Comrade Akpan Ettang a specialist in welding and fabricating craft with over 20 years working experience in maritime services fielded questions concerning Nigeria Seaports and issues surrounding the Maritime Workers Union from Isaac Orieka, Managing Director of Creekvibes magazine.
What is your name sir?
I am comrade Akpan Ettang from Ibiaku Mkpat, Enin Local Government council in Akwa Ibom State, one of the oil rich region of the Niger Delta.
What’s your profession?
At the moment am a specialist in welding craft with Underwater Engineering Nigeria Limited in Lagos.
How long have you severed the organization?
Currently, I have worked for 20 years with Underwater with vast experience in maritime services. I am a member of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Seaman water transport branch and also member National Executive Council (NEC), who are the policy makers of the Union.
What has been the challenges since you joined the organisation?
First, the economic crunch is not favourable to the Maritime business to thrive as it used to be many years back, workers are idle at the port commercial activities has been grounded and so many workers have also been laid off.
Secondly, the road network to the Lagos port classified as the commercial nerve in Nigeria is deplorable with traffic congestion making business activities for importers clearing agents and port users to be hectic and slow.
Most companies have relocated from the Apapa Seaport while many others due mainly to harsh government policies have shut down.
What has been the efforts of MWUN to improve the situation?
The Maritime Workers Union (MWUN) is a national body working with the federal government to amend the policies constructively to enhance freight forwarding, cargo clearance and the Carbotage law. The union is collaborating with most Maritime service companies to earn casualisation, cheap labour, improved and regular allowances and the implementation of the new minimum wage of N30, 000 which government has already signed into law.
Are most of the companies unionised?
This year 2019 efforts have been put in place to unionise those companies that are willing to become members of MWUN which is a laudable development by the union. Led by Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, president general (PG) of MWUN and other national branch officers.
Do the companies pay their dues?
Well, the companies promptly pay their dues in order to enable the union function effectively.
Why is it that it is only the Lagos seaport that is viable?
During the establishment of Ports in the country way back, like Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri, and Lagos Seaports, they were functioning appropriately the business of importation and maritime was bumming all over the mentioned seaports.
Today as the Federal government mooted the idea of concessioning the Lagos Port, other ports became idle with low patronage by port users. Now only the Lagos Port is functioning. Even the Lagos Port is congested causing traffic gridlock, offloading and loading of containers with tank farms located along the major routes without proper coordination of traffic flow.
More of the emphasis is transporting petroleum product by the road and neglecting the rail sector which is an excellent network for transport business.
As a maritime expert is the Federal Government doing enough to improve the sector?
The Federal Government is trying to encourage port users from North to divert their goods and cargos to neighbouring countries within the sub region of Africa, so as to restore the past glory of Nigerian ports, most African countries have flexible maritime protocols/laws, fast cargo clearance, low traffic which is a key to favourable maritime services comparable to other European ports in the world. Again government should make other seaport viable so as to grow the economy, create employment and foreign investment.
Is MWUN a member of ITF?
MWUN is a recognized body affiliated to the International Transport Federation. This year 2019 the PG of MWUN attended the 44th World Convention held in Singapore, the convention was organized by the ITF to foster a better global effective, efficient and safe transportation system worldwide.
The PG represented Nigeria at the event with a pledge to corporate with the organisation to enhance harbour operations for Nigeria and foreigners profitably.
Comrade Adeyanju was elected Seafearers African Region at the 9th ITF African Regional Conference held in 2018, he has maintained membership of the practice committee (FPC) Dock Labour Session of ITF that oversees dock labour issues affecting Africa and the World over as it is with the free zones, government should also relax the harsh policies affecting the ports by fixing the roads, rail lines to enhance speedy cargo clearance at ports and to dissuade smugglers at the borders.
Thanks for your response, do have a great day ahead.