Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
For struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria
Newspaper of the DSM
HOW THREE DOCKWORKERS WERE KILLED AT APAPA
On the 21st February, 2003, it was about 4.50am, about 10 minutes to closing period for those on night duty. A dock worker (labourer) gathered industrial sugar from the ground (waste sugar) which is normal since they are poorly paid and being neglected by Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), the contractor and also the union. Then suddenly comes a policeman asking for settlement from the dock worker or he is going to seize the sugar from the him. This young man refused to bribe the policeman and also refuse to release the sugar to him. Suddenly, the policeman shot the dockworker and instantly he dropped dead.
The sound of the gun catching the attention of other fellow dock workers angrily, this policeman was bundled into the lagoon, hoping he does not know how to swim but unfortunately he can swim and he escaped from the working masses.
It was about 7.20 am, the dockworkers that were to resume morning duty came along in their numbers and heard about the incident that had happened few hours before. All dock workers of (berth 19) started with solidarity songs and by 8.30am, all dock workers in Apapa Port Complex joined in the protest of their comrade and all of them refused to go back to work until the policeman is brought to book.
At about 9.00am, the union leaders of Maritime Workers Union arrived at the Wharf gate and called on all the dock workers to go to work instead of promising the angry comrades that the policeman will be dealt with. They were instructing all the dock workers to go back to work immediately.
Angrily, one comrade threw pure water on the union leaders and suddenly, all the dock workers started throwing stones and the situation got out of control. The police came in again, they started shooting with the sound of bullets flying. Everybody started to run and in the process, another comrade was hit by a bullet from behind. Another mobile policeman that was supposed to be guarding First Bank of Nigeria shot 2 other people that are running for safety, one was a vulcanizer and the other was also a dock worker, bringing the total number of death to four.
Angrily, the dock workers re-enforced and came back for revenge but the area is already surrounded by police and mobile policemen shooting in the air and at the same time arresting.
With this, the comrades were made to retreat and the port was closed down since the dock workers are the source of production at the port and they were about 84% of the working population of the port.
DAY 2: 22ND FEBRUARY, 2003
At about 7.30am, as usual, dock workers begin to arrive at the port gate and normally they were stopped. About 10.00am, the union leaders arrived and threatened to victimised anybody that participate in any protest, that the case should be dropped, that they will handle it. And if they don't drop the protest, they will be replaced at their working place. Given the fact that if you lose your job, it might take years to find another job, so, all the comrades dropped the protest and went back to their various areas. About 20,000 or more participated in the protests.
The dock workers union leaders are working against the workers instead of working in favour of the workers.
The union is always against strike of any kind, if the world must know, the dock workers cannot enter the port freely because no form of identification was given to them that is accepted by the police or NPA security. If in case of accident, the union does not allow workers to fight for compensation even in the cases of death.
Since the union assumes office in 2000, the dock workers have been outside the port during the period of rainfall and dry season. Even prostitutes are allowed in, pure water sellers are allowed, food sellers are allowed but the working masses are not allowed in unless they wait for the contractor bus which comes once or twice daily thereby leaving thousands of workers stranded outside. At the long-run, they will return home without working for a living.
The union went into an agreement with the government and NPA that on no condition will they go on strike. But we workers are determined to fight for:
i. Wages increment
ii. Good working conditions
iii. Compensation for the family of the murdered workers.
iv. Freedom of speech
v. The right to have a port-pass like every other person.