Over one hundred containers laden with different imported items have been intercepted by different commands of Nigeria Police Force under the cover of various charges ranging from economic and financial crimes, concealment of prohibited goods, firearms, to explosives.
But some have been released with the alleged payment of between N100,000 and N50,000 per container, by the shippers or cargo owners, it was gathered.
According to the documents made available to MMS Plus, these containers were intercepted from clearance in shipping companies in a space of one month from June to July, suggesting that it has become a trend within the police circle.
Surprisingly, however, the Port Authority Police, Western Command, said it was not aware of this new style of levying shippers by the police from outside the port.
Some of the police commands whose documents were found within the shipping companies asking for container interception are: Force Intelligence Bureau, Area ‘B’ Command Annex, Apapa; Police Special Fraud Unit, Department of Criminal Investigation, Milverton road, Ikoyi, Lagos, among others.
Their modus operandi is usually to write to shipping companies of their choice seeking stoppage of container delivery process on account of privileged information that the container is laden with dangerous items. This is after they have sighted the manifest to copy out container numbers usually used for their correspondence to the shipping firms.
One of these letters addressed to the shipping manager of CMA CGM Delmas Nigeria Ltd, dated June 30th 2015, read thus: “This office is investigating the above mentioned case contained in a petition to the Inspector General of Police, Force Headquarters Abuja. In the course of the investigation, the name of your company featured prominently as the shipping company responsible for the shipment of the under-listed containers”.
“You are therefore requested to furnish this office with the entire releasing documents of the affected containers, to include the Payment schedule, Risk assessment report, Form ‘M’, Customs entry report, Manifest and Bill of Lading. Place on hold affected containers pending the conclusion of the on-going investigation”
This letter titled: Investigation Activities – Re: Case of Economic and Financial, Crimes, Concealment of Prohibited Goods and Firearms”, is from Police Special Fraud Unit, Milverton Ikoyi and was signed by DCP. Zubairu Muazu.
Our findings revealed that there are many of this letters from different police commands bearing many container numbers. For instance, this one signed by ACP Lawrence Onwuka sent to Mistwi O.S.K Lines Nig. Ltd, Apapa alleging this same claims of financial crimes had 17 containers intercepted for investigation. They include: TCNU 6105642, DRYU 9341593/4, EISU 9065722/4, EITU 1465768/4, EMCU 3863717/2.
Worried by this, Chief Dr. Osita Chukwu, National Co-ordinator of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Importers, and Exporters Coalition petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Araze who promised to intervene especially in the aspect of extortion of money from shippers. However, despite his promise nothing has changed.
According to Chief Osita, “All they do is collate manifest and gather the container numbers and then write the shipping companies to suspend the listed containers from being released.
“But the question is: if you are writing somebody to suspend the release of containers that have met the requirements to exit the port, who pays the demurrage and what are the proof to substantiate the claims? This causes a lot of congestion in the port. It affects cargo delivery time and attracts unnecessary extra cost of clearance
“Our investigation as a group shows that shipping companies have no hand in this. When it affected our members, we wrote the IGP and told him we were contemplating an industrial action. Members paid between N100,000 and N50,000 for different container release to the police.
“I personally told them that I would not pay a kobo and asked them to channel whatever information they have to the Port Police Criminal Investigation Department (C.D), that is why they are there. I maintain that any police unit not designated to be at the port should not be there”, he stated.