By Godwin Oritse
LAGOS‚ÄîTHE¬†United States Government, through its Embassy in Lagos, has cautioned the Federal Government to improve on its ports security system within 90 days or face the stoppage of sail of¬† vessels to Nigeria.
The Embassy,¬†Vanguard¬†gathered, got an audit report from the officials of the United States Coast Guards who were in Nigeria about a month ago, to inspect security of the Nigerian ports.
Based on the report, the embassy sent a diplomatic note to the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Nigeria, which in turn contacted the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other relevant agencies.
Confirming the development, General Manager in charge of security at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Col Jamil Tahir (Rtd) toldVanguard¬†that a Diplomatic Note was issued to the foreign affairs ministry to protest the poor state of security at the ports, particularly the Tin-Can Island Port.
Tahir stated that the ports authority has swung into action, following a stakeholders‚Äô meeting called by NPA to sensitise everybody on the need to be pro-active on the security challenges currently facing the ports.
He said that the authority has already secured an approval to instal counter terrorism equipment in strategic areas in and around the port premises.
The 90-day ultimatum, according to Tahir, started last month and will expire at the end of August.
He said that the US¬† threatened to stop shipping services to Nigeria and to also mobilize its allied countries to do the same if the port security situation was not improved upon.
At a Port Facility Security Officers (PFSO) Forum meeting in Lagos last week, a member of the group who preferred to remain anonymous said that the situation at the ports after the visit of the U.S coast guards has not changed as the people still hibernate under disused¬† vehicles around the ports.
It was also said that the Tin-CanIslandPort in particular is like a regular market place where all kinds of people have unrestricted access while broken down vehicles liter the port‚Äôs access roads.
Besides the measures being put in place to secure the nation‚Äôs ports by the NPA, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) called for a stakeholders‚Äô meeting today (Monday) to intimate stakeholders of the transfer of Designated Authority (D/A) responsible for the implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code.
The ISPS code is the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) convention to secure and safeguard ships and port facilities around the world following the renewed global terrorism.
It will be recalled that the Executive Director in charge of¬† NIMASA‚Äôs Shipping development, Captain Bala Agaba had said that the ISPS code has not been properly implemented¬† in Nigeria, adding that with the transfer of Designated Authority to NIMASA, the industry will begin to see improved ship and port security in the Nigerian ports.