Checks on ships at berths are statutory and are carried out all over the world but these vital aspects of port operation are being grossly abused on a daily basis and with impunity at Nigerian seaports. The checks carried out at Nigerian ports by representatives of security and regulatory agencies are often abused and fraught with corruption.
Towards this end, the management of the nation’s premiere port, the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa has made a bold move to curtail the excesses of the affected government operatives.
In a letter dated 4th June 2015 with reference number LPC/PM/OP/087, titled REPORTED ACTS OF EXTORTION BY SOME SECURITY AGENTS/GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS BOARDING VESSELS IN LAGOS PORT COMPLEX and obtained exclusively by SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, the management of the port frowned at the activities of recalcitrant security operatives and vowed to put a stop to the practice, which is said was adding to the cost of doing business at the port and creating a bad image for the country.
The letter, signed by the LPC Port Manager, Mallam Nasir Anas Mohammed, was addressed to the Controllers of Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Nigeria Immigration Service and Head of Port Health Service in Apapa.
The letter reads: “The Port has received intelligence report on the activities of some unscrupulous operatives/personnel of some security/government agencies bordering on extortion of ship Captains and their crew members that call at the Port, including demanding for Dollars, Pounds and other valuables during their duty on board vessels.
“It has further been revealed that such operatives adopt all professional tricks to fault the crew documents and or operations citing often non-existing regulations that have been contravened as a basis to threaten the crew with a fine ranging from $5,000 and above. In all cases, such threats are used to negotiate. Some operatives also violate the privacy of the crewmembers and have been reported carting away canned food and drink items from the vessels. Vessel Captains have often expressed displeasure and anger over such shameful and disgraceful acts.
“It is recalled that last year, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) had written to demand an investigation over complaint of alleged extortion during boarding by some Health, Immigration, Customs and Port Officials filed by the captain of MV “KOTOR” with IMO No. 9575981 that berthed at ENL between 24th – 28th August, 2014.
“The unethical and unprofessional conduct of such bad eggs among security and government agencies involved in boarding vessels to discharge statutory duties has remained an eyesore that continue to give the port and the nation a bad image. It is therefore necessary that all concerned monitor their staff involved in boarding vessels.”
Mohammed stated in the letter that appropriate measures were “being put up to stem the bad habit.
These measures, according to him, include the mandatory installation of CCTV along quayside to monitor and record all movements in/out of any vessel while shipping agents have been asked to encourage their vessel Captains to use other devices/measures to monitor the boarding and other activities of all persons on their vessels at the Port and promptly file complaint of extortion where such occurs.
Other measures, according to the Port Manager’s letter include a directive to operatives/personnel boarding vessels to desist from demanding and/or receiving souvenirs from crew members even as all stakeholders are to be enlightened on the specific roles of all statutory officials boarding vessels at the port.
“In view of the serious concern over this matter, it is strongly enjoined that all operatives/personnel involved in boarding vessels exercise the expected discipline and professionalism as the Port will not hesitate to expose anyone who remains recalcitrant,” the letter added.
Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.