Investigations by Shipping Position Daily have revealed how corrupt Marine Police personnel engage in the smuggling of persons and goods across borders despite the closure of the nation’s land, water and air borders by the Federal Government due to the outbreak of the COVID- 19 pandemic.
Our correspondents uncovered how boat operators, marine Police officials and smugglers collude to move goods and persons across the waters.
Our reporter who visited the Liverpool Jetty in Apapa after a tip-off, confirmed that, despite the lockdown, there have been movements of persons and goods across the country’s land borders, especially to neigbouring Benin Republic.
Disguising twice as passengers who intended to travel to Benin Republic, our correspondents confirmed from the boat operators at the Liverpool jetty in Apapa that the movement from the jetty to Benin Republic will cost each of our correspondents about N4,000 without goods, while movement with goods may cost up to N15,000 depending on the size of the goods to be smuggled.
Uncovering a chain of collaborators in the illegal movements, it was confirmed that the cost will cover bribe to marine Police on the waterways, including officials of the Lagos State Waterways Authourity and other fees payable to the unions at the jetty.
According to a boat operator, the journey to Benin Republic from the Liverpool jetty in Apapa is usually segmented, so as to reduce the burden of risk on the boat operators.
He disclosed to our correspondent that: “You cannot get a boat going to Benin Republic from here, but you can join the boat going to Badagry from here, as soon as you reach Badagry, we will link you up to the boat going to Benin Republic, but it will cost around six thousand naira”
“Because, from here to Badagry costs about N1,500 and from Badagry to Benin Republic might cost you roughly another 2,000 making N3,500, so I would just advise you to have up to N4,000”, he said.
Digging further, another boat operator asked our correspondent if he was going to buy goods across the border in Benin Republic. After answering in the affirmative, he informed our correspondent that the cost of moving goods into Nigeria is higher.
When questioned by our correspondent as to why it costs more to bring goods into Nigeria, he simply questioned our correspondent if this was his first trip by water to Benin Republic.
“Do you expect it to be the same, it seems this is your first trip by water, you don’t expect that the same price you pay for just one person will be the same price they will charge you for having goods.
“If you have goods that will take two to three person’s seats, you don’t expect them to carry overload, they will charge you for those seats you have taken and the cost is always higher”
“Except if you don’t want, other officials on the waterways will collect theirs (bribe), so you might even have to keep between N10,000 to N15,000 depending on the size of your load”, he said.
However, reacting to the allegation of bribe, the Public Relation Officer of the Lagos Waterways Authority (LASWA); Nkechi Ajayi denied knowledge of such practices.
She however assured our correspondent that the authority will secretly carry out its own investigations so as to get the culprit arrested.
“I am not aware of this, this is novel to me, but thank you for bringing this to our notice, we will carry out our investigations so as to get the culprit arrested”, she said.