Despite suspension of container stripping by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) within the Tin Can Island Port premises, the illegal practice still persists, worsening the gridlock on the port corridor, investigations by SHIPS & PORTS have revealed.
Stripping is the removal or offloading of goods from a standard container to the warehouse or to an open ground for the client or clearing agents to load out.
NPA had in a memo to stakeholders last week said effective, Wednesday, November 25, 2020, it would sanction bonded terminals engaged in container stripping.
NPA said it had been inundated with complaints from Customs agents about these unacceptable actions, which contribute to the traffic gridlock along the Tin Can Port corridor.
It was, however, gathered that some bonded warehouse operators located around the Tin Can Island Port, in connivance with unscrupulous NPA security officials and the police still engage in stripping of containers that have exited the port, resulting in more chaos along the port axis, as most articulated trucks used for the illegal operation are parked on the single access lane, making free movement difficult for other motorists.
As a result of the congestion created by these activities, other cleared imports have been unable to leave the port resulting in ship queues due to space constraints inside the port terminals while export cargo have also been unable to access the port.
The security operatives, it was gathered, have turned the ugly development into a bribe-taking venture with a about eight illegal checkpoints mounted between Tin Can First and Second Gates to extort truck drivers.
At each of these extortion points, the officials collected between N30,000 to N50,000 from each truck driver to allow them park and discharge containers along the road.
Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS, a clearing agent operating at the Tin Can Island Port, Emmanuel Onyeme, said the corrupt practices of the NPA security officials and policemen mostly take place at night when the stripping operation is often carried out.
“Stripping of containers in the yard is a brisk business and it is still going on at Tin Can, contributing to the traffic gridlock along that axis.
“Despite the letter issued by NPA, the activity is still going on because they do it mainly at midnight and the NPA security officials collect their money.
“If a truck is coming from a terminal inside the port, for it to cross the Tin Can roundabout, the truck driver must give out nothing less than N30,000 to the security officials to cross the roundabout.
“At National Bus Stop, the security agents collect between N30,000 and N50,000 depending on the power of negotiation of the truck driver. When they enter the stripping yard, the truck driver pays N150,000 to the off-loaders and out of that amount, they release N50,000 to the NPA officials who are on duty and the striping must be done midnight from 12am before the day breaks.
“The owners of the bonded warehouse also pay the security officials certain amounts before they allow them offload. Some of the owners of the warehouse are even the ones that will negotiate with the security agents. They collect the money from the clearing agents before the trucks enter the yard,” he said.
A truck driver, Mutiu Olanrewaju, who said his truck has been on the queue for more than four weeks after paying N180,000 to police officers stationed along the Tin Can-Mile 2 Road, said some truck drivers resorted to offer bribes and engage in container stripping due to the difficulties, delays and harassment they experience before they can access the port.
According to him, “The police officials along Tin Can-Mile 2 Road have several roadblocks mounted and they collect N180,000 from each truck driver before they could pass.
“The stripping of containers is also contributing to the congestion along that road because the truck driver who gets to Tin Can will not want to come out again because of the money they pay to the security agents. If they leave, coming back will be a big challenge for them, so they prefer to remain there and engage in container stripping.
“My truck has been at Fatgbems filling station along Tin Can-Mile 2 Road for over four weeks with N180,000 that the police have collected and even when you get to First Gate, you can spend another two weeks to enter the port. So it is a difficult situation for us too and the security agents are taking advantage of it.”
When contacted, Port Manager, Tin Can Island Port, Abubakar Bello, promised to respond to the allegation of extortion leveled against the agency’s security officials but did not get back as at the time of filing in this report.