Despite the alarming unemployment rate in Nigeria, LTT Coastal & Marine Services Ltd, a company contracted to manage government-owned vessels, has continued to place foreigners in positions intended for Nigerians, POLITICS NIGERIA findings have revealed.
This also violates the Cabotage Act 2003, one of the rules governing the operation of foreigners off the Nigerian coast.
Founded in 2007 as a fleet management company, LTT was assigned to manage the vessels owned by the Nigerian port authorities. This is due to the concession program introduced by former president Olusegun Obasanjo to reduce inefficiency in the ports.
Let us remember that in 2005, the Obasanjo-led administration handed over 24 terminals to private operators for a certain period of time, while NPA continued to provide technical supervision. In line with the program, eight tugs using Azimuth Stern Drive (ASD) were placed under the management of the LTT in an attempt to improve the availability of tugs, practical boats and mooring services in the port of Lagos.
These tugs are viz; MT Emekuku, MT Asaga, MT Gusau, MT Zaranda, MT Majiya, MT Uromi, MT Daura and MT Ubima.
Earlier this year, the company’s General Manager, Kalusky Yechiel Hilik, reiterated the firm’s commitment to capacity development and its vision of empowering more Nigerians to operate its vessels. Additionally, LLT Human Resources Manager Theodora Nwaeze noted that the company is focused on experience and capacity building, adding that the company employed only twenty expatriate employees, while others are 225 Nigerians.
Six of the eight tugs are fully manned by indigenous crews, while the other two tugs are comprised of indigenous and expatriate crews. Our Pilot and Mooring boats are also manned and operated by indigenous crews, ”he emphatically stated.
Meanwhile, this document has collected that no less than 30 expatriate employees are currently at the service of the company. These expats are from the Philippines, Russia, the Republic of Lithuania, Guyana, Poland, and other countries around the world.
In fact, POLITICS NIGERIA reliably collected that the company recently imported an additional six expatriates from abroad for training prior to employment. A list of expatriates obtained by this document showed that 23 of the foreigners are shared among the eight tugboats.
While some are foremen, the senior deck crew responsible for the ship’s hull and all its components, others are chief engineers and captains. Jan Rybicki, Tłusty Piotr and Engr Jacek Potocynz, all from Poland, are at MT Uromi.
Zubel Sviatoslav from Russia and Simutis Ricardas from Lithuania are at MT Ubima, Captain Feliz Andrew and Reid Murtland from Guyana are at MT Daura.
Additionally, Stanislaw Chachaj from Poland, Hetak Waldemark and Chief Engineer Jan Wenc from Poland are at MT Majiya. Chief Engineer Jaroslaw Paluszynki from Poland is at MT Gusau, while Chief Engineer Sekula Tadeuz from Poland is at MT Uromi.
Subsequent research showed that some of these expats have been in the service of the company for more than five years. For example, two Filipinos, Eric Mindeoro and Artz Calingasan, have been in the service of the company since 2015 according to their records on social media.
Alarming unemployment rate
According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the young population of Nigeria eligible to work is about 40 million. Meanwhile, only 14.7 million are employed full-time, while another 11.2 million are unemployed.
The alarming rate of youth unemployment can lead to increased insecurity and poverty, development experts have warned on several occasions.
Aside from unemployment figures, in the maritime sector, the country loses billions of Naira annually due to the dominance of expatriate players.
Earlier this year, the former Director General (DG) of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Security Agency (NIMASA), Temisan Omatseye, said that the Federal Government loses up to $ 1 billion annually in the maritime sector due to somersaults. of politics and dominance of expat players.
Omatseye posited that with Nigeria’s great coastline, it should be able to have a very strong maritime industry that would see local players benefit from the sector.
LTT’s action not only contributes to expat dominance in the maritime industry, it is also illegal. The employment of expatriates as ship crews is in violation of the Coastal and Inland Navigation Act of 2003, also known as the Cabotage Act of 2003.
With enforcement that began in 2004, the Act prohibits the commercial transportation of goods and services within Nigerian coastal and inland vessels owned or manned by expatriates. The law “reserves the commercial transportation of goods and services within Nigerian coastal and inland waters to ships flying the Nigerian flag, owned and manned by Nigerian citizens and built in Nigeria.”
However, upon receipt of a request, the Minister of Transport may grant an exemption to a duly registered vessel on the requirement that a vessel under this Act be wholly owned by Nigerian citizens when it is satisfied that no vessel is owned fully Nigerian who is fit and available to provide the services or perform the activity described in the application.
In addition, upon receipt of a request, the Minister may grant an exemption to a duly registered vessel from the requirement of this Act to be fully manned by Nigerian citizens when he is satisfied that there is no qualified Nigerian officer or crew for the position specified in the application.
