June 18, 2009

Maritime union expresses concern over safety of members in creeks

By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoa—The leadership of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria in Bayelsa and Rivers states have expressed concern over the safety of their members and commuters along the creeks and waterways in the two states, giving governments of the two states two weeks within which to redress the situation.

After a review of attacks on passenger boats and violence along the waterways and creeks in the troubled region, the group, under the aegis of Big Wooden oats Units Bayelsa/Rivers Joint Units, declared that water transportation in the two states was no longer safe.

The position of the maritime workers came few hours after the authorities of the Joint Task Force instituted a probe into last week’s attack on the N4 billion Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) land reclamation project in Oporoma in Southern Ijaw local government area of Bayelsa State, with the removal of the commander of the gun boat in the area over alleged negligence of duty.

The maritime workers in Bayelsa and Rivers State in their position on the security situation on the waterways and creeks, said the threats to transportation business was caused by the activities of sea pirates and other security agencies, including the Navy and the Joint Task Force.

In a four-page communiqué issued yesterday at the end of its emergency meeting and signed by Comrade Mark Tarilayefa (Bayelsa) and Comrade Bernard Francis (Rivers),the maritime workers accused the men of the Joint Task Force of engaging in brazen extortion of money and torture of passengers on boats plying the area.

The group cited routes along the Bakana Km 25 in Rivers State and Nembe-Juju point, Kampala , Sunny kiri and Okitika kiri km 105 in Nembe area of Bayelsa State and Ogboinbiri/Oporoma and Swali water front.

“The issue of extortion of money and torture by the military on union members should be stopped automatically. Both Bayelsa and Rivers State governments should resolve and find a lasting solution to the nefarious activities of sea pirates, as our wooden big boats are held hostage, rape of female passengers, demand for huge sums of money for ransom as to the release of such boats.

“The union in Bayelsa and Rivers State has viewed with all seriousness that the waterways are no longer safe for navigation and hereby categorically state in clear terms that a 14 days ultimatum is hereby issued to the two state governments to handle this matter with seriousness or else the big wooden boats units of the union will embark on strike by June 22,” the union warned.