The new Commissioner of Police, Ports Authority Police Command in charge of Western Zone, CP Celestine Okoye has revealed that security and traffic control within Apapa are top priorities in his agenda following his deployment to the command from the Operations Department in the Force Headquarters in Abuja.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) in Lagos on Wednesday, Okoye noted that while the customs had the duty to collect revenue for the federal government, the police were at the ports primarily to secure lives and property in the area.
He said,”We received reports concerning security challenges and that was why I had to move from Operations Department at the Force Headquarters to come to this place and the moment I arrived, I made it known to the NPA Management that I must move to the port. I have to shift my office to Apapa ports immediately. I did it because I wouldn’t want to be a photographer, I want to see it as it is happening and then take immediate action and I promise that within the next few weeks, you will see serious changes”.
He noted that he was moving gradually towards having a very cordial arrangement with the Lagos State Police command on the traffic situation in Apapa as Apapa gridlock was not for the Ports Authority Police Command alone to tackle but for the PAP command, the state command and that of the other security agencies.
He continued,”If I must say one thing, I have to appreciate the Naval personnel because I used to see them everyday. I live in Ikoyi and most times when I am coming to work, I used to see the Naval personnel controlling traffic. They are doing it everyday and they are doing it very well. So, I have to appreciate them, I am going to visit their commander here to thank him for the good job he is doing.
“But all of us know the cause of this traffic, we are talking to some stakeholders also, I have spoken to them, I was there yesterday at APMT, then we discussed with Greenview, I have to talk to them because we are discussing traffic and if we are discussing traffic, we discuss vehicles, trucks that carry those empty and loaded containers. If these empty containers can be deposited at Trade Fair and be transported to the ports at night, I believe it will solve our problems so that during the day, we will have free movement.
“If you have containers to clear, you will be free to go, then payment of demurrage will be less and I know that most of you are bearing the burden of that payment. As it is affecting you, it is also affecting me because I have a lot of brothers that are in this business. So, I will do my best to help so that your business can flow”.
Earlier in his welcome address, the National President of NAGAFF, Chief Increase Uche while welcoming the Commissioner noted that apart from the fact that so many high ranking police officers most of whom were retired today played key roles in providing support for the establishment of NAGAFF, the association had received a handful of Commissioners of Police and other senior officers at its headquarters adding that they had also paid good number of working visits to Police commands, the last being their visit to the late AIG Maritime, Pius Imue.
Uche drew the attention of the Commissioner to the challenges facing freight forwarders at the ports to include; the incessant abuse of the general duty powers of the police, the unchecked harassment and violation of the right of their members by the various agencies of government at the ports with regards to access into the ports, the non enforcement of regulations, the resistance to change by port users, the high handedness of terminal operators and shipping companies, the deplorable state of the port access roads and the widespread corruption in the system.
“Hon. Commissioner Sir, having said all these, we want to affirm that your visit to this compound today came at the right time when government is head bent in addressing the numerous challenges in the maritime industry through the executive order on the Ease of Doing Business reform of the sector.
“We see this as a welcome development and have always thrown our weight in support of the government efforts at providing the enabling environment for business to thrive. We are also convinced that your visit here today would afford our members the opportunity to rub minds and find out what the intention of your office is in the new executive order which geared towards removing some of the bottlenecks impeding free flow of trade and associated services in the maritime sector.
“Let me conclude this welcome address by assuring you that NAGAFF is ever determined to work with you, we would want you to count on our support and cooperation in making your tenure as CP of Port Authority Police, Western Command a success”, he assured.