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Tension in ports over fate of 3,700 dockworkers

Wednesday January 20,  2016, stakeholders in the Maritime sector met with officials of  the Ministry of Transportation, Abuja, to discuss the vexed issue of Tally Clerks and On-Board Gangway Security men.

Sea-portAt the meeting presided over by the Minister,  Rotimi Amaechi, Labour  Vanguard gathered were attended by officials of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, terminal operators, stevedoring contractors, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, among others.

It was gathered that the meeting acknowledged the end of the contract of the Stevedoring contractors supervising the activities of over 3,700 Tally Clerks and On-Board Security men, since their contract was for a  renewable 10 years period.

Labour Vanguard was informed that before the close of the meeting, the Minister promised to take the issue of the continued engagement of these categories of workers or not, to President Muhammadu Buhari for decision and final directive.

However, about four days later,  unconfirmed reports claimed the Minister had given approval to the management of NPA to disengage the  workers.

Restiveness and apprehension

This development has thrown the ports into restiveness and apprehension as the union has made it clear that on no account will it accept the sack of the workers or as a consequence the ports will be shut indefinitely.

MWUN, which questioned the source of report,  insisted that there was no way the Minster could have given such approval knowing the implications of throwing no fewer than 3,700 workers into the saturated job market.

The union accused NPA of planting the report in its desperate bid to stop the retention of the Tally Clerks and On-Board Security men in favour of the cargo surveyors it (NPA) allegedly brought into the system through the back door.

MWUN  had since petitioned all relevant agencies and though the Minister is yet to make an official statement on the matter, the sector has remained tense because the matter is like a time bomb waiting to explode.

On Monday, February 22, the President of Dockworkers’ branch of MWUN, Mr. Adewale Adeyanju, at a meeting with District officials of the union, warned against unapproved industrial action over the issue as threats and rumours  of strike continue.

Legality of tally clerks, onboard security men: Before the January 20 meeting, Labour Vanguard gathered that stakeholders were asked to present a position paper on the matter to support their stance.

In its presentation to the Ministry of Transportation, MWUN through its Secretary General, Aham Ubani,  detailed the legallity of the jobs of Tally Clerks and On-Board Gangway Security men dating back to Decree 13 of 1979, Nigeria Dock Labour Decree Number 37 of 1999, establishing Joint Dock Labour Industrial Council, JODLIC, section 32(a) of the Nigerian Maritime Labour Act of 2003, establishing Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council, JOMALIC and section 27 (a) of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Act of 2007.

According to him, one of the functions of NIMASA as defined in the Act  “is to register and maintain a register of every dockworker, seafarer, stevedoring company and seafarer employer, jetty terminal operators as well as offshore platforms of terminals.”

Registered dockworkers: Ubani explained that at the moment, NIMASA maintained a list of registered dock workers including tally clerks and onboard ship security men, saying  the “registration of every dock worker in section 27 (a) above implied those in various occupational category of labour force including tally clerk and onboard Security men. The duties of dock workers including Tally Clerks and Onboard Security men are statutory.

“The statutory character connotes a  monopoly i.e. dock work is exclusive for those registered by the Agency charged with the regulation of the condition of service of dock workers (Section 27 (b) of the NIMASA Act 2007.) By implication, the so called cargo surveyors of NPA or any other unregistered persons are not known under NIMASA Act which regulates Maritime Labour “activities in Nigerian Ports hence are not permitted by law to perform the role of registered Tally Clerks.”

He contended that “the registration of the Tally and Onboard security men is statutory which could only be revoked on the following statutory conditions – (i.e.) in section 27 (2) The NIMASA Act 2007 states that the Agency shall have power to discipline, suspend, cancel or revoke the permit, approval licence or certificate of any dockworkers who contravene the provisions of this Act.”

Professional experience

The duties of Tally Clerks and Onboard security- men cannot be substituted with unregistered persons who neither possess the professional experience of tallying nor have any known equipments for measuring solid cargoes. In the Nigeria Labour Laws and Policy, Tally Clerks and Onboard Security activities are classified as dock work in accordance with the classification tenure of ILO, Dock work Conventions 1973 (No. 137) which Nigeria has ratified.

According to him, by implication, “no unregistered person can assume the functions of Tally Clerks since they are not  included as part of Dock Labour force in accordance with any Nigeria Labour Law and Policy.”

Functions of  tally clerks, onboard security men: Explaining why these workers  are important in the ports, MWUN’s scribe said among others: “Tallying services are for the benefit of the ship, the cargo owners, the ports and indeed the nation. It is through physical recording of cargoes  that discrepancies can be detected.  It is through Quay Apron Tallying that undeclared tonnage can be detected in the interest of national economy. NPA collects records of the Tally Clerks by which it calculates cargo through-put on which its final Bills are based.

“The independent Tallies generated by the Cargo Tally Clerks are the evidence of imports and exports through Nigerian Sea Ports and can be used for the purpose of correct amount of foreign exchange Remittance/Transfers by Nigerian Banks in the Nigerian International trade activities,” he explained.

Interest of the consignees

For the onboard security men, he explained that “they keep watch over cargo against “Wharf-rat” who may be involved in stealing on-board the vessel, in the interest of the consignees, and the nation. They prevent unauthorized entry on-board the ship e.g. the ship stowaways. On a number of occasions, the onboard security men have caught and stopped illegal aliens and stowaways onboard. “The registered onboard Security men are the only security operatives that keep night and day watch over the ship, her cargo and movement of human traffic in and around the vessel day and night.  security in line with the ISPS code, on behalf of the nation,” he averred.


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