Two weeks ago, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) raised an alarm over explosives on board a merchant vessel, the Feng Kang Shan, that berthed at Terminal E, Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa, Lagos.
The five containers suspected to be carrying the explosives arrived the terminal onboard the Feng Kang Shan alongside 20 pressurised oil tank wagons, which were imported by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
The Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, was scheduled to take delivery and commission the wagons on that fateful day, only for the ceremony to be halted when the minister, hours behind schedule, arrived the LPC venue of the event, following talk of consignment of explosives allegedly onboard the vessel.
The minister could not commission the wagons, as the officials of NIMASA insisted that operations onboard the vessel have to be stopped in line with international best practices to ascertain the owners of the alleged cargo of explosives.
There at the event, the ownership of the explosives could not be readily ascertained, as there were insinuations that the explosives may either have been imported by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) or a private firm.
Since no entity was said to have imported the explosives, the event was put off for a later date pending when investigations would be completed, but last Tuesday the minister returned to the port to commission the wagons, after about two weeks of not hearing from NIMASA, as to the outcome of their investigations.
In the ensuing interval between the aborted and successful commissioning of the rail wagons, Ships & Ports had tried to confirm the result of the investigations from NIMASA, but was told by NIMASA’s Deputy Director, Public Relations, Hajiya Lami Tuamka, that investigations were still ongoing.
After the commissioning of the wagons, journalists swooped on the minister to ask him what was discovered in the containers regarding the explosives, to which the minister answered that nothing incriminating was found against the ship.
In the words of the minister: “NIMASA was right to have stopped operations on the ship, but nothing incriminating was established against the ship.”
Ships & Ports was reliably informed that it was the NPF that imported the explosives, which also included arms and ammunition.
Obviously, the importation, because of the organisation, would be a legitimate transaction, and we counsel greater inter-agency cooperation in the importation of such sensitive items as explosives to avoid such alarm that may ultimately turn out to be a hoax.
Certainly, this is not the first time agencies of government would be raising alarm that eventually turn out false over the importation of consignments of allegedly dangerous cargoes at Nigerian ports. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), State Security Service (SSS), and Nigeria Customs (NCS) readily come to mind.
Security is everyone’s concern but we must do it by exercising great caution in order not to add to the already bloated fear in the minds of Nigerians.
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