The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) on Sunday threatened to embark on a nationwide strike at seaports over the arrest of its members on essential service by Governor Nyesom Wike.
The union issued a 48-hour ultimatum, starting from Monday to Wike to release the dockworkers or they will be forced to shut down all nation’s ports by Wednesday.
In a statement titled: “Unlawful arrest and detention of dockworkers who went to the port to carry out essential services by Rivers State Task Force on COVID-19 lockdown,” which was signed by the President-General of MWUN, Com. Adewole Adeyanju, the union said: “We wish to use this medium to state that if in the next forty-eight (48) hours starting from Monday 11th May 2020, nothing is done to affect the release of our members, the union will have no option but to withdraw our services in the entire nation’s seaport, terminals and jetties in solidarity with our detained members as an injury to one is an injury to all.
“The leadership of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has received with shock and disbelief the arrest of over 20 dockworkers and other that their whereabouts cannot be accounted by the Rivers State Government on Saturday (May 9) on their way home after the day’s job.
“We were informed that the affected Dockworkers were returning from essential service operations to BUA/PTOL terminal, Port Harcourt and were unlawfully and forcefully arrested, and detained by Rivers State Taskforce on enforcing COVID-19 lockdown.
“All entreaties/explanation made by our members to the task force team led by the Governor Nyesom Wike, that they were on essential services fell on deaf ears although they presented duly signed ‘Essential Duty Port Pass’ issued by the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA).
“Instead, the governor, mocked them that they should go to Abuja and work.
“Consequent to the above, most terminal operators, shipping companies and port users in Port Harcourt port are closing down shop as a direct result of the unsavoury activities of the Rivers State government for not allowing port workers and other stakeholders to work.
“This has direct implication to the nation’s economy and a clear threat to the employment and job security of port workers including dockworkers and shipping companies’ employees. As direct consequences of governor Wike’s action, some terminal operators have closed down their operations till further notice leading to loss of jobs by Nigerians and dock workers.”
The union added: “Consequent to the above, we call on President Buhari, the Minister of Transport – Mr Chibuike Amaechi Rotimi and other well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on Governor Wike to immediately release our members – dock workers and others were arrested and their staff bus impounded on Saturday 9th May 2020 while on their way home having rounded up the day’s work.
“Already, there is restiveness in the entire ports across the country and this appeal to release the arrested workers is to douse the rising tension in the ports which could snowball into full-scale industrial unrest if not quickly apprehended now.”