There is palpable fear of terrorists’ attacks on the nation’s number one seaport – Lagos Port as miscreants take over head office of the defunct Nigeria National Shipping Line (NNSL) located on Wharf Road, few meters to the Lagos Ports Complex (LPC).
NewsDirect Investigations have shown that the offices had been abandoned and put out of use for over five years, a development that gave room for the miscreants to take over virtually all the available office space in the building.
To avoid ugly incident of terrorists’ attacks, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigeria police force have put security measures in place to check the influx of hoodlums and miscreants that constantly attack ships and terminals but these measures seem not effective.
It will be recalled that last September, the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) issued a security alert on the likelihood of Boko Haram attack on Lagos seaports. The alert was as a result of the concern expressed by the United States Embassy on the security situation at the nation’s seaports.
This is even as reports have shown that the western zone port which comprises Lagos Ports, Apapa and Tin Can Island Port and accounted for 70 per cent of import into Nigeria have porous water front and entry point.
Terminal operators have also complained about how hoodlums took over the Lagos Port Complex water front, constantly feasting on ships berthing while security operatives watched helplessly as the sea robbers made away with their loot at the ports and channel.
The hoodlums were said to have come from Sapokoji, a village adjacent to the port while it was also gathered that attacks on the ships were carried out in the night by these hoodlums.
Many organizations saddled with the responsibility of securing the nation’s ports are the Nigerian Navy; Marine Police; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency; Nigerian Ports Authority security operatives; and NPA Port Police. Information gathered had shown that despite their presence at various locations at the ports, the hoodlums walked in freely to loot.
The Managing Director, Greenview Development Nigeria Limited (GDNL), the terminal operator of Terminal ‘E’ of the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa, Mallam Abba Isa Bukar, complained about how vessels berthing at the terminal were incessantly attacked by hoodlums who entered the port through the water front in canoes.
He said, “The terminal has been experiencing frequent attacks from Sapokoji villagers. We have several unidentified canoes moving or fishing along the channel and often times moving close to vessels, sometimes attacking vessels at berth.”
Also, the presence of hoodlums at the defunct NNSL building has been a source of concern to industry stakeholders. According to an industry watcher, unless the police do something urgent to raid the NNSL building, the building may be a hideout for possible attack on the port.
A stakeholder who craves anonymity said, “The security agencies that are responsible for securing the ports and its environment should do something about raiding the black spot especially the defunct NNSL building. Also, the water front should be secure and the miscreants stopped from attacking ships at berth.”
Meanwhile, officials of the NPA security department have complained about non availability of modern security apparatus that would help them forestall possible terrorists’ attack on the nation’s priced asset.
A senior official in the security department of the authority said any attempt to attack the port can never be botched because they lack modern apparatus.
His words, “Necessary equipment that are supposed to be deployed by the management of the authority to carry out full security checks at the various points of entry of these ports are missing, hence making it very difficult to secure the Ports.
“NPA is supposed to be one of the vital National assets that is needed to be secure from terrorists attacks by providing necessary state-of-the-art security apparatus. We all know that the port is a potential target and there have been series of warning to that effect.
“We lack scanners, metal detectors, no jammer, these are necessary security apparatus needed to do the job at the ports but as you can see, we don’t have it so how do you expect us to detect or arrest people who may want to attack the port or ships at berth.
“Yes, the terminals are ISPS compliant but they don’t need to attack the terminals before they make a statement. “It was before we believed Boko Haram is not in Lagos but now we know they are in Lagos so, do they need to attack the ports before the management would provide equipment for us to work?” She continued, stressing that should hoodlums plan to attack any of the ports, they will do it at will because there is nothing on ground to detect them.
Another senior security officer, who had gone through security training in most parts of the world said Nigerian Ports can be likened to a market place where anybody come and believe he can earn a living.
The source continued that she had been to different Ports around the world and had seen how things are done there but the case of the Nigeria is a different one.
“I have travelled around so many ports during my course of training and I ask people when I get close to the port whether this is a port, I think a port is supposed to be a security place, where just anybody should not be allowed in or anything cannot be taken in without early detection, but the case of Nigeria is worse than just anything can come into the port through the gate without anybody detecting.”
The source said that the authority did not provide equipment to search vehicles, saying that the security department had sent letters to the management without reply.
“All our letters on these necessary equipment are on the tables or even drawer of somebody gathering dust but I know that the day something happens at any of the Ports that is when the management will do something about our request.
She also said that they had, many times, told the management of the authority that human traffic should be reduced at the ports but they said people are expected to be seen since a port is an operational area.
“Anything can be easily shipped into the port through the entry port gate because there is no equipment that will tell you whether a vehicle or individual coming in are coming with any dangerous weapon or explosives and we all know that these people are always a step ahead.”
She said further that with the proliferation of small arms in the country, light arms could easily be carried into the ports to cause harm.
Effort to contact the Commissioner of Police, western ports, Mrs Ibifuro Harrison for comment proved abortive as text messages sent to her were not replied while efforts to get her comments through phone calls were frustrated by poor network.
Also, when contacted, the General Manager, Public Affairs of NPA, Capt. Iheanacho Ebubeogu said the NNSL building was not in its facilities so he “cannot say anything about it”.
“NNSL building was on Wharf Road and NPA cannot do anything about it and on the attack of terminals from the waterfront, I will contact the GM Security tomorrow and call you back,” he said.