As the general elections draws nigh and followed two by the gubernatorial elections two weeks later, how safe can one say the Nigerian port is considering the fact that most materials that come into the country do so through the port.
How well can the present constituted police in the maritime domain curtail any likelihood of using the arena to ship good that are inimical to the development of the country as well as the importation of weapons that can be used to mar the success of the elections?
Nigerian ports have witnessed a lot of loopholes in the past as a result of inadequate security apparatus to man the facilities.
This singular error has led to many dangerous and unwanted items coming into the country through the arena which have posed great dangers to Nigeria.
However, with the recent recognition accorded the maritime security deploying an Assistant Inspector General of police to further strengthen the maritime domain, the coast seems visible for optimum performance by the officers and men of the police.
This is so because with the status of an AIG in charge of maritime, the officers and men will be forced to put in their best to work as well as being able to attract the presence of the government through the influence of the AIG.
As a means of further strengthening the security in the country and to stop the possibility of using the borders to infiltrate the country with weapons, the Federal Government last week closed down both the sea and land borders.
This development has been applauded by many stakeholders in the industry because they believe that the port is the gateway to the economy and whatever comes in through the port at the critical time ought to be subjected to scrutiny to avoid the obvious.
It is in line with curtailing the security breach that the new AIG, maritime, Mrs. Kalafite Helen Adeyemi has taken it upon herself to visit some critical stakeholders in both eastern and western ports to seek synergy and cooperation so that the job will be made easy for the police.
Mrs. Adeyemi visited some key government agencies who has a role to play in port security to form a collaboration to forestall any attempt by social deviants from using the port to fulfil their personal aggrandizement to the detriment of the country.
Her mission was to sensitize and to seek their working relationship for easy achievement of the task before them.
Among the places the AIG who incidentally is the first female to hold the post include the headquarters of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Marina, the Western Port Office, Apapa, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Apapa command and the Lagos port police post.
In her entourage is the Commissioner of Police, maritime command, Mr. Olayinka Opadokun who doubles as the second in command to the AIG. Others are the Commissioner of police, Western port command, Mrs. Hilda Ibifuro-Harrison and other high ranking officers in the command.
At the Lagos port police post, she said she had been to the eastern port before her visit to the western port command. She maintained that her visit was to keep abreast of information in her jurisdiction as well as to put the officers on their toes to give out the best in their duties.
She quipped that her roles include supervision, coordination and to ensure that adequate security is provided and also to make sure that there is effective enforcement of laws within the maritime domain.
She told the officers and men of the command to discharge their duties with integrity and to avoid performance betrayal in order to accord the police its rightful image in the society even as she made bold to say that any officer found wanting in their duty calls would be arrested, prosecuted, dismissed and jailed.
At the NPA headquarters, she told the Managing Director, Mallam Habib Abdullahi that the authority should induct and enlighten the officers so that they can discharge their duties effectively. She did not fail to solicit for equipment for the officers for them to carry out their duties efficiently.
Speaking further, she asked the MD to work with the police to make sure that the port is not used for importation of weapons that portend danger for the country.
Still with the effort to create serenity in the country through close monitoring of the port, she said, “I appreciate you for your assistance and cooperation with the police, I solicit for more cooperation.
“The police will keep the society secure and safe. You are free to appeal to my office for any matter not properly handled.
“The success of 2015 elections rests on our shoulders by being vigilant and guard against importation of materials that could be used to foment troubles in the forth-coming elections,” she said.
For a better policing of the port, she said her command had requested for more officers which she said would soon be deployed to the command.
In his response, the MD of NPA, Mallam Abdullahi expressed confidence in the police even as he promised that the authority will try as much as possible to support the police to achieve success in their duties. In his words, “It will be a good idea whereby we map out strategy to complement one another so that business can continue unhindered.”
The General Manager, Western Port, Engr. Adeyinka Odunsi while receiving the officers said that the coming of police to the port had helped to resolve many problems but solicited that the police officers on ground be given more hands so that they can achieve better results than they are already doing Engr. Odunsi said that the officers on ground are over-stressed; therefore they needed to be relieved so that they can help make the traffic gridlock on port access roads a thing of the past.
He said, “With due apology, we will need additional hands. If you give us more hands, they will be able to handle the traffic gridlock at our roundabout.”
Meanwhile at the Apapa customs command, the Area Controller, Charles Edike had a closed door meeting with the officers which is believed to bother on how to fortify security at the port.
Following the recent outburst by hoodlums in Oshodi, who shot into the air sporadically just two days from the elections, can we comfortably say that the port is a safe haven for importation of injurious equipment?
Though the AIG had done the needful by moving from one critical stakeholder to another, is that truly enough to forestall any infringement in the port. Can the efforts of Mrs. Adeyemi be sordid enough to check the menace of importation of weapons into the country?
The reality still remains that if the officers do not have the sophisticated weapons to protect the port with, their continuous stay at the port arena will be cowed by a more sophisticated weapon carrying invader.
Another factor to consider is the possible compromise of some officer with intending importers to bring in dangerous weapons. This will totally rubbish the efforts of the AIG who is seen to mean business.
Anyway, all the questions will automatically get their answers after the elections might have been concluded through the availability of weapons in the hands of hoodlums or their sponsors whose objective is to subvert the elections.
Fingers are pointing at sea and land borders because those are the avenues through which heavy equipment can come into the country.