The port is a security area where only authorised persons should be allowed entry.
One of the greatest threats to the safety and security of goods and persons at Nigerian ports today is high human and vehicular traffic. The high rate of physical examination of cargoes, which requires the presence of the importer or his agent and manual processes in the logistics chain, necessitate the presence of a large number of people at the nation’s gateways.
It may be recalled that some port terminals and jetties in the country were recently found to have fallen short of provisions of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) . This was due in part to the high influx of people into the ports.
The ISPS Code is a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities, developed in response to the perceived threats to ships and port facilities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
The Code takes the approach that ensuring the security of ships and port facilities is a risk management activity and that, to determine what security measures are appropriate, an assessment of the risks must be made in each particular case. The purpose of the Code is to provide a standardised, consistent framework for evaluating risk, enabling governments to offset changes in threat with changes in vulnerability for ships and ports facilities through determination of appropriate security levels and corresponding security measures.
Controlled movement of persons in and around port facilities is essential in attaining the objectives of the ISPS Code.
Despite provisions of the ISPS Code, however, many Nigerians are yet to understand the importance of staying away from the port environment except when their presence is required.
Apart from regular port users, the facilities have become hangouts for many. Despite series of warnings and threats of arrest by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, hawkers, vulcanisers, mechanics, panel beaters, food vendors, commercial motorcyclists and tricycle riders all find it convenient to carry out their trade around the port environment.
The Western Zone of the Nigerian Ports Authority has campaigned vigorously against hawking and other unauthorised activities at the port. Orders have been issued and billboards placed around the ports in Lagos warning unauthorised persons to stay away from the facilities. Policemen attached to the Western Ports Authority Police Command have carried out raids, arresting and prosecuting defaulters of the order.
These notwithstanding, however, the number of people going into and loitering around the port environment is still at an unacceptably high level.
Not too long ago, the Customs Area Controller, Apapa Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Charles Edike, issued an order to clearing agents operating at the Customs office in Apapa Port to vacate the area and relocate to their respective offices. He issued the order after he found them idling away at the Customs office.
Many clearing agents find it convenient to be at the port even when they have no particular reason to do so. They see the port as their office, where they report to and close from, daily.
Since a good number of those who loiter around the port claim to be clearing agents, it has become compelling for the various freight forwarding associations to educate their members to desist from such acts as it is inimical to smooth port operation and poses a threat to safety and security.
The freight forwarding associations must also issue identity cards to their members to distinguish them from touts parading as agents. The freight forwarding associations have the responsibility of supporting NPA’s effort aimed at ridding the port of the high human and vehicular traffic, which have become clogs in the wheel of progress in the system.
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