By Richards Adeniyi
The Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association has officially written to the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, decrying the alleged incessant harassment and extortion of its members by men of the Marine Police unit and other security agencies.
The union in a statement in Lagos recently alleged that the level of extortion at sea has gone bizarre to the extent of commercializing marine policing.
The statement signed by National President of the union, Matthew Alalade and Secretary General, Comrade Julius Efokpor, informed the Police chief about the increasing extortion by the Marine unit of Police at sea, notably in Lagos waters.
The statement alleged that aside the police official gunboats expected to patrol along the stretch of the inland waterways, it has engaged several private speedboat operators to mount unnecessary settlement and collection points most especially at the Atlas Cove jetty.
The seafaring union further identified the cadre of the marine unit of the police at sea who are culpable of the illegality, pointing out that their ranks range between constable and sergeant.
“The Commodore Pool channel through the Atlas Cove Jetty to the Lagos breakwaters is the major transit route for seafarers legitimately going to their place of work at Lagos outside bar and also the cross movement of Nigerian citizens engaged in various decent shipping activities, the marine police has grossly proliferate too many of their checkpoints boats along the axis.
“These police boats are anchored at very close proximity to each other along the route and always ingeniously creating avenues to extort by demanding for all sorts of unnecessary clearances, searches and questioning with threat to send the seafarers back to wherever they are coming from or threaten to beat them up and get them arrested,” the union’s statement read.
According to them, there are about 15 to 20 police boats within Chinese jetty and Atlas Cove.
Furthermore, it stated that “the Marine Police has converted this legitimate Nigerian territorial waters into an illegal international border checkpoint where they treat all passerby not as fellow Nigerians, “but as if they are foreigners crossing from Nigeria to another country thereby subjecting them to all sorts of embarrassing questioning and creating a very conspicuous socio – economic nuisance along that corridor, especially with their perception that the environment is hidden from the public whereby law abiding citizens and other operators cannot safely challenge them or shout for their public exposure.”
As a key stakeholder in marine operations, the union however called on IGP to curb the menace of the Police marine unit and curb the fear and frustration faced by seafarers in line with the change mantra of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.