The Acting Managing Director, Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, on Tuesday accused Naval personnel and Police officers in Lagos of illegally escorting cargoes from the nation’s port.
Bello-Koko said at an interactive session with the House Committee on Customs and Excise that these officers were also involved in extorting money from importers from the several check points created in the port by various security agents.
He said NPA is working with the Federal Ministry of Transportation to ensure that the Lekki Deep Port commences operation by the second quarter of next year.
He also said the security challenges in the Southeast had also affected the operations of the ports in the east.
”There is the issue of extortion. There are multiple checkpoints in the ports extorting people. You have multiple checkpoints that are just springing up. These checkpoints are manned by police officers. At times you find men in Naval or military uniform, escorting vehicles illegally, Bello-Koko said, adding that the “Lagos State government has been very cooperative in terms of enforcement of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) as it relates to the Electronic Truck Call-up System’’.
“We held a meeting recently with Federal Road Safety Commission, LASMA and other officers in the police force, and we decided that let them identify checkpoints and the essence of the checkpoints is let it not interfere with traffic,”he said.
Bello-Koko said the essence of the check point is to verify which truck is allowed to come in, “but we discovered that a lot of the trucks will just park along the TIN CAN/Apapa corridor looking for business.That means they actually have no business being in that location and that is why truck parks were created and automated.”
Responding to questions on the number of ports working in the country, he said: “All the ports are working, but pointed out that the Eastern ports have geographical limitations. “They have the longest channels that exist in Nigeria because they are not near the ocean. So, because of their location and the insecurity in that area, it makes it difficult for shipping companies to use those ports.’’
“We have also given concessions to shipping companies and we are hoping that it will encourage more activities on those ports. We are encouraging the use of flat vessels in those areas. But the NPA cannot determine for an importer where to take his cargo.”
He said studies have shown that between 60 to 70 per cent of cargoes imported into the country use the southern ports. “So, you don’t expect an importer who wants to use his raw materials in a factory in Lagos or Ibadan to take his cargoes to the Eastern part of the country.
– The Nation