The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has threatened to shut down the operations of Saipem in Nigeria over the company’s alleged indebtedness running into over $29 million (N10.6 billion) for services at the port. Adewale Adeyanju, president-general of MWUN, who disclosed this in Lagos at the weekend, said that Saipem owes the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) $19.3 million (N6.9 billion) for pilotage services and also owes dockworkers, who are members of MWUN, through their stevedoring contractor, Agwut A. International Ltd, over $10.4 million (N3.7 billion) for stevedoring services.
Soko Davies, executive director, Marine and Operations of NPA, who confirmed the debts in a letter dated 15th November 2017 with reference number HQ/ED/M&O/OP/1130, addressed to the managing director of Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, said that Saipem’s lacklustre attitude to meeting its financial obligations for the pilotage and stevedoring services is capable of stoking industrial crisis in the port. The letter reads: “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 the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria whose members are affected by the non-payment, has threatened industrial action and the NPA intervened through letters ref: HQ/ED/M&O/OP/799 and HQ/ED/M&O/OP/806 dated 22nd August 2017 and 12th September 2017 respectively. NPA, however, gave Saipem two weeks to pay up the dockworkers but the timeline has elapsed and the company remains unmoved.
Adeyanju said, “This matter has been ongoing for more than a year and the workers have been disturbing but Saipem have refused to pay. “We are planning a showdown because at our own level too, we have written and given the ultimatum. We have directed our members not to do any job until they settle the entire outstanding bill they owe us. It is painful that somebody will work for you and you will not pay the person salary and we know what our economy is like today,” the union leader said.
A dockworker, who identified himself as Gideon, accused the company of taken dockworkers and the Nigerian authorities for granted. According to him, “Saipem already received the money for stevedoring and pilotage services from their contractors, who they work for, so they are taking Nigerians, the Nigerian Government and the union for a ride by withholding the payments due to them. This is not acceptable at all.” Saipem has been in the eye of the storm lately as an Italian court ordered some of its executives to face trial on allegations of corruption in Nigeria and Angola.