Dockworkers Branch do not possess the biometric identity cards.
Now NIMASA has said it is launching another identity card project, will it be still-born and aborted id-way, going the same way the initial one went? Can NIMASA tell us what happened to the initial project kick-started by Omatseye?