By Ifeyinwa Obi
Two and a half years after they were unceremoniously disengaged from their jobs, the 22 ex staff of the Nigeria Maritime Services Ltd, (NMSL), Apapa are yet to be paid their entitlements by the companyâ€™s management. Maritime Services Ltd was established in 1962 by the late shipping magnate, Chief Henry Fajemirokun and is now been run by his son Chief Oladele Fajemirokun.
The 22 affected workers which comprise 16 junior and six senior staff, who had put in between 20 and 30 years meritorious service with MSL, were disengaged from the service of the company on February 14, 2007, through a letter signed by its managing director, Mr. Ayo Kolawole. NMSL is a subsidiary of Henry Stephens Group of Companies.
Though, the Shipping/Courier Section of the Maritime Workersâ€™â€™ Union of Nigeria (MWUN) had on several occasions arranged meetings with the management of MSL, there had not been positive results as the management was alleged to have been playing hide and seek with the workers representatives.
The affected workers under the aegis of the Association of Disengaged Workers of Nigeria Maritime Services Ltd, said the firmâ€™s managing director, Mr. Ayo Kolawole has remain nonchalant to their plights despite the fact that they have spent the better part of their life serving the company which even the founder of the company, late Henry Fajemirokun acknowledged by honouring some of them with certificate of merit before he died.
It would be recalled that, in June 2008, the aggrieved workers had written an appeal letter to the chairman of the NMSL, Chief Oladele Fajemirokun imploring to prevail on the managing director, Mr. Ayo Kolawole to accelerate the payment of their entitlements â€˜â€˜so that we can enjoy parts of our labour while we are still aliveâ€™â€™
Their petition reads â€˜â€˜For the information of concerned citizens of Nigeria, 22 staff of the Nigeria Maritime Services Ltd situated at No 13-15 Sapele Road, Apapa, were disengaged by the company under the guise of reorganization on February 14, 2007, despite the fact that we spent the whole of our useful youthful lives serving the company.
Besides, the founder of the company, the late Henry Fajemirokun, gave some of us certificates of commendation. But unfortunately today, we have been discarded like rags without hope, without money, without jobâ€.
Indeed, most of the affected ex- workers are now homeless as they have been ejected from their apartments as they could not afford to pay their monthly rent dues. Consequently majority of them are now sleeping in churches and mosques even as they have sent wives to their respective towns or villages and withdrew their children from schools.
They said: â€œWe have made series of appeals to the chairman of the NMSL, Chief Oladele Fajemirokun and the managing director, Mr. Ayo Kolawole, but they have not shown any sufficient concern about our plightsâ€.
The disengaged ex-NMSL workers repeated their earlier claims that the managing directed affirmed that even if the entitlements will be paid at all, it will be based on 1962 Condition of service of Henry Stephens Group of Companies.
However, the 1962 Condition of Service being referred to by Mr. Kolawole has been superseded by another agreement which the company signed with the Maritime Workersâ€™â€™ Union (Shipping/Courier branch) on 1st July, 2004.
It would be recalled that in the said agreement the 6th paragraph states inter alia: â€œâ€œAny worker who is declared redundant shall be paid 150 percent of monthly total emoluments (i.e. monthly basic salary, housing allowance and meal subsidy) multiplied by number of years of service. In addition, one month salary shall be paid in lieu of noticeâ€â€ the agreement stated categorically.
Several attempts were made to reach Mr. Kolawole at his Apapa office to no avail while Chief Fajemirokun refuses to answer his calls.