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By Victor Ahiuma-Young

ORGANISED Labour in the Maritime industry, under the aegis of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, has announced a former declaration of a trade dispute with the Ministry of Transportation over the unpaid benefits to workers of the defunct Nigerian National Shipping Line, NNSL, 27 years after the liquidation of the national carrier.

MWUN made the announcement in Lagos, after the aggrieved ex-NNSL workers and relatives stormed its Osho Drive national secretariat to protest the refusal of the ministry of transportation to pay their benefits after liquidation.

The issue of unpaid benefits to the ex-workers has been lingering between the Ministry and MWUN for years.

Addressing the aged 2,000 former NNSL workers and their relatives, President- General of MWUN, Prince Adewale Adeyanju, informed that MWUN has declared a trade with the Transportation ministry and vowed that the Union would ensure that the rights of the workers are paid.

Recall that NNSL, established in 1959, was liquidated despite fresh investments by the government over  mismanagement. This led to selling off the 21 vessels in the fleet after incurring debt.

Prince Adeyanju noted that the matter was taken the courts and the ruled in favour of the former workers for the government to pay their benefits.

“I directed the Branch to invite the retirees of the defunct NNSL. If our country has respect for retirees, I don’t think we would still be seating here and talking about your gratuities and pensions.

“It is because our past leaders have no regard for people that used their productive lives to serve this country. Your matter would now be one that the whole world would be involved.  I met this case on my table when I resumed office, we have been looking for ways to resolve it, but now, we are would use all resources available to us to see to its logical conclusion.

“It is your right and nobody can take it away from you. You have contributed to the success of this country, the government is supposed to have paid your benefits. But as it is now, we have declared a trade dispute with the Transportation Ministry, reconciliatory would be set up to see how the money would be paid to you.

Court ruling

“I urge you to exercise patience as we work to get your rights for you. You took the government to court and you have won the case against the government, the court judgment asked the government to pay your gratuities and your pensions. Those concern should tell us why they have not done that.”

According to Prince Adeyanju, while some of the retirees were paid a token, others had not been paid, saying “We are doing a follow up on this matter by sending people to Abuja. The matter is under two ministries. That of labour and of Transportation. It was gathered that the ex-workers still alive are now old, incapacitated and live on begging to feed, even as others have died from malnourishment, diseases and depression among others.

Lamentation

One of the affected ex-workers, Oluwashina Otutu, who worked with the defunct NNSL for 15 years, lamented that he was yet to be paid his entitlements by the Federal Government.

He narrated the harrowing experience of the ex-workers who have been abandoned, lamenting  that feeding has become an a major problem to them, let alone be able to  care of themselves and their families.

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