The Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNOWTSSA) has reiterated that its membership strength stands at above 10,000.

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Dismissing those contesting the figure as attention seekers with limited knowledge of the union, it stated that the explanation has became necessary following some media reports by a group castigating the Trade Union Congress (TUC) affiliated union for allegedly bloating its membership figure.

NMNOWTSSA, which is the only registered body in Nigeria to oversee senior officers of seafarers aboard ships, said it was not ready to join issues with attention seekers over unnecessary criticism of figures they are not privy to.

Hence, it explained how the union garnered the acclaimed figure in the last four years under its national President, Comrade Bob Yousou.

Speaking on Saturday in Lagos, Secretary General of NMNOWTSSA, Comrade John Okpono Aleakhue, told reporters that the union was not against constructive criticism, adding that membership claim of the union extended to both financial and jurisdictional membership of the union.

Aleakhue further explained that the membership covered officers working at the coastal and offshore, inland waterways authority, among others.

According to him, majority of senior staff of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Zonal Council alone is into thousands.

He said, “To the best of my knowledge, Merchant Navy is a gazetted body, it is not a personal organisation and by its statutory position, it is only NMNOWTSSA that can speak for and on behalf of Nigerian seafarers and the other body that can speak for the ratings is the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria

“NMNOWTSSA recognizes the need for Nigerian seafarers welfare and well being us not tampered with. We do the best in line with international best practices as an affiliate of ITF to ensure that they get what they deserve.

“To me, that publication was a shocker to the association and what we saw on the online media credited to a group because we are not dragging anything with any group.

“We don’t want to join issues with impostors and attention seekers. Merchant Navy is a professional body.

“We have close association with Master Mariners, Marine Engineers and Surveyors body, Naval Architecture and Surveyors. These are the bodies recognized in Nigeria today.

“The group has no jurisdiction over seafarers and we will not join issues with a faceless group but to set the record straight”

He added that “our membership cuts across inland waterways Authority which is NIWA and NIWA operates in about 21 states in Nigeria and all the civil servants from grade level 7 are automatic members of Merchant Navy”.

“Looking at the fishery sector, the Marine fishers including the artisanal and the industrial workers. The artisanal is the informal sector while the industrial is the formal sector. All the officers in these categories belong to Merchant Navy”.

On the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for members, he maintained that the Maritime Affiliate Support (MAS) project has helped the union in negotiation for welfare of members

“Hence, the current National Joint Industrial Council, Minimum wage were drawn from International Labour Organization (IMO) and International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) benchmark in dollars”, he said.

“Merchant Navy under Engr. Bob Yousou, is doing a lot to see that our members are not used as slaves in their various workplaces.

“In conclusion, NMNOWTSSA extends its appreciation to our genuine members for standing behind us. The pivotal role played by the association in ensuring Nigerian seafarers are recognized worldwide and engage us on something worthy of note.

“As Merchant Navy under the leadership of Engr. Bob Yousou navigate its vision and mission for Nigeria seafarers trajectory, the contribution of our stakeholders like Master Mariners, Association of Engineers and Surveyors, Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, Indigenous Ship Owners Association are appreciated.

“All hands must be on deck to achieving a better place for Nigerian seafarers,” he advised.