The 100% Compliance Team of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has accused Maritime Police of arbitrarily intercepting cargoes already released from the ports.
In a petition to the Inspector General of Police, the Chairman of the Compliance Team, Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim indicted the police division of illegal operations and unlawful detention of cargoes around Lagos ports.
Part of the statement read: “We are sadly impelled to petition your good office regarding the activities of your officers and men operating in and around the Lagos ports under the Maritime Police. During the regime of the immediate-past Inspector General of Police, the Maritime Police inhibited the fast clearance of containers by sending letters (alerts) to shipping companies and terminals asking them not to release containers that usually have undergone the statutory processes by Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other government approved agencies in the ports.”
“These activities of the Maritime Police caused undue delays, demurrages, double payment to the shipping companies and terminal operators thereby inflicting heavy financial burden and extreme hardship to our teeming members”
The group, however, noted that shipping companies were prevailed upon to not accept letters from Maritime Police blocking containers which Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) given the burden of mediation.
“We all agreed that they should report their observations to Shippers Council, the body saddled with the responsibility of regulating the activities of shipping companies in Nigeria, and this was what stopped the harassment, incessant arrest and huge financial burden on our members. However, since the advent of your new administration, the officers and men of the Maritime Police have not only resumed these activities but also become more daring.”
“They do not only block the release of containers from shipping companies, they also arrest and detain containers on the roads, and even allegedly go into fisticuffs with the officers of the Federal operations Unit of the Customs Service.”
“To compound the matter, one of their officers, named (Suppo) Kenneth Uwakool, who has been at Kam Salem House for more than three years, when the rapprochement was reached during the last administration, is the unrepentant bagman, who openly boasts that he is a millionaire. He sits atop proceedings in the extortion business.”
The group lamented that unlike Customs, the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), Maritime Police hardly have any seizures to showcase to validate their continuous interception of cargoes.
“The Maritime Police usually demands documents that have nothing whatsoever to do with their mandate; such documents as the bill of lading, Form M, original customs license, original certificate of incorporation, Pre arrival assessment report (PAAR), etc as if they are checking vehicle particulars. Most astonishing is the fact that all these documents are in the Customs system. They do these activities in connivance with shipping companies obtaining shipping manifests with which they carry out the complained blockages” it stated.
While describing the activities of the Police Division as anti-trade facilitation and frustrating the ease of doing business in the ports, the group alleged that the Commissioner of Police for the Division can’t be exonerated as the units drag freight agents to their officers to make payments.
“Sir, in the 100% Compliance Team of NAGAFF, we have been training and sensitizing our members for more than 3 years to do the right thing, making sure they comply with extant laws, admonishing them to eschew sharp practices. We are taken aback that our members who endeavour to do right are being punished with unnecessary interference, intimidation and needless arrest and detention,” the group said.