By Yusuf Odejobi
With the growing amount of insecurity in the country ranging from banditry, Fulani herdsmen killings, kidnapping and Insurgency, it is expected that every individual holds a reasonable amount of responsibility to protect itself and Nigeria as a nation kicks against criminal tendencies from any foreign exposure.
Last week, the maritime industry was taken aback when one of the port concessionaires at Apapa port, APM terminals outsourced its internal maritime security to a South African firm named Messrs G4S and Security management. The report further stated that APM terminal has almost concluded arrangements to use the South African security outfit in other departments of the organization.
Over 70 percent of Nigeria’s imports pass through Lagos ports according to 2017 statistics, and 99% of Nigeria’s trade is by sea, suffice to say that having foreigners as security guards in Nigeria port will not only expose the nation, but also lead to compromised inflow of dangerous cargoes such as arms and hard drugs into the nation.
In 2017 alone, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) seized 661 pieces of pump action rifles in January and also intercepted 440 pieces of assorted pump action rifles in May. The latter was imported through the Tin Can Port in Apapa, Lagos. The ammunition which originated from Turkey was concealed inside POP powder used in designing house ceilings.
These act of secret importation of arms and ammunition is a pointer that insecurity is deepening in the country and doesn’t need further actions that can pose a threat to our national security and depriving thousands of Nigerian workers a means of livelihood
In a reaction, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), released a statement titled, “Infiltration of Maritime Security functions with Foreign Personnel: Looming Crisis in the AP Moller Terminal and Threat to National Security,” outrightly kicked against it saying that it was an act capable of further contributing to breakdown of laws in Nigeria should be met with serious attention.
The statement further reads “We wish to inform the general public that APM terminals is in this action unilateral and in clear violation of clause 3 of an existing Agreement reached between the Union and their management which states that “In the event of a further need for outsourcing in the operations, the MWUN and management of APM terminal will discuss and reach an agreement.
“This is why we have deemed it necessary to inform our public of the activity of Messrs. APM Terminals, Nigeria, whom we are reliably informed have through a memo to our members, ceded and out sourced the security functions of the organization to an external – South African, security service provider – Messrs G4S and Security management by CRS effective Thursday March 18th, 2021 without recourse to the Union and consideration to our members and the nation’s security.”
“Suffice it to say that APM Terminals unilateral action has caused restiveness amongst the rank and file of our members, as we have neither discussed nor reached any agreement on outsourcing of security functions of any organization, Thus, we view this unilateral action as an anti – labour practise and a disrespect for the Nigerian people and needs”.
While highlighting the important role of the industry, the union’s President General, Comrade Adeyanju Adewale, maintained that the maritime sector is the gate way to the Nigeria’s economy and “this means it caters to an appreciable percentage of export and import of materials, products, foods, medicals, pharmaceuticals, constructions materials etc. It is therefore in our nation’s economic interest that stability in this sector be maintained at all times and at all levels.”
The union also demanded for an immediate reversal of the unilateral action by the concessionaire, stressing the need for status quo in order to avoid any crisis at its container terminal.
Speaking with MMS Plus newspaper, a member of the Port Facility Security Officers, PFSO Forum, Dr. Ignatius Uche stressed that the action taken by APM Terminal to bring in foreign private security at their terminals is illegal and it’s something that has never happened in the history of Nigeria.
According to Uche, NPA won’t allow such action and the only thing APM Terminal can do is to hire foreign security consultant and a consultant is not an outfit that can take over the security of their terminal.
He said: “During the concession agreement with Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) and Federal Government, it wasn’t stated that anything like this could happen. So anything outside the concession agreement with NPA during when the concession was signed cannot be brought in without approval from NPA. That’s the law.”
“No matter how powerful they feel they are they cannot go outside the content of an agreement they have entered with other parties. NPA still has an oversight function on the entire security of the port including the waterways and anchorage.”
According to Nigerian laws, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) is the agency authorized by law to supervise private security guard companies in Nigeria.
The Regulations designate NSCDC as the licensing authority and can introduce several provisions that will materially affect the legal regime under the Private Guard Act (PGC Act), including the ability of foreign companies to participate in the private guard business in Nigeria.
The Act also provides that only a Nigerian can get licence to operate a private guard company and employees must be approved by the Interior minister.
National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)in its 2019 Private Security Guards Data recorded 1,110 registered private security companies have employed at least 828,502 people in Nigeria from 2013 to 2018. With that number of private guard companies and employees, one would wonder why APM terminal would leave the shores of Nigeria to hire South African security outfit.
Reacting on the issue, the Chairman, National Seafarers Welfare Board (NSWB) Nigeria, Otunba Kunle Folarin argued that APM Terminal has the right to provide security because insecurity is a serious issue in Nigeria today. Every organization and even the government makes the issue of security paramount on their agenda.
According to him, no one would want to spend money bringing in private security outside Nigeria if there are competent security guards within the country for their operations.
Folarin who is also the Chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (PCC), said: “I remember the Governor of Borno State asked the Federal Government to hire mercenaries to fight insurgency in his state. It is not only APM terminal that is looking for the best security outfit in and out of Nigeria for their operations. So if Governors are asking for mercenaries to come and defend their territory it means that there is a huge gap in what is available and what is required.”
He added that APM Terminal’s action depends on its evaluation of the security situation within the country, “between me and you what have we achieved with the local security so far?” he queried.
The maritime workers’ union demanded for an immediate reversal of the unilateral action by the concessionaire , stressing the need for status quo in order to avoid any crisis in the foremost container terminal, however, regulators are yet to delve into the matter.
Experts posit that the matter is even more outrageous as APM Terminals has almost concluded an arrangement to carry out same anti – labour practice in other departments of their organization and deprive thousands of Nigerian workers of a means of livelihood.
This is in clear negation of the federal government’s goal to create employment and according to MWUN, the development is a clear violation of Clause 3 of an existing Agreement reached between the Union and their management which states that in the event of a further need for outsourcing in the operations, the MWUN and management of APMT will discuss and reach an agreement.