Some former workers of the Nigerian Ports Authority in Apapa, Lagos, have bemoaned their poor treatment following their disengagement from service in 2015.
The ex-workers under the aegis of Pool Tally Clerks and On-Board Security Men said they were paid between N200,000 and N400,000 through Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria as gratuity after spending decades in service.
It was learnt that those who spent 10 years in service were given N200,000 while those who had put up 20 years of service and above got N400,000.
Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, had on September 5, 2019, approved severance packages for the ex-workers and directed NPA and MWUN to effect the payments.
The affected ex-workers told Sunday Special during the week that they were shocked when the union paid them N400,000 in January, noting that they had petitioned the National Assembly, Ministry of Transportation, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and Inspector-General of Police.
The spokesperson for the disengaged workers, Adeshina Olayiwola, however, said they had not got any response to their petition.
He said many of his colleagues found it hard to pay bills and cater for their families.
Olayiwola stated, “Imagine someone who spent 10 years in service being paid N200,000 as entitlement. I spent 25 years and I was paid N400,000. We wrote to the National Assembly, Minister of Labour and Employment, NPA and NIMASA five months ago, but up till now they have not responded.
“We used to be under the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Later, we were moved to the Ministry of Transportation. Some of our people are facing health challenges, some have died and others are struggling to pay bills.”
An 80-year-old ex-official, Mr Julius Babalola, who joined the port in 1987 as a security guard, said the disengagement came unexpectedly, lamenting that the N400,000 he was paid was not commensurate with his years of service.
He said, “We have been receiving news of our colleagues’ deaths since we were disengaged. They gave me N400,000 in January which is not fair. I am an aged man without anything tangible to show for what I laboured for during my 28 years in service. It is my children that are taking care of me. Some of us are now sick. At this age, I need proper care which requires money.”
Another disengaged worker, Paul Nwokporo, who spent 26 years in service, said he suspected foul play on the part of the union.
The 52-year-old man said it was very tough for him to cater for his family with the meagre income he realised from his current job – farming.
He said, “No government would pay someone like me who worked for over 20 years N400,000. I have four children. Three of them have finished secondary school but I do not have the means to send them to higher institutions.”
Ajibade Okanlawon, 70, believed that the union did not give them what was due to them.
“The union should not be the one to pay us. NPA and NIMASA that are supposed to be involved in the payment didn’t show up on the day we were paid. I got N400,000 after working for over 20 years,” he added.
A septuagenarian, James Adegoke, who lives in the Mushin area of the state, said apart from the poor severance pay, some of them worked for another three years without being paid.
He explained, “The union initially told us that the NPA would give us huge money that we could use for something reasonable. Eventually, we were paid N400,000. We were originally 1,650 in number but the number was increased to 3,100 to accommodate other ex-workers who were not part of us.
Currently, I owe a year and a half rent. Two of my children are in higher institutions but I have no means to pay their school fees.”
A former pool clerk, Samuel Awoniyi, 72, stated that the union was an obstacle “denying us of our entitlement from the NPA.”
The MWUN President-General, Waheed Adeyanju, said the issue had been there before he came on board, claiming that it was the union that appealed to the NPA to pay the ex-workers severance packages.
He said, “The case was in court. What we did was to withdraw the case from court and we sat with the management of the NPA. They were able to pay them severance packages. They were all verified across the country’s seaports. They were casual workers; not permanent staff members of the NPA and the union was not involved in the payment.
“The directive came from the Ministry of Transport to NPA which paid each of them N400,000. The NPA, the union and their contractors did the physical verification of the statuses of all the workers. They were about 2,000. They are severance packages, not gratuities or benefits.”
When told that the ex-workers were at some point full staff members of the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Ministry of Transport respectively, Adeyanju said the claim was no longer tenable because “a private company has been granted a concession to manage the NPA”.
“It is no longer the NPA that is paying the workers. The two years arrears (after the disengagement) have been paid,” he added.
NIMASA Director General, Bashir Jamoh, directed our correspondent to the agency’s spokesperson, whose phone number he promised to send. He, however, did not send it.
A NIMASA official, who did not disclose her name, said, “I can’t comment on that (the poor severance packages) right now. You are not one of the disengaged tally clerks. They have their representatives who we have been communicating with. Right now, I can’t give you information on anything concerning that. If there is any information you want, write to the agency.”