POLITICS NIGERIA found that LTT has no exemption because the vessel is wholly owned by the federal government and has continually violated NIMASA manning regulations. Several sources who spoke to our reporter claimed that when the regulatory body comes to inspect, the foreign engineers leave or pretend to be subordinate.
“When NIMASA arrives, the foreign engineer will leave. He won’t act like he’s the boss. Now I’ll act like I’m in charge They will ask me questions. Once NIMASA leaves, the foreign Engineer will return. That’s what they have been doing for many years, ”one of the engineers told POLITICS NIGERIA.
He added that some of the expats were trained in Nigeria even before being employed, while several Nigerians struggling to develop have been turned away from the same leadership in the past.
Speaking with POLITICS NIGERIA, NIMASA Managing Director Bashir Jamoh said the regulatory body is not aware of the violations by LTT
“How can we be aware? You know that the Cabotage Law has four legs, endowment, ownership, tender … Everyone must be Nigerian ”.
He also stated that when one does not have the requirements, there is a provision for the exemption, noting that only the minister has the power to grant the exemption. Regarding LTT’s illegal activities, Jamoh said that NIMASA is ready to investigate whether POLITICS NIGERIA makes the results of its investigation available to the agency.
Horrible stories from former employees
Former LTT employees have also shared the unpleasant and unpleasant treatments they experienced while in the service of the maritime company. These experiences include racial discrimination, low pay, and disregard for NIMASA regulations.
One of the officers who longed for anonymity said he spent 10 years and four months with the company before submitting his resignation on March 3, 2020.
The naval officer who was initially employed as a cook, pursuing a career as a naval officer, attended the necessary institutions and obtained the relevant certificates and licenses.
In the meantime, he was disappointed in the management reaction that frustrated him for years. According to him, his promotion was delayed and when he was finally promoted to the rank of trained chief marine officer, he was not paid properly.
A capable sailor provides a variety of services on a merchant ship.
“I called them several times for a salary increase and they refused. I started as a cook. From (being) a cook, I got sponsored, went to school, finished. I brought my certificate of competence and handed it to them, they turned me down. They said I should get my hardcover license, which I finally got. “
“When I presented the license, they didn’t want to answer me for some political reason, they kept bringing expatriates. These expats bring them. They continued to propagandize that they were training Nigerian citizens, which is not the case. “
“At one point, when they confirmed me. They gave me a month’s letter. After I resumed, they didn’t pay me that month. “
He finally got another job that pays more than his previous job. They offered him N650,000 as a start versus the N342,000 LTT offered, he told POLITICS NIGERIA. For Solomon Wilson (name changed for fear of victimization), one of the captains who enrolled at the Nigerian Maritime Academy in Oron, Akwa Ibom State, to gain knowledge, his promotion was delayed.
Wilson worked with the company between 2009 and 2018.
“They are really frustrating. Poor payment. Bad salary structure. If you have trouble going to school. After you get your license, they will make empty promises that they will train you at the end of the day. “
“There were many of us who left there out of frustration. They prefer to bring foreigners to come and work there with the blacks. Before resigning, I wrote many letters regarding my training. They didn’t listen to me. I left there in frustration, ”he told our reporter.
Captain Hillary Okorie, whose contract was terminated in March 2015, lamented the wave of racism encouraged by the company. “I was one of the first people to work there. I was one of his first victims. The way Nigerians are treated there is not pleasant. I fought it with the last drop of my blood. At the end of the day, they were detained by contract. “
“There is racism in that place. They bring foreigners. People of Aruba. In fact, the people of Europe and Russia predominate. They pay them well and we pay very badly ”.
Narrating his experience, Mr. Okorie said: “One of the captains said that I cannot use the same facilities with him because I am a black man. Someone who came to my country. I thank God for controlling my temper that very day. I complained to the general manager, but they threw it away. “
“There is a disparity in the food we eat. The food we eat is different from what foreigners eat. They said their food is more expensive than ours. Some of them are paid up to $ 6,000 a month. They do the same job, the same risk. “
In separate interviews, the three former employees asked the federal government to intervene in the plight of LTT workers. They also disclosed that the tugs at their new workplace are manned solely by Nigerians.
“Nigerians can operate those ships with training, there is no need to bring foreigners,” Okorie said.
LTT Management is silent
When POLITICS NIGERIA approached the management of the maritime company, it refused to respond to the inquiries sent. Human Resources Manager Theodora Nwaeze, after being briefed on this newspaper’s findings, challenged our reporter saying, “Do you have your ID card? Don’t call me and start questioning me. “
“If you can call me sooner … I almost went to bed,” he said when our reporter reiterated the essence of the company’s reaction.
Meanwhile, after that night, he did not take our reporter’s subsequent phone calls or respond to sent text messages.
Source: Nigeria Policy