By Ifeyinwa Obi
DeterminedÂ to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of consignments from the nationâ€™s seaports, the Ports Authority Police Command (PAPC) recently got a breakthrough in this effort, as it smashed a syndicate that had illegally cleared four exotic cars, all valued at N9 million, from the PTML Terminal, Tin-Can Island Port Complex, (TCIPC), Apapa, Lagos.
The PAPC had in the process arrested four suspects and recovered the four top range late model cars, including a Honda Pilot jeep, a 2008 Honda Accord saloon, a Toyota Avalon XLS saloon, and a Nissan Maxima SE, estimated at N2 million, N3 million, N2 million and N2 million respectively.
Briefing journalists at the PAPC Headquarters, NPA House, Marina, Lagos, last Friday, Commissioner of Police Hillary Opara, revealed that the case commenced on March 31, 2010, at 2.00pm when the complainant, Mr. Dare Layoaun reported to the Police that his brother, who resides in the United States of America (USA), had shipped the four cars to him.
Opara said: â€œThe complaint went ahead to inform the Police that he reported back to his brother in USA that he did not receive the shipping documents, including the bill of lading he sent through the NIPOST (Nigerian Postal Services). At this point, his brother decided to send another copy of the Bill of Lading, this time, through the shipping company. And that when he got to the terminal to commence clearing procedure, he discovered to his amazement that the four exotic cars had been cleared and removed by unknown persons. â€œAt this juncture, the Police commenced investigation, which led to the arrest of the underlisted suspects:
*Lawal Olanrewaju:- A graduate of Computer Science and an employee of Nigeria Postal Services (NIPOST), Ikeja Annex office. He was the person who stole the original Bill of Lading from his office and handed same over to Wale Adegbesan to look for a way to clear the four cars from the seaport.
*Wale Adegbesan:- Wale Adegbesan called in one Theophilus Ibor to the deal to assist him to clear the clear the cars his brother sent him from USA.
*Theophilus Ibor:- Theophilus again brought in his brother Friday Nweke who in turn introduced one Innocent Ezeagu Udoka who finally used the stolen original bill of lading to clear the 4 cars.
This same Theophilus Ibor was the person that assisted Wale Adegbesan to obtain a current Driverâ€™s Licence with the name in the original Bill of Lading for identification purposes and to facilitate clearing of the cars.
â€œThe good news is that all these suspects who conspired and stole these documents with which they cleared the four exotic cars have all been arrestedâ€.
The PAPC chief disclosed that the suspects have also confessed to the crimes they have committed and will be charged to court soon.
An elated Opara explained that all the four cars were recovered intact.
The newly-appointed Ports Police chief recalled that during his recent familiarization tour of his command’s formations at the seaports in the NPA Western Zone that he had informed industry stakeholders of the commandâ€™s steely determination to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of goods from the seaports.
â€œI am talking of a situation where a businessman or woman imports goods into the country, and somewhere along the line, the shipping documents get intercepted by a syndicate who goes on to clear the goods and convert same to use of its members. As far as this Ports Authority Police Command is concerned, this unwholesome practice must be put to a stopâ€, Opara said.
â€œI want to use this medium to warn the criminal elements to steer clear the seaports, as anyone arrested will surely be dealt with according to the laws of the land. At the same time, I wish to re-assure the stakeholders at the seaports that the Police are there to protect them and to ensure a peaceful atmosphere for law abiding citizens to go about their lawful business unmolested,â€the Police chief concluded.