By Eguono Odjegba
DIRECTIVES by the police authority to sanitize operations of its men at the port last week created anxieties amongst importers and clearing and forwarding practitioners.
This is coming on the heels of perceived misunderstanding by clearing agents and freight forwarders who want the police authority to reassure the industry that its directives to police formations within and around the port industry should henceforth cease from arresting containerized cargo is adhered to, and not subject to semantics or official interpretation.
While the acting Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu penultimate week directed that henceforth only the Maritime Command of the Police should engage in stoppage of containers, the position was reportedly watered down the following week, that police action stopping containers from exiting the port on grounds of any suspicion should be through the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, who will in turn execute the stoppage.
Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, National Committee on Police Investigation Activities, Hon. Ben Anyanwu who made the latest development known last week while briefing the National Executive Committee (NECOM) of ANLCA disclosed that the development followed a tripartite meeting of the ANLCA, the NSC and the AIG Maritime, AIG Abdul Dahiru Danwawu at the Shippers’Council headquarters.
Anyanwu noted that the AIG informed them at the meeting that the IGP has directed that henceforth, any investigative activities concerning the port and cargo clearance from any other Police formation should be directed to the AIG Maritime saying that no other Police formation had any right to come to investigate any of the activities in the port even as he had directed that pending cases be transferred to the AIG Maritime.
Explaining, Anyanwu said, “On that note, he (AIG Maritime) promised us that he is going to work with stakeholders, he issued out a form that we are going to work with if need be that they are going to stop a container and this is the process it has to go”, adding that the AIG Maritime expressed surprise that his men were still stopping containers and that the Police Maritime Command are fashioning out a cleaner and acceptable way of stopping containers, rather than the current practice where police writes directly to the shipping companies to stop the release containers.
Those who expressed anxiety at the perceived conflict in directive said implementation of the IGP directive seen as promoting good governance and ease of doing business can only succeed when rooted in affirmative posture. Commenting, President of All Ports Unified Freight Forwarding Practitioners Association, APFFPA, Prince Mike Okorie said, “To start with the various police formations at the port takes part in cargo examination, so I don’t know what else they are looking for stopping containers on the way out of the port or within the port corridor. Now Zone 11 has also joined in catching containers. Recently an agent challenged them by showing them over twenty detention letters and asked the AIG, how many of these containers detained by your people has been found wanting? There was no answer, so you see it’s just a way of increasing clearance cost. And we are in a country where anything goes, so we are saddled with the police fate in cargo clearing. If the IGP has said only Maritime Command should be involved in cargo clearance checks, let it be so, there is no need for multiple police action.
“I am also concerned about the new tripartite MoU between ANLCA, Maritime Police Command and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, is the romance sustainable?” he asked.
Also speaking, Chapter Chairman of the National Council of Managing Directors of Nigeria Customs Licensed Agents, NCMDNLCA, of the Port Terminal Multi-purpose Limited, PTML, command, Mr Ari Ayuba said, “If the IGP’s directive is not watered down, it will reduce part of the rising cost in ports business. Sadly, the police have gradually become entrenched in cargo clearance, efforts to minimize disruptions from that end will be appreciated, and that is why we are saying that the IGP’s directive to keep other police formations away from the process is adhered to, because in the real sense of it, the police role at the ports is security and safety of lives and properties”.