Boat operators on Lagos state inland waterways have alleged high cost of training being imposed by government agencies such as the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The boat operators who in a chat with our correspondent lamented that despite the high training fees proposed by NIWA, the jetty where they work is yet to be completed.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that NIWA had earlier proposed a mandatory training and licensing of all boat operators within the Lagos inland waterways with enforcement bids to start next year.
The boat operators who registered their displeasure about the exorbitant cost of training being charged by NIWA informed that a sum of N50,000 is required as training fee, this is even as they informed that NIMASA also charges the sum of N20,000 for another training.
The operators groaned that they have been finding it difficult to cope with the N20,000 by NIMASA and the N50,000 by NIWA for the training.
In a chat with the Liverpool Unit Chairman of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Ayeyemi Omosuyi, he confirmed that the union is in synergy with the regulatory agencies in ensuring that boat operators are adequately trained and retrained in other to avoid mishaps and ensure safety on the waterways.
Comrade Omosuyi however said that the tuition fees proposed by NIWA for training and licensing is too high, stating that many of them are still struggling to make ends meet with the meagre they get from the business.
He said: “We work in collaboration with the NIWA and LASWA. On several occasions, NIMASA has come to train the boat operators on how to rescue passengers during mishaps. They have been here about two to three times. NIWA told us that the fee for the training is N50,000 which we cannot afford. We cannot pay such an amount of money. It is very unaffordable for us. We depend solely on this business to manage ourselves and pay family bills. We do not have any other business or work.
“The PDS training we do with NIMASA is N20,000 together with the medical check-up inclusive and many of us could not still afford it. Majority of us are uneducated. Some were brought into this job so that they can earn a living” Omosuyi said.
He however pleaded that the government should intervene and possibly reduce the cost of the training. “We are begging the government to look into this matter of training. Our people need this training in order to avoid boat mishaps, but we cannot afford N50,000”, Omosuyi pleaded.
Another boat operator who identified himself as Tunji also said he cannot afford the fees because he gets little income from the business compared to the risk they take on a daily basis.
“The cost of the engines is high. A tokunbo engine of 50 horsepower is between N2.2Million to N2.8 million; if the engine develops a fault, it is difficult to buy the parts because they are very expensive. Lots of boats have packed-off because of this and we use this business to manage and feed our families” he said.
Speaking on the functionality of the jetty at Liverpool, the Unit Chairman of the MWUN noted that the jetty is currently under renovation by the government and will hopefully be commissioned in a month’s time. He however solicited that the jetty should be given to the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria to manage.
“The Liverpool jetty is currently not functional. The Maritime Workers Union has been the one managing the jetty for a long time before the government from Alausa came to inform us that they want to renovate the jetty for us. We were asked to shift back a little so that we will not feel uncomfortable until the renovation of the jetty is completed. We were later informed that after the completion of the Jetty, it cannot be handed over to the association but will be handed over to LASWA and LASWA can in turn hand it over to whoever they deem fit to hand over to. We are pleading with the government to hand over the jetty to us. We are capable of managing and maintaining the facilities” Omosuyi pleaded.
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Reacting on the multiple dues paid by boat operators, Comrade Ayeyemi Omosuyi noted that boat operators are not being extorted by anyone, even as he added that the operators pay their monthly and yearly dues to appropriate quarters.
“In Liverpool here, we pay our monthly dues to the MWUN District. We were only asked to register our boats with NIWA and LASWA. We also purchase stickers from NIWA to identify with them. Sometimes we do give some of the managers at Liverpool and some other persons who don’t have jobs some token of money.” he said.
Also, the Secretary of the Unit, Comrade Owolabi told Shipping Position Daily that the jetty is under no threat of industrial unrest.
“We are okay, nothing is happening. We are trying to have training and retraining for boat operators and other things that will enhance their operations legally on the waterways. Nobody is extorting the boat operators. You have to pay NIWA and LASWA for the yearly license permit. All what we are doing now together with the regulatory agencies is to ensure the boat operators are trained and retrained. NIWA and LASWA are arranging that with the union”, he concluded.
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