THE Nigerian Navy, last week, dismissed the unspecified number of personnel, following the recommendation of a special panel constituted to investigate allegations of extortion brought against them.
The special panel which was constituted by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Abas, followed the sacking of the Navy from traffic control at the Lagos ports access roads by the Presidency, occasioned by series of complaints and petitions by various stakeholders.
Sources within the Naval Western Command said following the panel’s recommendation, operatives found wanting were dismissed, while others, including a Rezr Admiral, were given administrative sanctions.
Part of the inquiry by the panel was the alleged collection of N70, 000 per truck to drive against traffic straight into the port terminal, and alleged bribe seeking under the guise of escorting affected trucks to the ports. The gesture ended up in controversy following alleged abandonment by the accused Naval men after the collection of the said unrefundable bribe.
A Western Naval Command officer who confirmed the development said that while some have been dismissed, other offenders were receiving various degrees of punishment depending on the level of their culpability.
The officer who refused to reveal identities of those involved said: “The Navy does not tolerate any form of indiscipline or criminality, anybody found guilty is always punished. Some of the affected officers have been dismissed and some are still in custody. Some of those that have been found culpable have been dismissed; depending on the level of the complicity. Some have been administratively punished. That is the latest about that now.”
When contacted for his reaction, Chairman of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMATO, Chief Remi Ogungbemile, said though the news sounded cheering, it has not taken away from the woes of truckers doing business at the ports. He added that the government should concentrate effort at the automation of traffic control, and dwell less on task forces, which he said will always be prone to abuses.
His words: “I need to be very careful because I discovered that there were many interests working with operatives of the Navy. I realized that some of our people were romancing with them. They collected money from drivers and owners and acted as the second party in the extortion problem. Since I am not the one that was directly extorted, I will rather suggest how the gridlock at Apapa will disappear, because there will be no room for extortion if the gridlock is no longer there.
“So whether some Navy officers were sanctioned or not does solve the problem, because there is still extortion even when other organizations have replaced the Navy. The government should speed up automation of trucks call-up system, and stop setting up task forces. The task forces are the same, they are human beings, they are Nigerians, they will always collect bribe, they are not angels.”
Meanwhile, indications have emerged that the much-expected trucks call-up system facilitated by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, has been put on hold, due to efforts by the authority to shortlist a private operator deemed more suitable to manage the trucks call-up operation.