By DAPO OLAWUNI
Officers of Nigeria Customs Service Tin Can Island Command yesterday clashed with staff of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) over port access control.
Reliable sources within the NPA told DAILY TREND NEWS that since the NPA commenced implantation of strict access control at Tin Can Port, the customs officers have been feeling ‘too big’ and pompous to follow laid down protocol.
NPA had on Tuesday commenced implementation of its port access control at the Tin Can Island Port, with assistance from the Port Police as part of effort to sanitize the port environment from unauthorised users.
The authority had also written to the Customs, Terminal Operators and other port stakeholders about the access control.
Clearing agents and importers were however stranded at the port gate yesterday when a Customs officer, though dressed in mufti, refused to tender his port pass and identification.
Sources confirmed that “What happened was that NPA was trying to do the normal checking of authorised and unauthorised persons as usual, then a Customs officer came in mufti and in short but he refused to identify himself.
The mobile police officers asked him to step aside for other people to be identified but he refused until he engaged in a scuffle with a mobile police at the gate.
“Eventually when he gained access, he went and told their enforcement unit and they came heavily armed shooting and threw the gate open forceful and people who were not supposed to come in all rushed in,” an eye witness who craved anonymity for fear of victimisation.
However, when contacted, Customs Public Relations Officer, Tin can Island Port command, Uche Ejesieme, denied the allegation against the officer, saying that the NPA gate was not pulled down as alleged.
He said, “NPA started gate control yesterday, as part of effort to sanitize the port environment because it is normal for some unauthorised people to force themselves to have access.
“What happened was just a misunderstanding between those forcing themselves in with some of the officials manning the gate but it did not last for five minutes.
An officer cannot come to the gate in uniform because everybody comes on Okada from Mile 2 to Tin Can, so the issue of wearing uniform or not is inconsequential.
It was just a minor issue that has been resolved. Someone alleged they pulled down the gate but nobody pulled down any gate.”
Speaking on the enforcement of crowd control at the port, Port Manager, Tin Can Island Port, Umar Abubakar, said that the exercise was a normal routine put in place to control crowd and sanitize the port environment.
“What the port is doing is the mandatory exercise in terms of controlling access. We started yesterday and normal port activities still continue. It is not a new thing; maybe it is the enforcement they are seeing as something new.
We are only enforcing the buzzing in and buzzing out and also the crowd because if you come around Tin Can, it is always looking like a market place, so we are only trying to control the movement,” he said.