Seafarers, Customs At Logger Heads over Extortion

The Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (MNOWTSSA) has accused operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service and the Marine Police of extorting seafarers while boarding vessels at the Lagos anchorage.
This was even as the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) challenged the seafarers body to name officers who demanded bribe.
Speaking to Journalists, President of the association, Engr. Mathew Alalade, lamented that seafarers were being molested and embarrassed by security agencies while on duty, calling on the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to come to their aid.
According to him, the practice was common in Lagos waterways, with the police having no fewer than 15 checkpoints. He said failure to yield to the demand of the security agencies often led to delay, making some seafarers miss out while on their way to board their ships.
He said, “The customs and marine police officials often extort money from seafarers. What they do now is if you buy food going on board, they will ask for receipts of the food because they want to collect money from you.
“If you are going for a repair of an item that has been bought for long, they ask of receipt and if you can’t produce it, they start demanding for money. At times, they delay the seafarers and they miss their ship.
“There was a time we had curfew about four years ago when Atlas Cove was robbed near the naval dockyard, so they imposed curfew. Despite the fact that, the curfew had been lifted for a long time, they still extort money from seafarers.
“Along this axis, the Marine Police alone have about 15 checkpoints at a place that is not up to half a mile. The Customs, immigration stop our members and they extort people going on their legitimate duties. We have told NIMASA and they said they are going to call them for a meeting to address the problem.”
However, the National Public Relations Officer of the Service, Joseph Attah, said the service was yet to get official complaint from the seafarer body on extortion by the service.
He also asked for where such events happened saying both givers and takers are guilty under the law.
His words, “Though there is no such official report, let me state that its not fair to do a blanket accusation.
“You gave something to somebody who has identity, why not come clean with who, where and why such was committed.
“Remember, the giver and taker are both guilty under the law.”

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