Fresh moves by the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola to re-float the liquidated national carrier, the Nigeria National Shipping Line (NNSL) has set him on a collision course with the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN).
It is on record that NNSL was liquidated by the Federal Government during the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo following its poor management that resulted in the sacking of many staff with unpaid wages and the seizing of many of its ships by creditors across the globe.
Oyetola is not the first to come up with the idea of refloating the NNSL. Many of his predecessors, including Right Hon, Rotimi Amaechi and Malam Mu’azu Sambo all toyed with the idea with millions of naira spent on setting up committees that embarked on several trips overseas in the name of understudying other countries models to no avail.
Maritime Bits had reported that Oyetola in the first ever “Stakeholders’ Roundtable Engagement on Advancing Sustainable Development in Nigeria’s Marine and Blue Economy” which took place on Tuesday at the highbrow Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos organized by his ministry announced to participants that the ministry plans to re-float the NNSL through what he called a “strategic” public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement.
The PPP model is also not novel to Oyetola as Amaechi also toyed with the same idea without tangible results after millions of tax payers money had gone down the drains.
Apparently not comfortable with Oyetola’s proposal, the MWUN wasted no time in telling the minister that the idea has hit the rocks without its inputs.
Giving reasons why it opposed the idea, it argued that, besides not carrying organised labour along in the plan, the benefits of disengaged and other former employees of the defunct NNSL are yet to be paid by the same government that liquidated the national carrier 28 years ago.
MWUN in a statement issued in Lagos and obtained by Maritime Bits insisted that the fallouts of NNSL liquidation, especially the unpaid benefits of its former employees, must be resolved amicably before any re-floating under whatever guise could be discussed.
In the statement, the President-General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, among other things said the union is now having a different view of the Minister when he did not speak about the aged seafarers who navigated with the defunct national carrier vessels over the new NNSL proposal.
His words: “The MWUN, whose major challenges have not been resolved over the years with several Ministers of Transportation as regards the settlement of retiree-aged seafarers and other issues confronting the blue economy, which has not been given a clear-cut definition and mode of operation, is still worrisome to the Union as we speak.
“The re-floating of a new NNSL will be a mirage if the retired seafarers, who worked tirelessly with a deep sense of patriotism for the country, are not given their due rights after 28 years of service on the national carrier vessels. This will only amount to human injustice of the highest order. It will also be tantamount to placing the cart before the horse if such a proposition is in the pipeline without first thinking of the aged seafarers.
“We, as a labour union, will not sit aloof and watch our aged seafarers continue to suffer unnecessary penury after meritorious years of service to their fatherland. It is true that some of the elderly seafarers have died from various ailments, some from psychological torture and trauma, mental degradation, abject poverty, and so on, that weighed them down in depression”.
Continuing, Adeyanju said: “It would be recalled that the former Minister of Transportation, Muazu Sambo, set up a committee involving two ministries, the Ministry of Transportation and the Labour Ministry, respectively. The said committee was charged with the responsibility of carrying out the physical verification exercise of the aged seafarers, which the Union thought would have brought some sort of succour; but to no avail. It is indeed unfortunate to say here that the committee has never met.
“So, where do we go from here, when you want to re-float the NNSL with no consideration to the Seafarers who served the defunct carrier vessels? This is unheard of anywhere globally. Therefore, any plan for a new NNSL is a mirage in its conception, except when the needful is done. The blue economy that is on the lips of every Nigerian today emerged as a global concept in 2012. Therefore, the union’s position as far as the new ministry is concerned cannot function without the inclusion of MWUN in all its ramifications.
“Hence, the Union must be part of the policy process, which must be seen to conform with the rules of social inclusion and collaboration, because the blue economy must be seen to strengthen social equity order; hence, our disposition, given the aged Seafarers debacle, which is yet to receive serious attention. The President-General, who doubles as the Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, had before now prayed for the Minister to look into the nagging issue of the seafarers to see how he could bring it to a logical conclusion”.
According to the statement, Adeyanju who promised the Minister of the union’s support towards making sure that the nation achieves much in the sector in his tenure, also frowned at the Minister’s projection on the re-floating of a new NNSL when he visited Lagos without putting into cognisance the plight of the disengaged aged seafarers, who were parts and parcels of the defunct national carrier as it were. It will be unkind to the Union to hear any assertion by the Minister regarding a new NNSL without carrying along the previously disengaged seafarers concerning their entitlements, which have not been fully settled.