- Demand N40,000 from export trucks
- Police boss vows to swing into action
By Kenneth Jukpor
Despite the Federal Government’s efforts to enhance the ease of doing business at the Nigerian Ports, fraudulent security officers of the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) have converted the nation’s foremost port Apapa to a cash cow as Policemen demand N7,000 per truck daily amounting to N35,000,000 for truckers to enter and exit the Lagos ports, while NPA security officers also extort N30,000,000 daily at a rate of N6000 per truck.
The figure above doesn’t include the fact that Police officers also collect N1,000 per truck at various locations around the Apapa such as the Eleganza roundabout and Burma junction, whilst a joint team of Police officers and NPA security officers also demand as much as N40,000 for container-laden trucks to enter the ports.
This calculation was done on the basis of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), an affiliate of the World Bank study of the Apapa gridlock which revealed that the Lagos ports has been accommodating more than 5000 trucks in Apapa in a haphazard manner, whereas only about 1,300 trucks should be found on the port access road.
MMS Plus investigations last week confirmed that despite the efforts of the Federal Government to make the nation’s ports more business friendly and competitive, NPA security operatives have teamed up with officers of the Nigeria Police Force in a joint corrupt task-force to extort truckers at the port gates.
While NPA as the landlord at the port, should be keen to facilitate trade by reducing the cost burden and maximizing the efficiency to enhance the procedures for the movement of cargo across frontiers, it is strange as its security operatives equally collect N6,000 per truck, a situation which dampens the ease of doing business at the ports.
Speaking to MMS Plus on the issue, the Secretary, Trade Facilitation at the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Mr. Onyekelu Job said, “Police officers and NPA Security officers demand N7,000 and N6000 respectively on each truck irrespective of the fact that you are an exporter or importer. The moment you want your trucks to go in you pay about N6,000 to N7,000 to those syndicates at the Apapa Port gate. It doesn’t matter if you are going to carry a 20ft or 40ft container; Police and NPA security demand for this money before they allow you go in. Every truck pays this money and it becomes very frustrating at the night because there isn’t any reason for them to hide their illicit deals.”
Onyekelu lamented that most of the trucks clogging the Apapa port access roads were as a result of the criminal extortion by the security operatives at the port gates.
“You see people waiting for their trucks to enter and it adds to the congestion because some people get to the port gate and refuse to pay or spend hours trying to negotiate for a lower fee of N3,000 to N4,000. This money is illegal but those who don’t pay would be frustrated and this is done on a daily basis. Most of the trucks you see constituting nuisance at the port is because of that extortion, either they refused to pay or they genuinely don’t have the money.”
“Somebody paid N30,000 to pass his export that had spent more than 21 days on the port corridor. He had to give them the money in order to proceed with the export and prevent the high cost of demurrage that further delay would cause. This extortion has also begun to pose challenges in getting trucks that are willing to do business at the ports. Truckers want a business that can guarantee quick turnaround time because they wouldn’t have an opportunity to go for another business until they conclude the one at hand” he said.
Onyekelu initially raised this alarm when the Ports Authority Commissioner of Police (CP), Mr. Celestine Okoye paid a courtesy visit to NAGAFF and the Police boss promised to look into the issue and unleash his wrath on fraudulent officers, although he had barely settled in his office.
When MMS Plus visited the Apapa port, our correspondent confirmed Onyekelu’s allegation as Police and NPA security officers were seen intercepting trucks with clear terms such as “You don settle? If you pass you no go settle again. Pay now or park one-side!”
Meanwhile some truckers were seen to bargain with the officers to pay less than the N6,000 rate. Some paid N5,000 to the Police and NPA security, while others who seemed to have had a good rapport with the NPA and Police paid N4,000 each.
One trucker who simply identified himself as Shola said that he had parked opposite First Bank just outside the Apapa port for more than eight (8) hours but was unwilling to go further because he had no plans to pay the police or NPA security men.
“My name is Shola. I have been here since 10am (he told MMS Plus correspondent at about 7.30pm) but I can’t even go close to the gate because I am not ready to pay anything. I’m waiting for the NPA and Police officers to complete their shift before I approach the gate. I would tell them that I have paid the morning set N5,000 each and argued with them until they let me pass. The normal price is N6,000 but you can negotiate. Some trucks that are carrying items for export pay up to N40,000 to enter the port. This one is a joint-payment shared by the Police and NPA. You see them collecting their payments separately and even fighting at the gate but if you are carrying a container into the port, they would take you inside the port where they would demand as much as N50,000 but most people negotiate for N30,000 or N40,000. Look back at Burma junction you would see the Police collecting N1,000 per truck. Go back further to Eleganza junction, you would find another set of Policemen demanding another N1,000”.
Speaking on behalf of the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications at NPA, the Assistant General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Mr. Ibrahim Nasiru expressed shock to find that NPA security officers were involved in such fraudulent acts.
However, he declined to address the issue, noting that it was the responsibility of the Assistant General Manager, Security to react officially on the problem.
“Ha! You should call the NPA Chief Security Officer not me. I would send you a number to reach him,” Nasiru said.
We waited endlessly for the appropriate person’s contact from Mr. Nasiru on Thursday and Friday last week but nothing was sent and Nasiru avoided subsequent calls from the MMS Plus correspondent.
However, the Port Authority CP, Mr. Celestine Okoye stated that he was yet to carry out thorough investigation on the issue, even as he threatened to discipline police officers who are caught in such fraudulent acts.
“My position is that I’m yet to verify this issue especially as the man who mentioned it also added that it was a joint taskforce with NPA officials. I have to find out but I can assure you that I wouldn’t tolerate such level of corruption” Okoye said.
On his part, the Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) Chief Remi Ogungbemi lampooned the truckers and agents who yield to the demands of corrupt Police and NPA security officers at the port gates.
Ogungbemi who disclosed that he was aware that some officers of Police and NPA extort truckers, noted that he had warned the members of his association as well as those in other trucking groups to stop making such payments.
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