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Published On: Sun, Jan 7th, 2018

Customs brokers cry foul over New Year fire outbreak at port

The grieving Customs brokers who lost properties to the mysterious fire which gutted their office complex at Tin Can port have pointed accusing fingers at the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) for the fire incident.

In what appeared to be curious coincidence, two fire incidents broke out almost simultaneously at the office complex at Port and Terminal Multi-services Limited(PTML) and the second gate office complex all at the Tin Can Island port.

Both container office complex are dominated by Customs brokers and owned by the NPA. The New Year inferno was said to have destroyed over 40 offices before it was put out by the NPA fire fighters. The Customs agents who lost properties ranging from office automation gadgets and vital document relating to their  clearing job, accused NPA of complicity in the unfortunate incident which they claimed was planned to evict them from the location.

Akintunde Ojo, the Tin Can Port chairman of IFFA, said that operators with offices inside the complex are suspecting foul play, alleging that the fire might have been caused deliberately. The victims of the fire incident alluded to the running battle with the NPA and the occupants of the complex over the eviction notice issued in 2016 by the Seaview Properties Limited, a subsidiary of NPA, which manages the building.

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The occupants of the building had in 2017 taken the NPA to court to forestall their eviction.

The Chairman of the complex, Chukwuemeka Shedrack, led other operators to protest against what they regarded as NPA plan to concession the place to a popular port concessionaire.

‘’Since then, the NPA has been looking for means of chasing us out of the complex without success. This fire incident which I suspect was premeditated, has presented them with the opportunity  to chase us out because now due to the fire incident, they will ask everybody to leave for them to reconstruct the place and that will be the end of the matter’’, one of the victims of the fire incident projected.

Another victim queried the timing and the proximity of the two incidents.

‘’It was well planned to coincide with when almost all the occupants will be on recess as a result of the Chrismas and New year celebrations. As am talking to you now, majority of the occupiers of the affected offices are away on holiday. Isn’t is curious that the mysterious fire happened at the two office buildings almost simultaneously and when nobody was around?’’, an observer interjected.

However, as at the time of writing this report, most of the victims of the fire incident have cut short their recess and visited the scene to access the extent of their losses.

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Meanwhile, the management of NPA has condoled with the victims of the fire incident while reiterating its commitment to the safety of lives and properties at the ports.

According to the press statement signed by Isah Suwaid, the management expressed concern while sympathizing with those affected in the unfortunate fire incident which occurred at locations in the Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC), Apapa during which no lives were lost.

According to the statement, the NPA reiterates its firm resolve at ensuring that safety and security of lives and property at the Nations’ Seaports are key priorities in its operations across board.

‘’Stakeholders, Operators and Port users are therefore enjoined to imbibe the tenets of safety and security dictates as required by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and other International agencies in their operations.

“We assure all and sundry of a safe, secure and customer friendly environment for the ease of doing business at the nation’s Seaports”.

The NPA authority therefore charged Stakeholders to continue operations and activitieswithout fear and be vigilant at all times as all necessary machineries have been deployed by the management to contain and subsequently stem further re-occurrence.

 

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