The drastic lull at the gateway to Nigeria’s economy would have taken a toll early this week save for the quick intervention by the Federal Government, which reached a compromise with maritime workers to sheathe their swords. Sunday Ojeme and REGINA OTOKPA report
The nation’s economy almost veered into another round of complication early in the week following the threat of an industrial action by seaport workers under the aegis of Maritime Workers union of Nigeria (MWUN).
Having realised the damage it would have done to an already suffering economy, the Federal Government acted quickly and nipped it in the bud by promising to meet the demands of the workers, whose intention was to ground activities at the ports nationwide and by extension, the economy.
Specifically, the aggrieved port workers have had to raise their voices over the slow pace of rehabilitation work on the dilapidated port access road, a development that has led to huge financial and man-hour losses in all business concerns in and around Apapa.
Nine months after it suspend its strike over the poor access roads, the workers a fortnight ago gave the Federal Government a one-week ultimatum to get rid of all trucks blocking all roads leading in and out of the ports in Lagos, promising to down tools and commence a nationwide indefinite strike if the government failed to heed their calls as well as rehabilitate the access roads.
The President-General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju and Secretary-General, Felix Akingboye, said nine months after the union suspended the ultimatum, the roads have completely deteriorated and also claimed several lives and properties.
“In fact, we lost two of our members on the Oshodi-Apapa Dual Carriage Way. The Oshodi-Apapa Dual Carriage Way has completely failed and unmotorable. From Berger Bridge, there are countless craters and potholes on the road,” he said.
“To worsen the already terrible situation, from Otto Wharf, the road have become parks and mechanic workshops for heavy duty trucks parked and abandoned by drivers and owners in the last few months.
“Today, only few vessels now berth at our seaports as most ship owners and businessmen prefer our neighbouring ports especially Cotonou. While our neighbouring ports are booming, our ports have been deserted because of the failed access roads to the ports, the gateway to the nation’s economy. Last week we took an assessment tour of the roads and to our dismay, the Apapa axis of the Oshodi-Apapa Dual Carriage Way said to be under reconstruction by a consortium of private individuals, is now stand still.
“We even understand that NPA has paid a substantial part of N270 million pledge it made on the reconstruction of the road.”
However, in a bid to ensure shipping activities were not disrupted, the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Transportation, Ministry Power, Works and Housing as well as the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige in Abuja, early in the week, engaged the leadership of the union in a parley where new promises were made to ease the pressure currently being put on the port access roads due to indiscriminate parking of lorries and slow pace of work.
During the parley, Ngige reassured the union of government’s determination to tackle all the issues in order to enhance the ease of doing business and urgently arrest the situation where Nigerian ports constantly lose cargos to ports in the neighboring countries.
The minister said: “The Special Committee on road decongestion to remove Trucks/Trailers on the roads should be brought back and the personnel undertaking it should be strengthened.
“The collaborative efforts of Federal Ministry of Transport through the NPA, FMWP&H, Dangote Limited and Flour Mills on the two (2) Klm Wharf road is noted. However, these efforts have not been very appreciable as only 10% of the work has been done till date. The meeting therefore called on the lead project company; Dangote to speed up action in terms of galvanizing human and material resources to see that they meet the timeline of the completion of the project in spite of unforeseen challenges.
“The Federal Government to pursue vigorously the policy of non-establishment of new tank farms in the port areas.
“The collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Concessionaires at the Ports in terms of movement of Containers by rail should be strengthened so that there is no pillage of Trailers on access road to Port.
“Establishment of 340 (three hundred and forty ) capacity Trailer Park by the FMPW&H is a step in the right direction and noteworthy but the meeting appealed that the final stage of the Shore line Protection work be completed before the end of the 2nd quarter of 2018.”
To ensure things are done fast, the minister disclosed that a total reconstruction of the major access roads to Tin-Can Port area from Liverpool road via Coconut via Sunrise to Mile2 road should be undertaken urgently, stressing that FMoT through the NPA were to synergise and consummate the project before the end of the 2second quarter of 2018.
“The FMPW&H, which has already captured the road to Tin-Can Port in its 2018 budget, should also do the same for roads leading to other ports nationwide,” the minister said.
“The sanitary conditions of the surrounding and roads to the ports should be the social corporate responsibility (CSR) of the NPA and the authority should do the needful to remove the refuse within 3 months to avoid endangering the lives of workers and Port users.
“The source of funding for the 7 (Seven) km road from Liverpool to Mile2 should be from Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF), while the FMPW&H should provide technical expertise. In view of this conciliation meeting, the MWUN, hereby suspends its intended strike action.”
As the port workers have agreed to sheath their swords following promises made by the government, investors in that zone are watching keenly and expect that the needful be urgently done to allow for a smooth business undertaking.
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