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Port shutdown looms as workers oppose FG plan

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By Usman Oladimeji

Proceeding with the FG plan could potentially impact the NPA.

A nationwide port shutdown looms as workers in the country’s seaports voice their opposition to the Federal Government’s intention of reducing internally generated revenue (IGR) from Federal Government-Owned Enterprises (FGOE) by half, which includes the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). The Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government-Owned Companies Branch (SSASCGOC) and the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), have cautioned the government on February 12 about the consequences of proceeding with its plan, emphasizing the potential impact on the NPA.

Comrade Akinola Bodunde, the President of SSASCGOC, and Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, the President General of MWUN, expressed their dissatisfaction during a joint press briefing regarding a recent directive from the Federal Ministry of Finance. The directive, titled Ref FMFCME/OTHERS/IGR/CFR/21/2023 and dated December 28, 2023, was sent to all Federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies/Parastatals, proposing a 50 percent deduction from their internally generated revenue. Speaking on behalf of the unions, Com. Bodunde made it explicitly clear that they were filled with anger and despair regarding the potential negative outcomes expected from such an extreme action.

Proposed deduction could impact important maritime operations.

According to his statement, reducing the deduction by 50 percent would have severe consequences on the financial stability and smooth functioning of the NPA, causing significant challenges. He further clarified that since the NPA relies on its IGR to operate, reducing it by half would be calamitous for the NPA’s ability to carry out its activities effectively. He said the proposed deduction could greatly impact important maritime operations, like dredging port channels and maintaining infrastructure, ultimately resulting in possible disruptions in the flow of vessel traffic and port activities. Also, he expressed concern over how this deduction could seriously jeopardize both workforce development and corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Com. Adewale Adeyanju, the President General of MWUN, said a proficient labor force is crucial in facilitating smooth port operations. He elaborated on how the decline in revenue could impede the investment in staff training and welfare. The workers expressed their dissatisfaction on certain grounds upon receiving the circular from the Federal Ministry of Finance. According to their statement, the NPA is regarded as a self-sustaining government organization that does not rely on any funds from the government budget. However, if 50 percent of its internally generated revenue is deducted, it will significantly hinder the successful execution of its duties, resulting in undesirable consequences.

Constant dredging is indispensable for smooth navigation.

One of the corporate duties that they have to undertake is the continuous maintenance of the port channels by dredging. The channels in this region are reputed for being incredibly shallow, particularly the channels of the Eastern Ports in West Africa. Thus, a constant process of dredging is indispensable for smooth navigation of ships to their designated ports. Improving the channels of the harbours necessitates a substantial financial investment, making it quite challenging to accomplish in the face of a 50 percent reduction in the NPA’s generated revenue. Due to their old age, the majority of their Ports Quay Aprons have deteriorated and therefore they require regular maintenance to be carried out as an additional responsibility.

The requirement to maintain Ports, Jetties, and Terminals is a significant financial undertaking due to the dilapidated state of these facilities. It is crucial to develop a capable workforce to ensure enhanced productivity and effective service delivery. Reducing NPA-generated revenue by 50 percent will hinder the ability of a highly skilled workforce to effectively aid in competing and establish itself as the central hub of maritime business in the West African sub-region. Additionally, it will also compromise the execution of Corporate Social Responsibilities and impede addressing staff welfare concerns.

Related Article: Labour union gives FG 14-day strike notice

In light of the aforementioned factors, the union, once again expressed strong dissent towards the circular concerning the Nigerian Ports Authority. They proposed that the Authority should allocate 30 percent of its internally generated revenue for automatic deduction, leaving the remaining 70 percent to cover overhead costs and statutory duties. However, if the Authority fails to fulfill these obligations, the Union stated that they will be compelled to withdraw its members’ services from all Ports formations across the country.

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