In this edition of your weekly education page, an expert in security and environmental protection, Oyinloye Raphael takes you on the necessary security tips in the port for both port users and first timers in the port environment.
What was the port environment like before concessioning in 2006?
Before the concessioning agreement was signed some years ago, port used to be a place for miscreants where people lived and reared children but when we took over in the port, we met some people that have been there for years and never wanted to leave. We had a lot of problems chasing them away and these are the people that masterminded crimes in the port. When had many villages around the port area where they should not be. For instance, in a focused economy, there is no settlement around the port. If there is going to be, it will be controlled by the authority. That means that they are either staff of the authority or consultants doing one thing or the other within the premises, not that every dick, tom and harry will come and reside within the port and the problem is fundamental. Before government can surmount that problem, we had to relocate some villages away from the port environment.
There is the ineptitude of some government organizations saddled with the responsibility of removing wrecks along the creeks, they are still there and people are permanently living there. If you go from here (Apapa) now to Tin can down to Badagry side, you will see a lot of abandoned vessels where people are living, rearing children. They go out with canoes at night to attack vessels and come back to the spot. Before you can say police should effectively police the marine area, you need equipment. It is not possible for police with one engine boat to pursue robbers who have two engine boats. Those are the problems we have. Marine police are not properly equipped, they rely on largesse from terminal operators to buy them vehicles or boats but that is not enough. To patrol from Ijora to Tin can with only one boat, before you come back, something somewhere has happened.
So, before you can effectively do that, police must be well equipped by those who are supposed to give them the necessary equipment. The communication gadgets have to be synergized with all the terminal PFSOs. For instance, radio communication that can go to all of us at the same time and then we have a command and control centre where we report incidents to. If there is an attack on any terminal and it is reported on that radio, individuals will be connecting either the Navy or the police and there will be a synergy to combat that problem. I don’t have a Radio link with NIMASA who is the DA and we are supposed to have radio link with them on 24 hours basis in case of anything and you will report the emergency to them and their marine police will take prompt action.
The supervision of marine front belongs to NPA and the Navy. At the quay side, you will see where they mark yellow, there, our concession agreement stops. Before we can say hurray in the maritime sector, things have to be put in proper perspective.
What are the necessary security tips expected of an individual who is coming to the port to adhere to?
As a user of the port, you must have a boarding pass which is issued by NPA. When we were discussing that at the zonal security level, we said individual cards should have chips that are recognizable by a machine to be placed at NPA gates. Once you plant that at both the vehicular or pedestrian gates, they will open for you on their own accord. In Belgium, where we went, the driver will just come to the gate, flash it, the gate opens. If you are conversant, that you come on daily basis, you won’t use card again, you just show your eyes to the machine and the gate will open for you automatically. It is manual here. If you have ever come here at night, you will see that people stroll in and out which should not be.
At our gate, we screen people from the outside; in the morning, you will see our buses outside and if you are our staff and you have your ID card on, you can come in and if you are our client, we screen you outside before you can come in and if you don’t have anything to do, you are not allowed in, that is why you see some people loitering along the common users’ roads and that gives the police a lot of jobs to do.
What is the security implication of people coming into the port without any business to do?
If you don’t have anything to do in the port, you are not allowed to come in. for instance, when we are discharging goods, some people who in their entire lives have not seen such quantity of rice before may be tempted to begin to think of how they will carry a bag and many such things begin to cross their minds. If you don’t have a job to do in the port, the implication is that you are likely to connive with somebody who has a job here to begin to look at how to take some of the things out. And if that happens, the terminal operator will pay for such loss of cargo.
What is your advice for the first timers into the port to do while coming?
If you are coming to the port for the first time, you must have an appointment with somebody you are coming to see. If you look at port operations now, some of the departments that would have been bringing people into the port have been moved out of the port. What you need to do is to prepare your papers and be ready to load then you can come in and load because port is no longer like before. If you don’t have any business in the port, it is better you don’t come because you may be arrested and put in prison.
For the staff working in the terminal, what are the necessary safety precautions they need to take?
If you are a staff and you don’t have a car, you have your ID card issued by the security department, you queue outside the port, the bus will come, you will be screened. Here, you don’t need to bring anyone who does not know about port operations because he or she may get killed at anytime. The machines are moving as well as the trucks; those who have water phobia can fall into the lagoon, it has happened before. So, they may be carried away by the movement of the cranes and may not know when they get to the quay. It is a highly risky area. If you are not trained to work on the quay side, you are allowed to get there. You have to put on your personal protective Equipment (PPE) like the hard hat to prevent falling objects from hitting your head, safety boots to prevent severity in case you step on iron or something falls on your leg, you have to wear your reflective jacket for machines or trailers to see that there is a person standing. Those are the things we advise you on before you take employment. We allow one driver and one motor boy for any truck coming into the terminal to count the number of goods they want to come and carry.