The ‘New’ Maritime Workers Union Of Nigeria And The Legacy Of Peace

There is no doubt that the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) is a new brand, a brand that sprang up from the ashes of the old order where force and brute reigned, when the union was law unto itself and most parts of the Nigerian maritime industry.


For the once-dreaded and volatile union, the journey to the present has been quite long, especially since it became the amalgamated union for junior workers in the nation’s maritime industry.

The history of the MWUN can not be complete without reference to the ignominious years of the then-leadership of Comrade Uzoije Ukaumunna, under which the MWUN went through hell, and who which was forced out of office through the instrumentality of the Federal Government.

The removal of the Ukaumunna executives was allegedly based on petitions from users and providers of port services to the effect that the leadership of Maritime Workers union of Nigeria had become a ‘terrorist organisation’; intimidating shipping companies, harassing the management of Nigerian Ports Authourity (which was at that time, the master stevedore) and also intimidating other groups.

It was at that time that ‘akube’ became legalized (and institutionalised) in which case union leaders were directly involved in placement of dockworkers at the various terminals. For doing this, the leadership (or more precisely) the President General put less men on the job, collected wages for the men, paid them what he felt was okay for them and pocketed the rest.

There were allegations of ‘hijack’ of incoming vessels pending when their agents would pay a ransom. The union leaders were accused of all manners of illegalities. The then-president general had his own ‘army of bodyguards’ which dealt with perceived enemies.

These unfriendly practices which made the union president general; ably backed by dockworkers to become a tin god, eventually got to the ears of the Federal Government, which moved against them and constituted a caretaker committee.

Ukaummuna was succeeded by Comrade Onikolease Irabor in March 2001; he handed over to Comrade Tony Nted Emmanuel in 2009. He also handed over the reins to the incumbent; Comrade Adewale Adeyanju in 2017. Adeyanju himself secure a second term mandate only about two weeks ago.

No doubt, the emergence of the ‘new MWUN’ was consummated under the leadership of Comrade Irabor.

Yes, Comrade Onikolease Irabor inherited a high volatile MWUN. He did his best under the circumstances. It is this union that Comrade Tony Nted Emmanuel inherited from Comrade Irabor in Benin, Edo state capital. Comrade Nted Emmanuel also bequeathed a relatively peaceful union to Comrade Adeyanju in March, 2017 in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

Glad to note that, the MWUN and its four branches, namely: NPA, Dockworkers, Shipping and Seafarers, have not deviated from the enviable standard since the incumbent; Comrade Adewale Adeyanju mounted the saddle as the President General in March 2017.

It is to the credit of the current leadership of the union, that there has not been any major industrial unrest since they took over; rather the union and its branches have enjoyed a very harmonious relationship with their employers.

We daresay that the union leadership also enjoys the support and confidence of its members; this is demonstrated by the fact that there has been no reported case of uprising at any of the secretariats of the branches and the union’s national headquarters in Apapa.

There has also been peace at the ports and at the various terminals and jetties all over the country.

While commending the efforts of past and current leaders for the new brand that they have remodeled the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria into, we can only appeal that the Federal Government its agencies and the private sector player who engage members of the union should also demonstrate utmost good faith at all time.

There is no doubt that Comrade Adewale Adeyanju earned the second term mandate which the union members recently gave him.

Without necessarily pin-pointing his achievements in the first term, the overwhelming support that he got from the four branches of the union, which culminated into the second term ticket is vote of confidence.

By delving into areas that will boost the revenue profile of the union and make it less-dependent on the mandatory union dues, the MWUN under Comrade Adeyanju has written its name in gold.

It is also instructive that the exit of the old order under Comrade Uzioje Ukaumunna, this is the this is the first time that the union will hold its election in Lagos. Previous elections were held outside Lagos because of the usual volatility and the attendant security breach.

Even though, in the past four years, there was no disruption of port operation by the union or record of violence in any of the branches, holding its quadrennial delegates conference in Lagos, is perhaps the greatest testimony that the union has finally dropped the toga of violence.

We wish Comrade Adewale Adeyanju as he begins the second four years as the President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria