NPA Tackles Police, Terminal Operators Over Alleged Extortion Of Port Users

Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Ms Hadiza Bala Usman has warned the Nigerian Police, Terminal Operators and other agencies inside the port to desist from the act of taking advantage of clearing agents and other port users, saying that the agency would no longer tolerate the act.Hadiza read the riot act to the Police and the terminal operators yesterday after she was bestowed a Platinum Award as “A Trailblazer of the Maritime Industry” by Dr. Kayode Farinto, Chief Executive Producer of PortGist and Events on TV The NPA boss warned that even though there is an on-going court case between the terminal operators and the Nigerian Shippers Council, challenging temporary economic regulator status of the Council, the NPA as landlords of the port would not fold its hands and allow terminal operators to continue to increase charges arbitrarily and with impunity at Nigerian ports.She said that henceforth; there must be an official notification to NPA before terminal operators increase their charges. She said the NPA has demanded a report on various increases carried out by the terminal operators in the past five years so as for NPA to determine the basis for the increments.She equally said that a warning letter is being issued to the terminal operators and the Nigeria Customs Service to immediately stop the illegal transfer of containers to bonded warehouses without notification to the NPASounding tough, she said:“I am going to address this issue of extortion by the Police immediately, no one should be allowed to interfere with the processes we have, no officer of the Nigerian Police Force should stop any container for any form of inspection, it is not within their responsibility and they must not do it”“We already have challenges with the Customs on doing business, so, no one else should come in and provide additional bottlenecks in cargo evacuation, I will address the issue this afternoon (yesterday)and we would see an end to that”, she assured.She urged stakeholders with genuine cases of extortion within the Western and Eastern ports to always send text messages to her phone directly and to other executive management of NPA, promising that the challenges would be addressed immediately. Hadiza reiterated that terminal operators cannot operate inside the port without recourse to the Federal Government of Nigeria.“We are also looking into the tariffs by the terminal operators and shipping companies, there are instances where terminal operators increase their charges, they need to notify us, the temporary economic regulator status has been granted to the Shipper’s Council”.“But even at that, we are making terminal operators to understand that their charges in the past five years should be provided to us and we would look into what basis they are increasing charges, all of these translates into high cost of doing business, I have given a deadline of today to the terminal operators to receive that report”“Yesterday, it was brought to my attention that containers were taken to bonded warehouses without notification, we are issuing out a letter immediately to terminal operators and the Nigerian Customs that the practice cannot continue, anyone that does it would be sanctioned” she warned.Speaking on the award, Executive producer of PortGist on TV, Dr. Kayode Farinto said that the NPA boss deserves the award of a trailblazer in the maritime industry as a result of her giant strides. He described the NPA boss as an innovator, saying that, “the government gave you an appointment where men have not even succeeded, but looking at your pedigree since you assumed office, you have cleared that erroneous impression”Farinto who is also the National Publicity Secretary of ANLCA commended Hadiza for giving stakeholders respite in the sector since she got to NPA. He said the award is to spur her to do more for the industry.In a fresh round of allegations emanating from the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) the office of the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) Marine, Zone 2, is said to have collected as much as N2million bribe on five containers which were said to have been cleared successfully from the Tin Can Island Port.Buttressing the allegation, Farinto said that: “Twenty four hours ago I was called that the AIG Zone 2 now stops containers, examine containers and extort nothing less than 2million Naira from our members, I don’t know where they get that powers from, five containers going to Owerri two days ago were arrested and taken to Zone 2 to be re-examined, after this N2milion was collected from each of the agents” he alleged.When contacted, the AIG Zone 2; Mr Kayode Aderanti told our correspondent that the container was intercepted for not paying duty to the Federal Government. He confirmed that the container is nit in the custody of the Police, adding that it has been transferred to the Customs Federal Operations Unit in Ikeja.“There is no truth in the allegation, forget these things, there is no truth there, these agents are lying, no one demanded anything from them. The container has been transferred to Federal Operation Unit. We have the authourity of the Inspector General and the Customs CG to take such action””, he explained.The award presentation was witnessed by the NPA Executive Director Marine and Operations, Dr. Sekonte Davies and other executive management of NPA. Other stakeholders present were; Chairman of Port Consultative Council, Otunba Kunle Folarin and Founder of NAGAFF, represented by Mr. Increase Uche and former Vice Chairman, ANLCA at Tin Can Port; Mrs Ada Akpunonu.