By Bayo Bernard
On April 27 the Nigerian Senate gave legal teeth to the Ports and Harbor bill, one of the bills constituting the Infrastructure Bill which the National Assembly believes will open up the country and create thousands of jobs. While the upper chamber awaits concurrence of House of Reps, events in the last few days threatens its final passage. This is so considering ongoing high wire lobby by stakeholders in the maritime sectors on lawmakers in the lower house to thoroughly scrutinize the bill.
The Nigerian Ports and Harbours Bill, 2017 provides private ownership, management and administration of Ports and Harbours in the country. Senate President Bukola Saraki had immediately after the passage stated that the Infrastructure Bill will create close to 600 thousand jobs across the country. Promoters of the bill insist its passage is a step towards the development of the maritime sector of the economy.
But three months after trenchant opposition has mounted against the National Assembly to dump the bill, yet to be passed by the lower chamber, House of Representatives.
In what seems a total showdown with the Nigerian Government amalgamation of the labor unions, on Tuesday shut down operations in all the ports across the country.
The protesters include members of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and the Senior Staff Association of Communication, Transport and Corporation (SSACTAC).
The workers warned that the bill when finally passed by the National Assembly, will lead to many job loss, contrary to views expressed by lawmakers.
President MWUN, Adewale Adeyanju, disclosed during the protests that the bill was against the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Act of 1955 as amended.
Besides, the bill, he stated ‘will lead to massive job loss to our members and not all the workers currently with NPA will be absorbed” by new owners who will now be managing the ports. Private ownership of the nation’s habours also poses a great risk to the security of the country, the workers also said.
The experience from the 2006 concession of the country’s ports, the workers said has put a lie to claim that more Nigerians will be employed in the new regime.
“The bill if passed will send dockworkers, seamen, shipping operators staff, staff NPA to the labour market and the bill does not make provision for those who will not be absorbed because there will be no payment for them by the new Nigerian Harbours Authority, Adeyanju said.
In view of this “we want to use this medium to appeal to members of the National Assembly and its leaders to throw away this bill because it seeks to do more harm to the majority and favour the few individuals promoting it,” the labour leader said.
The protest some members of the unions told the magazine was a show of force to warn the lawmakers that the bill cannot be forced on the workers. They said the lawmakers have rebuffed all efforts by the workers to make inputs to the bill before it is passed into law.
Last month on June 1 MWUN wrote a letter to the Speaker House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, urging him to dump the bill in the interest of workers who will lose their jobs when the law is passed. The Bill has already passed second reading in the lower chamber.