By Emmanuel Ayungbe
UYO – MARITIME activities at Ebughu Seaport in Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State were grounded yesterday, as leaders of organised labour operating in the port called out their members in protest over alleged violation of labour laws by the management of Virgin Forest Energy, VFE, operators of oil and gas and other maritime activities at the port.
The protesters, on the platform of the dockworkers’ branch of Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria, MWUN, expressed dismay at the deliberate refusal of the firm to work with professionals, and choosing to patronise quacks.
They explained that their resort to a peaceful protest was due to the anti-maritime practices employed by the company, adding that such action runs counter to the rules of engagement as enshrined in the Act establishing the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, the sector’s regulatory agency.
The protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as “Give us our right,” “We sleep no more,” “Dock workers need their rights,” “Stop using non-registered dock workers,” “Don’t cheat dockworkers,” “Comply with FG Acts of 2007 (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency’s gazetted),” among others.
District Chairman of the union, Mr. Nkereuwem Bassey, told newsmen that the union has every constitutional right to make the company employ its members.
He explained that the company’s decision to use quacks in its operations at the port has deprived the Federal Government of its statutory remittance of 0.5 percent, which every employed dock worker was mandated to pay into the coffers of NIMASA, every month.
The Depot Manager, who simply identified himself as Mr. Nwachukwu, appealed to the protesting workers to remain calm, assuring that their case will be looked into at a meeting scheduled for next week.