NDLEA warns against attempts to exclude agency from port duties

ndlea - customs

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) will take legal action against any act of misinformation calculated to obstruct it activities at the seaports, the agency has said.

The chief executive of the NDLEA, Muhammad Abdallah, said in a statement Monday that the agency would remain vigilant in preventing the use of the seaports for drug trafficking.

“The operations of the NDLEA at the seaports is statutory and it is pertinent to set the records straight,” said  Abdallah, a retired colonel.

“This clarification is imperative in the light of conflicting reports intended to mislead members of the public on the official position.”

The anti-drug trafficking agency had claimed last week that its activities at the ports had been endorsed by the federal government in an executive order issued by acting president Yemi Osinbajo.

Mitchel Ofoyeju, the NDLEA’s spokesperson, quoted Hadiza Bala Usman, the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) as stating that eight agencies, including the NDLEA, had been cleared to operate within the ports.

But the NPA denied that Usman made such claims, and insisted the executive order listed only seven agencies – the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Police, Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and the Port Health Authority (PHA).

“I want to first recognize the seven approved agencies of government that operate in the port,”  Usman said while meeting with ports stakeholders at the Western Ports in Apapa, Lagos, last week.

“I will like to reiterate those agencies of government that are operating at the port. We have NPA as the landlord, Customs, NIMASA, DSS, Police, Nigerian Immigration Service and the Port Health.

“These are the seven agencies that are mandated and have approval to operate in the port. Any agency that is operating in the port outside of these seven agencies is not required to be in the port and should be aware that they need to vacate whatever location they are currently having within the port, because the current approval and position provides that they are not to operate in the port.

“We have the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, which is required to come in and provide their function as at when is required. This is the current position on agencies of government that operate in the port.”

But in his statement on Monday, Abdallah warned that serious government business, such as the number of agencies approved to operate at the seaports, must not be treated with frivolity, adding that any person or group of persons trying to misinterpret the Presidential Executive Orders for selfish reasons would be dealt with in accordance with extant laws.

“There are official documents to this effect and members of the public are advised to discountenance statements that lack credence.

“I wish to state unequivocally that NDLEA has the mandate of the Federal Government to carry out full counter-narcotic activities at the seaports. As a responsible Agency of government, we consider the misrepresentation of facts as a slight on the Presidential Executive Orders on the ease of doing business,” he said.

According to a letter by the NPA dated 2nd June 2017 inviting the NDLEA to a meeting, Usman mentioned the agency as “amongst the seven” approved to operate within the ports via the Presidential approval of October 2011.

“I wish to hereby invite you for a meeting to discuss the implementation of the Executive Order issued by the Acting President to promote ease of doing business in the Ports,” read the letter signed by the NPA boss.

The NDLEA statement went ahead to reproduce Section 8 (1b) of the NDLEA Act which states that: the Agency shall work in collaboration with the Nigerian Customs Services in monitoring the movement of goods and persons in any customs area, customs stations, customs ports or customs airports and searching cargoes and incoming and outgoing vessels, including pleasure craft and fishing vessels as well as aircraft and vehicles and, when appropriate, searching crew members, passengers and their baggage.

Abdallah said the NDLEA was operating at the seaport in compliance with the law and Federal Government directive and any attempt to violate the directive would be considered as a conspiracy to advance the nefarious activities of drug cartels to the detriment of national security.

“The interest of Nigeria must remain paramount above every other consideration,” he said.

“No one agency can succeed in isolation, we must learn to collaborate, share intelligence and embrace latest technology in promoting government’s policy of facilitating trade and encouraging Foreign Direct Investment,” the statement said.