The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has strongly asserted that the intention of Gboyega Oyetola, the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, to revive a new national shipping line following the demise of the first Nigerian national shipping line (NNSL) will face insurmountable challenges unless the outstanding entitlements owed to the elderly seafarers who served on the initial national shipping line are settled.
In a statement released on Wednesday by MWUN’s President-General, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, the maritime workers pointed out that the concept and operational framework of the Blue Economy have not been clearly defined, necessitating further clarification.
According to the MWUN statement, “During his recent visit to Lagos, the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Hon. Adegboyega Oyetola, outlined plans to revive the Nigeria National Shipping Line (NNSL) after 28 years since its liquidation.
“Several months ago, the President-General of the Maritime Workers Union (MWUN), Comrade (Prince) Dr Adewale Adeyanju, engaged with the Minister during the commissioning of the Mission to Seafarers Centre in Apapa. At that time, he apprised the Minister of the significant challenges facing his ministry and the unresolved issues concerning the Maritime Workers Union, particularly the prolonged non-payment of entitlements and pensions to disengaged seafarers from the liquidated NNSL.
“The President-General of MWUN informed the Minister that, despite a ruling by the National Industrial Court (NIC) in favor of the elderly seafarers, they remain unpaid.
“The proposition of reestablishing a new national shipping line will be unrealistic if retired seafarers, who served their country with unwavering patriotism, are not accorded their rightful dues after 28 years of service.
“This would amount to a grave injustice and an attempt to implement such a proposal without first addressing the concerns of the aged seafarers would be putting the cart before the horse.
“As a Labor Union, we will not stand idly by while our elderly seafarers endure unnecessary hardship after years of dedicated service to their homeland. It is a sad reality that some of these elderly seafarers have succumbed to various ailments, including psychological torture, trauma, mental degradation, abject poverty, and more, leading to their decline into depression.
“It is worth noting that the former Minister of Transportation, Muazu Sambo, established a committee involving the Ministries of Transportation and Labor, respectively. This committee was tasked with physically verifying the aged seafarers, a move the Union hoped would bring relief. Unfortunately, the committee has never convened, leaving us in a state of limbo.
“How can we proceed with the revival of the NNSL without considering the welfare of the seafarers who diligently served the now-defunct carrier vessels? This is an unprecedented situation globally, making the notion of a new NNSL conception a mere illusion unless the necessary steps are taken.
“The blue economy, a term on the lips of every Nigerian today, became a global concept in 2012. Therefore, the Union insists on its inclusion in all aspects of the new ministry. The Union must participate in the policy-making process, ensuring conformity with the principles of social inclusion and collaboration, as the blue economy should contribute to strengthening social equity.
“It would be unfair for the Union to hear any pronouncement from the Minister regarding a new NNSL without addressing the unresolved entitlements of the previously disengaged seafarers. These issues must be fully settled.”