The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has threatened to withdraw its services from the seaports and terminals in Rivers State over the abduction of its members by gunmen suspected to be sea pirates.
The union warned that if nothing is done by the State government and security agencies ‘anytime soon’ to release their members, they will be forced to shut down the Rivers Port in Port Harcourt and Onne port.
Five members of the union including three other persons were kidnapped in a passenger boat along Kula-Abonrma River while travelling to Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on Monday.
Speaking with Maritime Today Online, Vice President General of MWUN, Comrade Francis Bunu, said the abductors have established contact with the leadership of the union demanding a huge sum, which although he refused to disclose.
“They have contacted us, but we cannot disclose the amount and we have told them that we don’t have money. We have been paying countless times but enough is enough. We are tired. We know how much we have lost as transport people who work in the maritime sector to pirates. We are just mere transporters, so why are we seen as the cash cow of kidnappers?
“We have told the government of River State and all security agencies that if nothing is done to release our members that were kidnapped, we are going to withdraw all our services from River State,” he said.
Bunu decried the spate of insecurity on the Port Harcourt waterways where activities of sea pirates had led to incessant abduction of their members, killing and raping of women using water transportation.
Noting that the government is not doing enough in securing the waterways, Bunu said members of the union have always been at the receiving end with huge sums paid as ransom to sea pirates.
He added that insecurity has been a major challenge why the ports in Rivers State have remained underutilized, charging security agencies to step up their surveillance on the waterways to curb the menace of pirates.
“The issue of kidnapping has been happening too often and our members are often the target. Enough is enough. We know how much our members are suffering because the two ports in River State are not working as a result of insecurity in the waterways. A female member who is among those kidnapped had 13 boats but now she is left with just two because of the activities of these pirates.
“To do business in Rivers State is 10 times costlier than doing business in Lagos. What are our security agencies doing? What is the job of the Navy and Marine police? Everybody must do their job, if not, we are going to withdraw our services,” he warned.