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Background of the study
Nigeria is indeed one of the greatest maritime nations of the world; this is confirmed by both the local maritime operators and foreign maritime operators. Ports are supposed to be security zones and policed as such to prevents crimes mainly theft, smuggling among sabotage attacks, stowaway. In olden days, theft as merely limited to petty pilferage and broaching of cartons by Dockers only tilling their pockets that would neither attract attention nor cause appreciable loss to the cargo consignee. The crime latter escalated to piracy on board vessels at anchorage. Crews were violently robbed and cargo stolen, with some measure of success in checking piracy at anchorage, attention shifted to the ports proper. There are many security agents both conventional recognized law enforcement agents and the fadeless ones purporting to be government officials seeing to the general security of our ports These notwithstanding the ports are being easily accessible to a multitude of hoodlums now popularly known as “what rats” and syndicates of other malefactors actors who have made the ports their homes. They vandalize the lighting system to enable them carry out their natural and notorious activities. Any degree of crimes can now be perpetrated by these hoodlums acting in cohorts with some of the security agents, and port official. Crew members going ashore are sometimes violently attacked and robbed within and outside the ports. Cargo theft has grown from breaking any types of package within the ports to complete disappearance of container out of the ports. Cargos are being successfully cleared from the port by spurious owners. Ships are boarded by unauthorized persons who steal both cargoes and ship property including those relate to safety. What a criminal act! Vehicular cargoes are more vulnerable to plunder age because of the attention they attract. They are loaded with some goods that are not made parks where they normally await clearing. They are securely locked and then keys are handed to security officials for safety. But most of these vehicles with or without undeclared goods are mysteriously opened and their valuable parts are stolen Clearing of cargoes is a process which the shippers, freight forwarded and consignees thinks is as difficult as the head of the camel having to pass through the eye of the needle The customs long room is being made too “long” for clearing agents Problems with all department involved in the clearing start from the usual indifferences to work, the officials thinking that they are doing the agents favour The agents must “co-operate” with the officials, otherwise their entries will either be unnecessarily delayed further or completely lost in the labyrinth of bureaucracy Having survived the voracity these official and the goods released the clearing agent face the cast ordeal of having to “settle” all other security agents and officials even with authentic release documents Some of the security men still go outside the ports to intercept and tort the consignee for “settlement” Coupled with factors like high port tariffs, port insecurity is now causing Nigerian ports serious loss of clientele to neighbouring ports. Lome and Cotonou for example, although in charter parties and ordinary contracts of affreightment where carriage of goods by sea Act 1971 does not apply to the operating bills of lading. Ship owners can exclude liability for loss of or damage to cargo arising from piratical acts generally the Act (COGSA “71”) does not provide such that Nigeria has joined the club of port stigmatized as dangerous in insurance circle. Consequently, ship owners and shippers pays higher premiums for ships and cargoes, a burden that is ultimately passed to the public consumers.
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