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‘Over 95 per cent of Nigerian seafarers unaware of CBA content’

‘Over 95 per cent of Nigerian seafarers unaware of CBA content’
Adaku Onyenucheya 21 September 2022

The South West Director, Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria, Capt. Williams Ogunshakin, has frowned on the proposed review of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Act and the Merchant Shipping Act currently before the National Assembly.

Recall that the Director General of the NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, had stated during the Tripartite National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) meeting for the review of minimum standards for Nigerian seafarers that revised working conditions for Nigerian seafarers was a major component of the proposed review of the bills for consideration during the inauguration.

The agency stated that a review of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was necessary for improved wages and living standards for seafarers operating in Nigeria’s territorial waters who, undoubtedly, are an integral part of the maritime sector

Ogunshakin, who is a Master Mariner, said over 95 per cent of Nigerian seafarers are unaware of the contents to be reviewed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, noting that they were not carried along.

“CBA has to do with the welfare and salary of the Seafarers, but the point is that over 95 per cent of seafarers don’t know what is inside the CBA. In the same way, CBA became dead on arrival because they have made it a secret document. There are so many laws in this country that are not effective and cannot even work.

“When they were signing this agreement, the seasoned seafarers were not carried along to air their opinion. Now the same CBA, if that is what you want to add to the Merchant Shipping Act to make it a law, the same way the CBA is not active, the same is not going to be active by the time it is passed into law. A law can be revoked if it doesn’t make life comfortable. Out of over fifteen seafarers forums that we have in Nigeria, none of them can boldly tell you that they are aware of /or know what they have in that CBA,” he lamented.

He lamented that those involved in making the CBA are not professionals and don’t know what the seafaring bob entails.

“Can Maritime Workers Union represent us (seafarers)? Are they seafarers’ bodies? What do they know about seafaring? Or Can Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association alone represent seafarers? This is a purely professional job. So if you are going to pass any law that concerns seafarers, make it public and let the seasoned seafarers see what you want to pass into law. This has to do with their lives. If you don’t have a hidden agenda, make it open. And I must say they have a hidden agenda. If they don’t have a hidden agenda, make it open. Why are they making it secretive?” he stated.

He also lamented that the entire seafarers in Nigeria have been receiving salaries as casual workers despite many years of working on the sea, noting that the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Convention under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and MLC2006 have been misinterpreted.

“The system has gone far. They are paying a counterpart captain in the same job I am doing $10, 000 to $12,000. In Nigeria, some of the captains are earning $14,000, but my salary, with over 30 years in merchant shipping and seafaring, is not more than $5,000 to $6,000 as a Nigerian doing the same job. This is because we are having people who are not competent at the helm of our affairs. They do not understand how to interpret those laws; they refused to domesticate the law before implementation.

“We are just confused and nobody understands what is going on there. And if they sign this thing and pass it into law, we are finished,” he stated.