Operatives of the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) Maritime Command have recovered 287 stolen containers belonging to international shipping companies.
The operatives also intercepted a 40ft container allegedly loaded with contraband items including mayonnaise smuggled into the country from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The AIG in charge of the Maritime Command, Susan Akem-Horsfall, disclosed this at a press briefing on Thursday in Lagos.
Akem-Horsfall said the container which was already cleared by the Apapa Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, was flagged by the police following intelligence that it wrongly declared its content.
According to her, two suspects, Obiora Udenkwo and Chika Igwingu were apprehended in connection with the container.
She dismissed as false, allegations that personnel of the command were blocking already released containers and extorting clearing agents.
She stressed that the intercepted 40ft container indicated possible connivance between clearing agents, terminals and shipping companies and operatives of other security agencies to release cargoes wrongly and shortchange the federal government of needed revenue.
The AIG said shipping documents listed that the container was laden with two fairly used vehicles and assorted spare parts only for the police to discover during reexamination that the container was loaded with Mayonnaise, bails of centre rugs, among others.
She, therefore, appealed to sister agencies to come together and operate on the same page to avoid friction and economic sabotage.
Reeling out achievements recorded by the command under her watch, Akeem-Horsfall said: “In an attempt to carry out our functions, the following achievements were made within my one month in office: Recovery of already stolen over 287 empty containers for MSC Shipping, Maersk Nigeria Ltd and other shipping companies.
“One Izuchukwu Udeogu who is a kingpin in the theft of empty containers was arrested and charged to court.
“Secondly, there has been an improvement in our intelligence gathering and the deployment of cutting-edge technology in policing our waterways. This led to the arrest of a 40ft container that is on display here.
“Acting on a credible information and intelligence, men of the Maritime Police Command on Friday 18th August, 2023 at about 2330hrs, intercepted a 40ft container with number MRSU-5797660,.
“The information revealed that the container was cleared with forged documents in connivance with allied security agents at the port.
“Two suspects, Obiora Udenkwo and Chika Igwingu were apprehended and on interrogation, they confessed that there was no vehicle inside the container but it was carrying Robert Soap and that the documents were doctored.
“The suspects would be charged to court upon completion of investigation.
“On assumption of office, I have written several letters inviting the Comptrollers of Customs at Tin Can Island Port and Apapa port. The Apapa Port Comptroller responded because their Comptroller has just been promoted, the Deputy who was acting for him sent the DC Enforcement who came over and we discussed.
“But up till now, the Comptroller of Customs Tin Can Port has not responded. I have had meetings with Shippers Council, Terminal Operators and we have discussed areas in which we can all operate on the same page so that work would be seamless, however I am not getting a good response from them.
“I have extended an olive branch at them but they are not responding. It’s like there is a conspiracy against the police.
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The Maritime Police is supposed to be working with the Port Authority Police, NIMASA, NIWA and everything concerning the coastal area of the nation.
“You cannot be operating the port in isolation without the maritime police. The NCS is not solely responsible for activities at the port because we are charged with revenue enforcement of their activities.
“We are charged with all laws of the federation including customs law. Everything that the Police do on the land, the Maritime Police will do it on the waters.
“I have told them that I operate an open door policy, anything my men are doing wrong, they should feel free to report to me, but I have not been getting this. Rather when i want to investigate a container, they are telling me to write to the Controller of Customs.
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