NPA buckles under NDLEA threats to remain at port

— retraces its step to evict the anti-drug czar

Funso Olojo || The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) seemed to have retracted its earlier step to shut out the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA) from operating at the ports.

Under the guise of enforcing the Executive Order issued by the Acting President Yemi Osibajo , the Managing Director of the NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, penultimate week at a stakeholders’ meeting at Lagos ports, announced that only seven agencies are eligible to operate in the ports and they include Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Department of State Security (DSS), Port Health  and Nigeria Police Force (NPF) while the NDLEA will be invited to the ports when its services are needed.

This announcement pitted the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA) against the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) which statutorily superintends over the enforcement of the order.

But the NDLEA vehemently contested the move to shut its operatives out of the ports, saying such attempt was in flagrant violation of the Executive order which listed the agency among those allowed to operate at the ports.

The agency, however, reiterated its pre-eminence as a key operator in the ports and any attempt to misinterpret the well thought-out Executive Order of the Acting President with a view to evicting her officials from the ports will be deemed as a slight on the Acting President.

Mitchell Oforyeju, NDLEA spokesperson, said in a statement that the agency’s operations in the ports are statutorily backed and urged members of the public not to be misled by reports emanating from some quarters indicating that NDLEA was not on the list of seven agencies welcomed in the ports.

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Oforyeju flaunted an NPA letter inviting NDLEA to a stakeholders meeting and which stated clearly that the agency was among those cleared to operate in Nigerian seaports, “NDLEA is among the seven agencies with the presidential mandate to operate at the seaports following the decision to reduce the number of government organisations at the ports in 2012’’ noted Oforyeju.

He stated further: ” Section 8 (1b) of the NDLEA Act states that the agency shall work in collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service in monitoring the movement of goods and persons in any Customs Area, Customs Stations, Customs Ports or Customs Airports and searching cargoes and incoming and outgoing  vessels,” said Oforyeju.

The NPA has then insisted that the anti-drug agency was clearly not wanted at the ports unless otherwise invited.

However, last week, the Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Colonel Mohammad Mustapha (RTD)  threatened to take legal actions against any persons bent on misinterpreting the Presidential Executive Order for selfish ends.

“Any attempts to violate this directive shall be considered as a conspiracy to advance the nefarious activities of drugs cartels to the detriment of our national security. This must not be condoned.” Abdullah warned.

Few hours after the threat, the NPA issued a statement that was incoherent in content and clearly suggests that the agency was confused in its earlier eviction order.

According to a press statement by Ibrahim Nasiru, a Principal Manager in the Public Affairs Department of NPA who doubles as the spokesman of the agency, the NDLEA could stay in the port but a methodology on the type of cargo to be inspected by the agency will be worked out.

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‘’ The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) hereby reiterates the subsistence of a 2011 presidential directive for the reduction of the number of agencies that are to operate and have physical representation at the ports to eight.

‘’The  directive communicated to the Managing Director of the NPA in a 26th October, 2011 memo from the  Federal Ministry of Transportation, listed the seven approved agencies as: Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); Nigerian Customs Service (NCS); Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Nigeria Police; Department of State Security (DSS); Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and Port Health.

‘’It also stated that while the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) should remain at the ports, a methodology which would ensure that only relevant cargoes are inspected by the agency should be worked out.

Other agencies not mentioned in the list above should remain outside the port premises while the Authority develops standard procedures to facilitate their seamless operation’’, the NPA declared in the statement.

Stakeholders described the latest statement of the NPA as a sign of capitulation in the face of the threat of the NDLEA as well as misinterpretation of the Executive Order which NPA has insisted does not include the NDLEA.

It was also noted that the NPA management was confused between the 2011 presidential order for which it predicated its latest amendment of its earlier announcement to exclude the NDLEA and the Executive order by the Acting President.

It could be recalled that in 2012, the then Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, acting on the 2011 presidential order, had listed eight government agencies allowed to operate at the port which clearly included the NDLEA.