NAGAFF to embark on Mega Protest at Ports over persisting Police Detention of Exited Containers

NAGAFF to embark on Mega Protest at Ports over persisting Police Detention of Exited Containers 

Kathy Kyari 

There are strong indication that points to the possibility of a massive protest over the ongoing illegal detention and arrest of containers by some members of the Maritime Police, which have already been checked out and released by the Nigeria Customs Service, the legally mandated government body in charge of such duties, that could paralyze operations at Nigeria's major seaports in Lagos.

Remember that on the previous Monday, a group of freight forwarders took part in a nonviolent protest in Apapa and the surrounding area of the seaports to denounce what they called the illegal arrest and detention of containers that had already been cleared from the port by members of the Maritime Police with the intention of extorting large sums of money from the owners of the containers.

Emeka Obinali, vice chairman of the Apapa Chapter of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), who was speaking in Lagos, criticized the alarming trend of Maritime Police officers detaining customs brokers and also arresting, holding cleared and released containers in order to demand money.

This is happening in spite of numerous letters of protest sent to the Nigerian Shippers Council, the Economic Regulator of the Ports, the Inspector General of Police, the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, and numerous other government regulatory agencies, all to no avail because the Maritime Police officers have persisted in such unlawful behavior.

“What these Maritime Police officers do is to connive with shipping companies and we have identified LANSAL in this type of connivance. Through the shipping companies, they get access to the manifest and the container numbers. In some cases, they ask the shipping line that the affected container is on security watch list and it should be blocked.

“When your container is blocked, you will naturally be under intense pressure to get it released because you are afraid of paying demurrage and so through this means, the officers extort money from the freight forwarders that runs in several millions of naira. Sometimes, they even detain the agent and ask him to bail himself with huge sums of money.

“You can agree with me that this does not make for the 48-hour clearance of cargo, neither does it promote trade facilitation, a situation whereby Customs in conjunction with relevant and statutory government agencies would inspect cargo at the ports and release them only for Maritime Police officers to detain same cargo for no justifiable reason.

“We are tired of these extortions in our own fatherland, we have petitioned the relevant government agencies and this has persisted. The only option left to us is to embark of a mega strike action that would cripple activities of the seaports so that Maritime Police would allow us to do our legitimate businesses. I have started discussions with other chapter EXCO members and we are ready to fight this battle to liberate our members from these shackles of the Maritime Police”, Obinali lamented.

While condemning this unpleasant trend, Comrade Sunday Sylvester, Special Adviser to the National Coordinator of the NAGAFF 100% Compliance Team, expressed concern that it was not in the best interest of the Nigerian economy.

He asserts that the clear conclusion is that the importers, who cannot afford to bear such unneeded and avoidable additional costs because they must continue to operate, naturally pass the expense of Police extortion on to the end purchasers of the products.

Comrade Sylvester said: “It has become necessary and urgent for relevant government agencies to step in this matter. There is no place in the world where Customs would examine and release a consignment from the seaports only for the Police to wait for the same consignment on the way to seize and detain it in order to extort money from the owner.

“The seaport industry cannot afford the effect from such strike or service withdrawal because it will hurt the economy and to a high extent, Nigerians, especially the poor masses, who would bear the brunt of additional cost associated with Police extortion. This is why the authorities should urgently put a stop to this.”

Additionally, it was learned that the freight forwarders are preparing to write a last letter of protest to the Port's Police Commissioner, which would be followed by a massive demonstration if the situation doesn't change. 

Recall that Hon. Emmanuel Jime, Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Shippers Council, recently asserted that it is unlawful for the Maritime Police to stop or intercept cargo that has already been authorized and discharged by the Nigeria Customs Service.

Jime maintained that the Police were overstepping their limits while being represented at a recent event in Apapa by Director of Regulatory Services, Mrs. Ifeoma Ezedinma.

“It will not be nice for the agencies to protect their territories, what we need is synergy. The problem we have right now is that Customs is on one side and Police on the other side, and both of them are checking cargoes, which causes impediments and this is not good for trade.

“If Customs clears cargo, Police do not have the right or authority to detain the cargo. If the Police have intelligence on any cargo, they can follow it to the final destination and check it there since Police have access to everywhere, but not for them to congest our seaports or the access roads. We see these problems on a daily basis. All the agencies have their responsibilities cut out for them, so we should always interface with one another in order to harmonise and facilitate trade. By blocking or detaining already cleared containers, Police are not facilitating trade”, Jime further warned.

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