Port Crime: Is Police Now “Wharf Rat?”

New Port Police: Will Extortion Truly Stop?The rising criminal activities at the port, especially by some social miscreants, tend to raise question of whether  the police and other security agents, now aid and abet crime. Otherwise, how come the crime rate is increasing?

However, new Commissioner of Police in the western port, Hilda Ibifuro-Harrison has been a vocal voice in the maritime industry since she took over the baton of leadership from her predecessor, Mr. Kayode Aderanti who has since been deployed to the Lagos state police command after a short stint in the port.

Immediately after her arrival, Harrison said she was going to work to change the mentality of the officers and men of the western port command under her jurisdiction. She promised that all the questions of extortion and negative reportage about the port police would soon be a thing of the past.

One of the factors that could make one believe that the woman really meant business is the recent training programme organised for the officers; all officers were on ground before the set time and the event actually commenced at the time slated for it.

Away from that, the security of the port is very important because that is where items come into the country in large quantities. However, the ability to curtail irregularities at the ports both land and air, including the land borders will save the country’s internal security system.

At the recent stakeholders’ session with the police boss, she promised to bring to the barest minimum, the crime rates at the ports.

The port police boss said the economy of the country hinged on the western port hence, the police could not afford to play with the security of such a place. She reiterated that when the new Inspector General of police assumed office, his mission statement was to protect lives and property.

She added that the police was ready to synergise with all the terminal operators, stakeholders and chief security officers to see that the port is a safe place to do business.

She said that the police would continue to carry out raids especially on where miscreants gather covert or overt. She added that surveillance would be carried out within the port area and if any offender is arrested, he or she would be prosecuted.

“We will continue with carry out patrols with the limited resources we have ; especially the waterfront patrol, we will continue to carry out surveillance on activities on all persons within the port areas. We must ensure that person without genuine business are not allowed to be at the ports”, she stated.

Mr. Remi Ogungbesan, the Chairman of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) said that the association would do everything in its capacity to support the police in its quest to engender sanity in the port.

He said one of the challenges faced by the members of the association is the traffic that seemed not to abate in the port environment; he therefore called on the police to help pay attention to the menace.

He therefore called for more participation of stakeholders more than officers in subsequent edition of such meeting so that everyone would be able to fraternise to solve the perennial problems in the port which he said could not be handled by only one person.

The Health, Security, Safety and Environment Manager in ENL Consortium Ltd, the operators of terminals ‘C’ and ‘D’, Mr. Oyinloye Raphael during the interactive session said abandoned wrecks have become haven for criminals to attack vessels at berth.

According to him, miscreants have made the abandoned vessels their hideout to perpetrate evils, adding that series of attack on cargoes at the terminal have been traced to the bandits who often hibernate in the abandoned ships.
He disclosed that the miscreants use smaller crafts like canoes to ferry themselves back to the wreck on Lagos waters after unleashing terror at the terminals.

Speaking further, Oyinloye added that at night, the abandoned vessels are illuminated by touch lights; which further authenticates the presence of criminals on board the wrecked vessels.

Oyinloye urged the Western ports Police commissioner to draw the attention of the Director General of NIMASA; Mr Patrick Akpobolokemi to the menace and also seek assistance of the agency in providing platforms for the police to perform better.

He said NIMASA as the Designated Authority (DA) for the International Ships and Ports Facility Security (ISPS) Code should assist the Western Port Police authority in the area of equipment in ensuring that the terminals are protected by the Police.

Responding, Western Port Police Commissioner promised to meet with the Director General of NIMASA for assistance.

Harrison added that the marine police will further strengthen the synergy with other maritime agencies to protect and secure the ports and terminals under her watch.

The commissioner assured all terminal operators to remain calm, adding that the port police will raid the miscreants out of their hide out.

She also promised to ban commercial motor cycles as well as tricycles within the port precinct as a means to avoid many people in the port.

“Emphasis is still in place and I am still emphasising that Okada riders and Keke Napep riders have no place at the Western Port police command because they have been banned and men of the command will ensure that anyone within the western ports without any reason to be there will be flushed out”.

“For those persons who don’t have business at the ports, we made it very clear that they have no business at the ports , we are working to ensure that those that do not have businesses at the port do not disturb those that have genuine business at the ports”, Harrison noted.

She noted that officers and men under her watch should not take issues bothering on security within the ports for granted pointing out that the command will continue to carry out arrest of black spots and where miscreants are gathered.

She did not fail to mention that some of the accidents in the port environment is due to non-adherence to the ethics of the job. She said most of the accidents are avoidable ones, adding that ignorance is the bane of most of them.

However, the commissioner’s promises are not different from what used to obtain in the industry but the resolve on her tone may bring the desired change that all have been clamouring for over the years.

The joy of all port users this year will be to see a police in the port who is not hell bent on personal gratification but on national interest that will benefit all in the society.

Mrs. Harrison has lent her voice; will the officers and men of the command follow the direction of the voice? It is just a matter of time for the cat to be let out of the bag.

In other words, does the police boss actually mean what she has been saying? Anyway, the fact that her officers and men turned up at the event at the stipulated time without anyone coming late is not totally enough to judge her pedigree but there seems to be a reflection of her campaign for change in the timely arrival of her men.

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