Comrade Ifeanyi Mazeli is the President of the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) branch of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN). In this interview with Shipping Position Daily, he speaks on some of the coming MWUN elections, the achievements of the incumbent President General of the union; Comrade Adewale Adeyanju. He also discusses some general issues about the nation’s maritime industry.
“It is a well-deserved re-appointment for Comrade Hadiza Bala Usman”
How would you appraise the maritime industry in 2020?
The year 2020 was a trying time in the maritime industry; a lot of issues came up during the time in question, you can remember the issue of COVID -19 that started as early as March and by August the worst of the impact came through the #EndSARS protest. But, we give God the praise and also thank employers of labour who have also done very well in ensuring that there is high productivity and I can say it’s a good one, because not many company laid-off workers in spite of all the situation they still keep afloat.
What are your expectations for 2021?
We expect higher productivity, we hope to see employers of labour do more to make sure that the labour market that is already saturated is somehow `reduced, by ensuring that a lot of graduates that are roaming the streets get employment and we hope to see more peaceful environment where business can thrive, so that both the nation at large and everybody will be okay.
In specific terms, what are the areas you want government to pay attention to?
If you talk about the maritime sector, there are lot of places , we have other ports in Nigeria and these places are not thriving, so we want to see a decentralized formation where vessels will also call at Warri, Port Harcourt, Onne, Calabar ports and I want government to do urgent thing that will make these ports to be like Lagos; we all know that Lagos is totally chocked up and I hope the government will pay attention and do this; if it is dredging or whatever, so that some of these cargoes we see in Lagos will drop at these other ports and move to Aba, Onitsha, Port Harcourt, so we want a situation where government will look into it.
As the President of the NPA branch of MWUN, how would you react to the recent re-appointment of the MD of NPA?
We can tell you that, it is a well-deserved re-appointment for Comrade Hadiza Bala Usman, you know many of us don’t know she is a comrade, but that is the simple truth. If you remember her antecedent in the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ issue, of course you will agree with me that she is a comrade. Although she is serving in government, but she is performing very excellently as a comrade, and if you look at NPA you will discover that she has brought in a lot of innovations and connections and things are really moving well. So I want to use this opportunity on behalf of NPA branch of the MWUN and the entire union of NPA to congratulate her on her reappointment.
What will you consider as her greatest achievement?
When she came in for the first time, I remembered the question I asked her, I asked straight that ‘we learnt that there are indication that you are coming to sack workers’ and I ask her if indeed she is coming to sack workers and she said No. So, not sacking workers I will say, is one of her greatest achievements and again before her coming on board there were a lot of anomalies and which she has corrected, the issue of salaries; before, you see where junior staff is earning more than the senior staff, which is to say the least, not acceptable. But, when she came in, she corrected all these and more so there is higher productivity, since she came in as well returning of surplus operating budget has been on the increase; sometimes N30 billion and more. So, if she can be doing all these things, it means that under her watch, there is accountability which is paramount and also there is high productivity for the workers.
The MWUN election is just a few months away, what is the position of the NPA branch?
The position of NPA branch is very simple, because this is a man that has done a lot of good things for system, so the position of NPA branch is for Prince Adewale Adeyanju to go back and complete the good work he has started. When somebody is given a work and has performed very well, you will give the person a pat on the back as a means of saying well-done.
Is it a must that every PG must run for second term, is it automatic?
No, the verdict is from the workers, if the workers say they are not comfortable with your activities, they have the right to say we want to bring In another person, but if the man has done well, that is why I feel that if I tell you some of his (Adeyanju) achievement, you will know that he deserves a second term.
Please tell us some of his achievements?
When we came onboard, we were barely two months in office, when we were confronted by a monster called Port and Harbour bill, we have been singing this song everywhere we go. The PG of MWUN said over his dead body will he take a port where workers will lose their job the second time. He said, look Nigeria has the right to name the port as they wish, we have move from Nigeria Port PLC to some other names, today it is Nigeria Port Authority, we used to have eastern zone, western zone and all that, but the paraphernalia is not the issue, but that the content of the bill is such that Nigeria workers will be enslaved and that is why, when we saw the content we said no, we can allow the federal government to do what they want to do if only the job security of our members is guaranteed and the PG singlehandedly sponsored me and some other members of the union to move to Switzerland and meet with International Labour Organisation President and we sat down to discuss this issue very well, and he wrote a lot of letters to Nigeria’s President, Vice President Senate President and so many places and we even had to have several meetings with some members of the National Assembly in a way to present our position as to why the Port and Harbour bill will not work. Adeyanju ensured that this bill was not done to short change any Nigeria workers, so that is on the NPA. So for the fact that we are still in service today, after God, it is Prince Adewale Adeyanju.
Look at it again, sometimes ago, the National Salaries and Wages Commission wrote and said that some people do not deserve bonus and all that, he called me and said if NPA is making profit today, are you telling me the workers are not working. He said an organization cannot make profit, except the workers work, so you cannot say the workers do not deserve it, and he insisted that every worker must be paid and we went on through the management, the management weighed in the matter and we resolved that.
Adeyanju came in and he increased the salaries of the workers of the union; he picked from up what he met on ground, he set up cooperative and has even organized a seminar for them. This man has programmed everything; the union is going into diversification just to make sure the union is strong, Adeyanju has done so much that if one begins to count, it will look like praise-singing, but we are talking of things that are visible.
Adeyanju came in, he met existing peace in the industry, what can be more than peace. In an industry where there is no peace, can business thrive? You can understand that barely two strikes have we embark on, first is the issue of IOCs not remitting their money to Federal government account and the second is the issue of the roads. So for a man that has worked four years and he always says, closing the port is not the option, the option is dialogue; if for peace alone we are asking him to continue.
What kind of person is Prince Adewale Adeyanju?
He is a very humble man, a passionate man and his strength of hospitality is very high, he doesn’t see anything as a problem, he always believes that every problem has a solution, even if it is two person quarrelling, he has a way of reconciling these things and irrespective of his class or position, he has this humble way of life that if you are meeting him for the first time, you won’t believe he is the president, he is a very humble man.