Call him a second generation stevedore and you may not be too far from the truth. Hon. Adegoke Moshood Salvador took time off stevedoring for a stint at the lower legislature. He came back to his first love and today he boasts of having one of the best set of dockworkers and one of the best stevedoring outfits in the nation’s shipping sector.
What is your experience as a stevedoring contractor?
I became a stevedore in the year 2001 when NPA cannot even identify who a better stevedore is. At that time, stevedoring contract was being given to people that knows the authority, but along the line the policy came and if you are not capable financially or administratively, you can not do stevedoring business successfully because you won’t even know how to manage labour; they are very aggressive people to manage, so you must be able to know how to manage people, its not a matter of having money to pay. Along the line, those that are not capable started looking for alternative businesses, but luckily and unluckily for me then, there was no main berth for me to manage, so I was given Dantata, Ibafon and Ibru jetty, but Nigeria for what it is; they took Ibafon jetty and Ibru jetty away from me again to some unknown people and I was only managing Dantata jetty. I had these experiences both by practice and from the academic knowledge.
That time, we might not even have any vessel to discharge for two months and our labour will be there, that time you can see our labour collecting N400, N1, 200 at the end of the month and you will pity them, therefore you will need to sit down and look for an alternative, I was buying rice and distributing to them so that at least they will have something to take home because there was no vessel to discharge at Dantata jetty , all we were doing was to wait for a vessel called Clover Leaf that used to come and discharge palm kernel, but today the story is different. I have labours that are building houses now, if you go to any jetty labour can never talk good of their employers, Dantata is very close to Dangote terminal in Apapa, I am the one discharging for MRS, and Dantata cement, go there and you will see my staff and labour wearing dock management Nigeria limited at the back, go there and talk to them or the unit officers, that is the way to treat labour and it should be extended to every part and sectors in this country including government.
At MRS, I paid labour for four months; since April but MRS has not been able to pay my company, meanwhile we have paid close to N30million, just last week they sent N7million and it is this same labour that were pressurizing them to pay, so you can understand the relationship between the management and the labour. We are now very few today because of concession.
People, especially port users always complain that the jetties are usually very dirty, why is this so?
The issue of clean environment will have to do with the Nigerian Port Authourity or the regulatory body and the port user because they have to give the jobs for us to clean.
You mentioned earlier that you are loosing workers, can you explain this?
In the stevedoring industry, we are loosing workers because most of all these concessionaires have sacked their stevedoring companies, they are now doing it by themselves so that they will not be able to pay the actual rate as recommended by government. For example, if a jetty operator sacks my company, what will I do with more than 120 dockworkers?
They will need to go and look for another job and you can imagine how many stevedoring companies that have lost their work in this industry.
Are you now saying that concession is not a blessing to this country?
I am telling you, it is not a blessing, you will tell me what government is getting out of it that makes it a blessing, you will tell me the number of people that are employed; that is what we are talking about. This is how to feel the pulse of the public and not for some people to collect money into government coffers; monies that we don’t even see.
How many stevedoring companies have lost their job?
At Yinka Folawiyo depot, there it was Tahil and Tahil, but now they have closed shop, berth eight that was being operated by Emma Bello has closed shop, where are their workers? Once it is said that a company has closed shop, where will the workers be? It is not just to pay gratuity or pension; we are talking of steady income for our people.
What do you think is the way out?
The problem started from when we started the Cabotage law, it is not the fault of those concessionaires but the fault of our government. I told them when I was a member of House of Reps., I was not even in the maritime committee, I was a member of the petroleum resources committee and poverty alleviation, it was because of poverty alleviation that I took the issue of this labour union on my head. There is a particular section in the law at that time that says that stevedoring is a reserved job for Nigerians.
But when they wanted to review the law, they changed it to “for Nigerian companies”, “for Nigerians” is different from “for Nigerian companies”. So, if foreigners come and register a company, it is a Nigerian company and that is what they did, that is the clause that finished everything and if you say anything, they will say ‘we are a Nigerian company and we have the right to operate’ and that is how they finished the whole system.
Most Nigerians are yet to be sufficiently educated about stevedoring, what efforts are you making towards this?
I want you to know that stevedoring business is a closed door business, I don’t advertise or go on television in order to get jobs, when we started it was the government through NPA that would send vessel to you, therefore it is always difficult and it is not something that the public are aware of, that is why it’s a closed door business. So for me to now go out and start educating the public about stevedoring; no, I think they should be educated on moral issues instead.
You said earlier on that they took Ibafon and Ibru jetty from you, who did?
That time when they were doing berth allocation, there were too many applicants to take care of. It was because I missed main berth that they gave me Brawal, but along the line, some other people showed interest and they just had to do it even without informing me. Later I got to know that they have given one to another company, so I decided to concentrate on the one I have so that I can get the best out of it.
Are your dockworkers casual or are they on minimum wage?
The real interpretation of salaries and wages does not put labours on salaries, they are on wages. What I want you to know is that, in my jetty I don’t see anybody collecting less than N48,000 monthly which is the minimum possible, we have people collecting over N200,000, I have to call them on round table every month to advice them on how to make best use of it. I have more than 120 workers on my pay roll and they are all on permanent employment.
Now that concession has turned out this way, what efforts have you made as a former law maker to report the situation to the Federal Government through the minister?
You don’t need to be a law maker before you can make such efforts, as a stevedore there is no other way than to make it through you; the media, you can make them hear about it because if we keep quiet over these things, it will keep going like that and the innocent workers will remain the way they are except a very quick intervention is embarked upon so a s to put it right, so it is through the media and no other means. Since I left the National Assembly, I have not been there more than once or twice.
There have been outcries that private jetties are used for illegal activities, are you aware of that?
In my jetty, I have never heard anything of such, as a matter of fact it is mandatory for all labour not to take products from the companies, even MRS can not give them products and they take. We are as disciplined as that, if I catch you that they gave you kerosene or anything, you are going on suspension and when you go on suspension for two to four days, you will know how much you have lost because you wont be able to take tonnage and other extra services for that period, so why should you take kerosene and say somebody gave it to you, if they want to give you anything, let them go and give it to you outside my operational area.
There is no month that we pay less than N5.5million naira to our workers, the records are there.
What are the safety measures that you have put in place at your jetty and does it require any skill to be a stevedore?
This is part of what NIMASA is enforcing and it is what the then- JOMALIC taught us and we are still following it till today. For you to be a good stevedore, you must be able to kit your dockworkers properly, we have nose masks that are of different standards, also every week, we give our workers milk, we give them shoes and helmets, when you are working in cement areas we have plastic goggles which they must put on so that cement will not be able to get into their eyes.