Maritime

How over 2,000 unpaid NNSL seafarers live on begging as over 500 dead without payment.

..some.of us now live under bridges, dependants live in squalor - Addio 

 

Some of the over 2,000 unpaid seafarers who worked with the liquidated Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) now live on begging to feed themselves even as over 500 of the Ill-fated workers have died from malnourishment, diseases, depression, among others
The aggrieved workers who are now old and incapacitated, narrated their pitiable living conditions in a chat with newsmen last week on the sideline of the one day coloquium organised by the Nigerian Merchant Navy Officer and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNOWTSSA) in conjunction with Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN).
Some.of those who spoke with our correspondent, lqmented how they have been living on begging for N200, N300 from old friends to keep bodies and souls together.
Recall that NNSL, established in 1959, was liquidated in 1995 despite investments by the government owing to mismanagement by state actors leading to selling off the 21 vessels in the fleet after incurring so much debts
One of the affected seafarers, Mr. Oluwashina Otutu who worked with the defunct shipping line for 15 years, lamented that he was yet to be paid his entitlements by the federal government.
He narrated the harrowing experience of the seafarers who said they had been abandoned, added that feeding has become an uphill task for them let alone being able to take good care of themselves.
He maintained that the abandoned seafarers have explored many avenues to address the issue without success.
Some of the measures according to him, include protest to the federal Ministry of Transportation, head office of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on several occasions.
He quipped that they were given empty promises at several times. According to Otutu, the seafarers were in 2012, invited for screening for processing of their entitlements but yielded no positive result.
Otutu said, “I have worked all my life in the NNSL for not less than 14 to 15 years. We have been on this matter for so long for more than 27 to 28 years. most of our colleagues have died and some are bedridden at home.  It is my friends that are helping me. My wife tried a bit but we are now divorced. She took good care of my four children if not they would have been nuisance in the society.
“We have protested in Abuja for about two to three occasions. At the last one, we went to the Ministry of Transportation and we had a meeting with the Permanent Secretary. He said we should hold on as our file goes to the Attorney General of the Federation and whatever they decided, the ministry would do it.
“After four months, the file came back to the ministry ordering them to pay us our entitlements.  The then Director of Marine wrote a congratulatory letter to us stating that they have accepted and they are about to pay. Unfortunately up till now, we have not seen the payment.
“NIMASA did not want to attend to us. We protested to NIMASA late last year and NIMASA said the matter is with the Ministry of Transport. They resorted that whatever the Ministry of Transport decide is what they will do to us.  Unfortunately till date, they haven’t come up with anything.
“In 2012, we were verified and till now we still haven’t seen anything. They know this is our right but they have decided to step on it because we don’t have anyone to fight for us. The President General of Maritime Workers Union, Comrade Adeyanju Adewale is on the matter now to ensure we get all our entitlements.
“We are appealing to the federal government to come and give us our entitlements so that we can have something to do.
“All over the world, seafarers have one discharge book and we earn in hard currency. I believe they have decided not to pay us because our money is going to much when converted from hard currency. Many of us don’t have jobs, some have died. We are over 2,000 and over 500 people have died while some are currency sick . We don’t even know when we would be paid.
Victor, one of the beneficiaries said he lost his wife because of unavailablity of funds to buy medications for his ailing wife.
Francis Addio, another affected staff who only worked for one year before the liquidation of the national carrier, fumed that even dependants of the late members cannot afford a square meal, pay rents or afford to send their wards to school.
Addio’s reprieve is that he is being assisted by the Catholic Missionary who gave him an employment as a cook on which he lives.
He has this to say, “I regretted joining the National Shipping Line. Nigerian seafarers have suffered for over 30 years just to get their pension and gratuity. Some stay under bridges, crying and dying.
“Some of our colleagues here are just next of kin. They are not the original beneficiaries. Their next of kin cannot take care of their children, pay their school fees, house rents, medical bills, or even a square meal.
“The government and leaders are not doing anything. They have no regard for Nigerian seafarers. We went to Industrial court but all to no avail. Just yesterday, we heard that one of our colleagues died.
“Thank God I was assisted by the Catholic Missionary where I am just trying to manage myself. I could not pay my house rent until the Catholic Mission assisted me. I no longer go to their office again” Adio lamented.
Jacob Dosu is a next of kin to one of the late beneficiaries whose death started after fainting three times during verification exercise

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