NPA, maritime workers berate Saipem over alleged debt
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the maritime workers, under the aegis of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), have vowed to sanction Saipem in Nigeria over more than $29 million (N10.6 billion) owed for various services at the ports.
The Guardian gathered that the firm owed the NPA $19.3 million (N6.9 billion) for pilotage services and also owed dockworkers, who are members of MWUN, through their stevedoring contractor, Agwut A. International Ltd, more than $10.4 million (N3.7 billion) for accumulated stevedoring services.
Executive Director, Marine and Operations of NPA, Sokonte Davies, stated the company’s huge debts in a letter with reference number HQ/ED/M&O/OP/1130 and addressed to the Managing Director of Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd.
Davies said the huge indebtedness and Saipem’s lacklustre attitude to meeting its financial obligations for the pilotage and stevedoring services are capable of stoking industrial crisis.
The letter read: “We are constrained to once more draw your attention to the looming industrial crisis you are stoking by the refusal of your company to pay outstanding stevedoring claims to Messrs Agwut A. International Ltd.
“You will recall that following the threatened industrial action by the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, whose members are affected by the non-payment, the Nigerian Ports Authority intervened through letters Ref: HQ/ED/M&O/OP/799 and HQ/ED/M&O/OP/806 dated August 22, 2017 and September 12, 2017 respectively. Further clarifications were made to stakeholders at a meeting recently held on stevedoring matters in which your company participated.
“The intention of the meeting is to ensure that affected parties equally understand all issues relating to this operation. Obligations on this operation are supported and guided by laws and extant guidelines in which all parties involved should not violate.”
Davies gave Saipem two weeks within which to pay up the huge sums owed the dockworkers but as at the end of the two weeks grace period, the company remained unmoved.
Also, President-General of MWUN, Adewale Adeyanju, said that an industrial action against the company is inevitable.
He said: “This matter has been ongoing for more than a year and the workers that are working under them have been disturbing us but they (Saipem) are still adamant and have refused to pay. We have written series of ultimatum but they are still adamant.
“I don’t know why somebody will come and do business in Nigeria – of course we did not say they should not come and do business – but at least, they should respect the opinion of Nigerians and pay the workers what belongs to them.
“The two weeks ultimatum given to them by NPA has elapsed and up till now, they have not called us for any meeting and this issue is generating a lot of crisis in the union.”
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