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#ENDSARS Protests:  Bitter tales as Maritime Sector loses billions of Naira

Chinazor Megbolu
Government agencies, private organisations and stakeholders’ business interests in the maritime sector were not left out of the recent mayhem that trailed the #EndSARS  protest that left a bitter taste in the mouths of many.
Hoodlums had hijacked the initially peaceful protests organised by Nigerian youths against police brutality.
The loss cannot be immediately quantified but rough estimates revealed that billions were lost in the course of the mayhem on both government and private facilities
The recently completed Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) building that consumed billion of naira was torched even as several cars were burnt down.
Recall that the hashtag #EndSARS became viral once again on social media on October 4, 2020 following a video showing a Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) officer shooting a young motorist in Ughelli, Delta State and later pushed his body out of the car and drove off with the dead man’s Lexus SUV.
As a result of the aforementioned, crowds of young people gathered in Nigerian cities to demand the disbandment of SARS across Nigeria for many days.
Despite the Inspector -General of Police, Adamu’s announcement on October 11, 2020 that SARS would be disbanded, crowds of protesters grew bigger across Nigeria and abroad even in the face of violence and intimidation. Since the protests began, estimates are that at least 100 individuals have reportedly lost their lives; 48 of whom were allegedly killed on Black Tuesday alone at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos.
The Tuesday shooting of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate was said to have instigated  the anger of the youths who went on rampage across the nation.
Some public facilities were badly destroyed,including hundreds of BRT buses, police stations as well as private investments.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) headquarters, Marina was not spared by the irate youths who set the recently completed building gulping billions of naira on fire.
Both private and government vehicles at the car park of the Authority were burnt beyond recognition, amounting to millions of naira.
This singular act received total condemnation from stakeholders, who felt the action by the hoodlums is a set back to the entire sector and the nation at large.
The management and staff of NPA are still counting their losses arising from the burning of the edifice.
The damages done by hoodlums, who took advantage of the recent #EndSARS protests to steal, vandalise and burn down the six-floor building, which few years ago was renovated has forced many employees of the apex maritime regulator to work from home.
However, insurance corporations have already swung into action working with the relevant units towards ascertaining the extent of damage done by the arsonists.
Although its noticeable that despite the carnage, port operations are going on smoothly, a number of its workers are also stranded, having been asked to stay at home until further notice.
The General Manager, Corporate Communications, NPA, Mr. Jatto Adams, had told newsmen that the ports are working, that the carnage didn’t affect port operations.
“The ports are working. The port operations are not affected in any way. What we are doing now is to take stock and ascertain the level of damage. The insurance companies are also part of those on ground taking the stock.
“We have asked those at the headquarters to remain at home, while those who are needed to be at the scene of the incident for stock-taking are already on ground.
“We have not been able to issue a statement on the extent of the damages, because we want to take stock and be comprehensive with our facts,” Adams said.
He however maintained that he could not give the cost of damages at the moment until the ongoing stock taking was over.
NPA Board’s Stand
The Board Chairman, NPA, Chief Akin Ricketts on October 21, 2020, condemned the burning of the NPA headquarters in Marina, Lagos State by hoodlums.
In a statement, he noted that while the youths have the rights to protest, it has become obvious that the peaceful protest was hijacked by criminal elements, saying the destruction of a critical facility such as the NPA will affect the economic activities of the ports.
Ricketts further buttressed that Nigeria as a largely import-dependent nation, the port was a critical aspect of the nation’s economy, adding that negative development will further degrade the country in the eyes of the international communities.
He maintained that the Federal Government had made a firm commitment towards checkmating the issues of police brutality and good governance which was what the EndSARS protests is seeking to address.
“We strongly condemn this act of burning the Marina headquarters of the NPA. The NPA plays a critical role as a Federal Government’s parastatals in the maritime industry.
“The NPA belongs to all Nigerians and as an import-dependent nation, it is the port that feeds the whole nation. If they start pulling down critical structures of this nature where do they expect the government to get the funds to meet their demands?
“We agree that the youths have their rights to protest but they should also see the need for dialogue. They should also note that the protest has been hijacked by criminal elements. The Federal Government has said they are going to attend to some of their demands, we are appealing to them to give a chance to the government.
“We appeal to them not to allow hoodlums and criminal elements highjack the peaceful protest as intended as the Federal Government is equally understanding. Let’s all give peace a chance.”
Maritime Union
Meanwhile, the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN), were not left out in the condemnation as regards the attack and vandalism of the NPA headquarters.
