Ukaumunna who held sway as the union’s leader and Vice President of the then Adams Oshiomhole-led Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), and his executive team were thrown out of office by government fiat in year 2000, for allegedly being too confrontational with the establishment.
Arguing that the position of the union under him had been vindicated with the recent proliferation of illegal arms and ammunitions detection through the seaports, the unionist pointed out that his view had constituted a thorn in the flesh of some of those who stood to gain from the system without consideration for the safety and security of ordinary Nigerians private security guards, bullet proof cars and houses.
The embattled workers’ leader, his union had recommended the commercialization of the ports, rather than privatisation, when it became clear that government could no longer keep the ports as a public monopoly.
His words: “I and my executives were not against port reforms. What we did which is based on international standard and practice was that as a union that loves its country, members and government were to advise government to look at the security implication of privatising the ports.
“We travelled to many countries, including the Peoples’ Republic of China and United Arab Emirate to find out what was obtained there, and when we returned, we published our findings and recommendations in a prominent national newspaper, based on what we saw. One, Dubai Ports Authority was owned by the government and doing well. For four years then, the port was ranked as number three most efficient port worldwide. Two, Singapore Port was commercialized and yet the country has not got many natural resources except for tourism and its ports system which was rated as number one in the world in terms of efficiency.
“So what we recommended was commercialisation and when government decided that it would not retain full ownership and would not commercialize but privatise, we let it be because nobody can fight government. It is unfortunate because the situation has eroded the security because we know that the security of the country lies in the international borders, air and sea routes”.
Ukaumunna who maintained that he was still the authentic leader of MWUN, pointed out that the battle was at the doorsteps of the International Workers’ Arbitration Panel.
He added “I know that justice will prevail one-day. For now, we use this place (his personal residence) as our secretariat since armed mobile policemen have taken over our secretariat at Osho Drive, Olodi, Apapa, Lagos”.
Ukaumunna who expressed disgust at the development pointed out that since he was pushed out of office in 2000 on the order of the former Minister of Transport, Mr. Ojo Madueke, the Union Secretariat had remained under armed guards 24/7, without recourse to public outcry against the act.
Brandishing series of letters from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), All Japan’s Seamen’s Union and that of the Comrade Oshiomole-led NLC in which the bodies joined other groups in calling for the reinstatement of his executives, Ukaumunna revealed that a larger section of the union’s members remained loyal to him and even pass on their contributions “under cover” to his secretariat.
By John Iwori