“Those people that are attacking vessels seem to be more clever than our security operatives”
Comrade Adamu Y'au is the President of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Senior Staff Association. In this interview with Dapo Olawuni, he spoke on a number of sundry issues, especially the poor access into the ports in Lagos and the need for shipping companies to acquire holding bays. He also touched on the state of security at the ports which according to him has led to an increase in attacks on vessels at berth.
“Most of the staff in NPA are aged and this is why we are fighting for succession plan”
On the poor access to the ports in Lagos, your union has been very quiet, it’s only the Maritime Workers Union that has been talking
The union is not silent on the issue of the roads, when we came onboard , we sat down with the MD of the NPA and we discussed the issue of the bad roads, this road is very important in the Nigerian economy because it is an international access to our port, it is the gateway both entry and exit, so if the road is not fixed, the Nigerian economy would drastically go down, notwithstanding the traffic, but movement of cargoes, if cargoes are not easily moved out of the port, the turn-around time would not be there, the port performance indicators would not be right, and these performance indicators are what show the performance of any port, without the roads being fixed, we cannot get a good port performance indicator. We discussed with the Managing Director and she said it is the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Works, we subsequently wrote to the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, the only thing we wish to do but we couldn't do is to pay a visit on the minister. Unfortunately, the minister is somebody that we hold in high esteem, we see him as a workaholic, but unfortunately, on this particular road, he failed us, he failed his state and the country in general because, Fashola was a governor of Lagos State for good eight years and we all knew that he did well in terms of works, but I don't know the level of politics they are playing on this road, we would definitely find time to visit him, so we are not silent. I am not among the people that went to Abuja but as of today, I learnt that the MD has approved NPA constructing the road with her consolidated account, the only thing I don't know is the company that is going to work on the road, the road is less than five or six kilometers, from 2nd gate Tin Can Port to Mile 2 is less than six kilometers. The most important thing is to sanitize the road because most of the truckers are living on ‘pick and drop’ , so if you want to sanitize the road before construction works will begin, it has to begin with the formation of a very strong task force that would clear the road for the construction. You know better than I do, that so many containers are driving against traffic, because of some individual personal interests which we know is wrong. On the right lane leading to the port, this is where the bulk of the job is, some of the vehicles have even turned the road to be their workshop.
Are you aware that tank farm operators are already working on a section of that road?
That is a palliative measure they are applying, we are aware and we have seen it, but all these kind of palliative is not good for the road, the road needs total overhauling.
People are no longer promoted in NPA based on years of service; they now use examination, is this right?
Promotion examination is the practice of any organization, it is a policy from the Head of Service, most of the ministries of the federal government and their parastatals are using examinations to conduct promotions, so it is not a special case with NPA, it is a policy in every organization, it is whoever passes the examination that would go for oral interview, whosoever meets the aggregate mark would be promoted. We were having promotion issues before, but as of today, it is no longer an issue, we thank God almighty for bringing this present management that made promotion issue a policy, promotion is now a policy in NPA, from December to July, and July to December, this is how the promotion is being done, as I am talking with you, interview is taking place, eligible employees are conducting their interviews after writing the examination in May 2018 and they passed, this examination was conducted by ASCON.
There was controversy over who should conduct the exams, between ASCON and WAEC
That is no longer a problem. WAEC conducted the first and second examination, but then we argued that we are not children, WAEC is only good at conducting examinations for children and not for adults like us. ASCON is a professional training institution and a federal government institution at that, they know how to handle adults, this was why we argued and we thank God that we succeeded in getting ASCON to conduct the examinations.
We have noticed that there are more senior staff in NPA than the junior staff, what is being done about this?
There is more senior staff than the junior ones, this is because of two issues; retirement and promotion, most of the staff in NPA are aged and this is why we are fighting for succession plan, as people are retiring, some are getting promoted, the NPA should have find a way of employing more staff to operate in the field, than the senior officers that are mostly in the office, though we have some senior officers operating in the terminal, but still, we need a reasonable number of staff to operate in the system.
Would you say that the NPA is under-staffed?
You cannot say it is under-staffed, we only need a succession plan because, so many people are retiring, as people retire, we need to get new people to replace them so that the job can continue.
Attack on ships at berth is casting aspersions on our port system, how do we address it?
It is a security problem, attack on vessels at berth has been happening at our ports for long time, I am an operational man that started from the scratch as a junior staff, as at when we were still a container terminal, when you are working at the shipside either day or night, you would see people coming from across the water, coming with canoe to attack people, some of them will end up climbing the ship and attacking people onboard the vessel and taking all their valuables, in the process, we had so many cases of people falling inside the water. So the challenge is a security issue, the port needs more security personnel and we thank God that on the part of NPA we have a reasonable number of security personnel, only that they cannot work alone without the Police. The robbers are too clever, they would monitor the situation before coming to strike, it usually happens before security alert, this is why I appreciate the issue of ISPS Code. As of today, the ISPS code is working but not to the expected level of efficiency. Those people that are attacking vessels seem to be more clever than our security operatives, unfortunately we don't have a good emergency management and response, when attacks happen, we cannot contain it and make arrests.
Technically, it looks like the Port and Harbour Bill has been abandoned?
It has not been abandoned, that monster is the handwork of few individuals that knows the contents of the waterside and the coastal part of this country, by God's grace we are watching, these people on the waterside went to connive with politicians, they are now too busy, so they have kept it aside, but as union executives we are watching, and we would not relent on the case till we ensure that bill is killed. It is not favorable to our members.
Some have described the NIPOSA games as a colossal waste, how do you see it?
I am not a committee member neither am I a participant, I was only privileged to know when I was with some participants in a hotel in Abuja and they told me they were heading to Calabar for the games, the union was not involved, but by right, we are supposed to be involved because it concerns the workers, but we were not privileged to be involved in the games, and on that note, we kept quiet.
How would you access the NPA under Hadiza Bala Usman in the last two years?
She has done excellently well, you know the sector is very cumbersome, so Hadiza came in as a new person but we thank God that she is a quick learner and she has learnt a lot. On the welfare of staff she is performing well, like I also told you on promotion, this present management made the issue of promotion a policy, presently, there is a promotion process ongoing, after this, the next process of promotion would kick-start and would possibly end before February 2019. We appreciate the MD as an individual and her executive management in general; they are really doing well on the welfare of workers. The challenge Hadiza has is the issue of the road which is not her own doing, she is working tirelessly day and night to see how she can resolve this problem of the access road.
Recently, the NPA sanctioned some shipping companies for lack of holding bay, is this achieving results?
Shipping companies are supposed to establish holding bays and this issue has been lingering for so many years, even before the port concession, as an operations man, our former port management during the time of Abdulsallam were fighting for it, but the shipping companies were not doing well, I appreciate the step and position that the NPA management is taking now to ensure that the shipping companies establish their holding bays, let the shipping lines go and establish holding bays, let the containers not queue up on the roads, they should go and stack their containers outside, whenever they want to load for export, depending on the number of containers they need, they can liaise with the security operatives at the port to arrange for the movement of the containers to the port, the port facility cannot be a dumping ground for empty containers.