According to the President, MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju; “the wreckage of the NPA building and the looting of its property is protest carried too far, and it is only vandals whose brains are no longer in the right position that can carry out such.
“Whilst we condemn in its entirety the barbaric destruction of the NPA building by some misguided youths, we pray that the perpetrators are apprehended and made to face the wrath of the law.
“Whilst peaceful protest is universally-acknowledged as a legitimate instrument usually engaged to draw the attention of government to its inadequacies or misgovernance, but when this protest turns awry and weapons are wantonly used, property looted and damaged, and innocent souls wasted, it becomes regrettable and counterproductive.
“We seize this opportunity to express our unalloyed support/solidarity with the management of NPA at this difficult time and always”.
Nigeria Customs Service.
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in Lagos State claimed to have lost N18 billion to #EndSARS protest in the State.
The about N18 billion loss at the Apapa and Tin Can Island commands was due to the three days curfew imposed by the Lagos State Government.
The Public Relations Officer, Apapa Area Command, Usman claimed the command, which is the highest revenue generating NCS formation lost an average of N10 billion going by its daily target of N3 billion during the period the protest and curfew lasted.
According to him; “The command has lost between N9 to N10 billion during the period the curfew lasted from Tuesday to Friday because we make an average collection of N2 billion to N3 billion in a day.
Moreover, Public Relations Officer, Tin Can Island Command of the Service, Mr. Uche Ejesieme said the command’s revenue loss was put to the tune of N8 bilion with an estimated daily collection of N1.5 billion to N2 billion.
“We did not work at all for four days. We have a daily projection of N1.5 to N2 billion just to ensure that we try to meet up the official monthly target but because there was no work during that period, our expected revenue did not come for the period that the Lagos State government announced that there would be curfew,” Ejesieme said.
“The Controller had directed that the protesters should put their request in writing and he is determined to ensure that areas where we need to make adjustment, necessary adjustment be made. But our major emphasis for now is trade facilitation and any compliant trader is always given expeditious clearance in the value chain.
“Some of the demands which we feel are legitimate would be looked into. The ones that are beyond us such as FOU and Strike Force have been communicated to the headquarters for further action as we have been sending incident reports to give them updates on the development,” he said.
Aviation Sector
The nation’s aviation sector isn’t left out in the whole saga as it was estimated that billions of Naira were lost during the period protest lasted.
Activities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) were grounded as curfew was declared by Lagos State government.
Airlines operators cancelled Lagos flights over the 24-hour curfew imposition. The curfew made all flights in and out of Lagos to be obstructed as local and international airlines announced cancellation of flights to the nation’s busiest airport.
Stakeholders Speak
Moreover, the Vice President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Segun Musa during an interview said: “I think the public needs to take the government responsible and accountable for any destruction and damages done to any port infrastructures. “The essence of government has been defeated and our government has failed. Aside protecting lives and properties of the private citizens as enshrined in our constitution, it is also the duty of government to put basic tools in place that would enhance security and safety of the public infrastructures and civil servants.
“In a situation where government can not fulfill these basic minimum needs and necessities, then it is obvious that such leadership has lost relevance and needs to exit the position for more capable and well equipped formations to continue the process of leadership”.
He further posited that it would be a little difficult to quantify within this short time what has been lost from the side of the private and public sectors but definitely it would be in a figure of hundreds of billions.
According to him; “my candid advice to the government is to change focus and identify the real needs of the citizens beyond infrastructural development and cater for it.
“These needs includes nutritional food, shelter, free and qualitative educational, standard medical infrastructures across-the-board, effective and efficient rural and urban transport system that would enhance safe and business friendly corridors”.
Another stakeholder and former member, CRFFN’s Freight Forwarders Consultative Forum, Mr. Chidi Anthony Opara, noted that the #EndSARS protest actually affected the maritime sector mainly on the movement of imports and exports.
He explained the action stagnated importation and exportation as result of blockades of roads by protesters, curfews imposed by the authorities,  which restricted the movements of industry facilitators.
“It is still early in the day to quantify what was lost. It’s however obvious that enormous amount of resources was lost during the saga,” Opara said.
With all the above narratives, a lot needs to be done to correct the anomalies in order to avoid future occurrence. All hands must be on deck to help correct the ills, which in the first place necessitated the protests that led to the eventual carnage on NPA and a host of others.
Government at all levels need to do the needful by assisting both corporate organisations, stakeholders and individuals, who one way or the other were affected.

© 2020, maritimemag. All rights reserved.

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