By Dapo Akinrefon
A member of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on Ports and Harbour, Mr Ossy Prestige, has accused the management of West Africa Container Terminal, WACT, Onne in Rivers State for sidelining Nigerians in the operations of the ports.
The lawmaker made the remarks at a public hearing at the Onne Port where he accused the management of WACT of replacing Nigerians with foreigners.
The lawmaker, member representing Aba North/South Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, was part of those that visited the various seaports across the country.
He berated the management for the increased inflow of foreign nationals into the workforce, to the detriment of the Nigeria citizens.
He said: “The worrisome inflow has a high recurrent expenditure and a lot of skilled Nigerian workers do not have the opportunity to be employed.
“Bringing a Senegalese to be in the Human Resources department of the company- how can he function in such a sensitive department? What does he know about our labour laws? Presently, all experts are segregated from the foreign nationals at the admin office. And you will talk about the principle of inclusion. Why the hate against Nigerians?
“There is the issue of delay in service delivery despite the purchase of two mobile harbour cranes. Are the cranes really working at maximum capacity? Most times, these equipment are not fully functional, giving rise to misrepresentation in alleviating waiting time for vessels.”
At a public hearing at the Onne Port, the lawmaker had accused WACT of replacing Nigerians “who were occupying offices there, who were working there in different offices and employed people who are non-Nigerians; people from Republic of Benin, people from Senegal, people from West African countries and other countries of the world, when we have qualified Nigerians who are fit to be in those offices. Ninety per cent of the management staff are foreigners. Why should people not react over this?”
While calling for a stop in the trend, he said: “There is no way foreigners can come into Nigeria and on their own, take such actions that will reduce Nigerians. There are so many people in the labour industry and in the maritime industry we have a lot of experts.
“If they call for an application today, I’m sure there would be over five thousand applications from Nigerians who are qualified to do those jobs that the foreigners are doing. He said the issue of segregation against Nigerians would be seriously considered by the committee when considering its final report to be presented to the House.”
Prestige, who expressed worry over the state of the ports, said: “These Africans come under short term assignment and they are paid in foreign currencies, as well as naira, given accommodation at the camp with the resulting affect of an increased expenditure running into approximately N25 million for a six month period. Prior to now these positions such as shift managers had Nigerians occupying it and doing their jobs effectively at a minimal cost. This situation is inimical to national security.”