LAGOS — CLEARING agents operating at the container complex of Tin-can Island port in Lagos State, lost over a N100 million worth of property to the Tin-can Fire incident that razed down part of the complex on Tuesday, even as some agents are pointing accusing fingers at the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA and a popular terminal operator, as being behind the fire outbreak.
Speaking to Vanguard on the incident, Chairman, Port and Terminal Multi-purpose Limited, PTML, Chapter of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Akintola Hastrop, said that the value of the property lost to the outbreak was far over N100 million. Hastrop disclosed that the loss was much because most agents were still on holidays and therefore, could not rescue their belongings.
However, Chairman of the Complex and National President of Freight Forwarders Elders Forum, FFEF, Chukwuemeka Shedrack, told Vanguard that only five of the 91 containerised offices were affected by the fire outbreak. Shedrack explained that the property lost included buildings worth over N105 million and property belonging to the agents, worth over N1.5 million. He listed some of the items lost to the fire to include office equipment, their client documents, physical cash, some of their licenses etc.
He further noted that the Tin-can Fire outbreak was an act of saboutage by persons who want them out of the premises. The FFEF boss wondered how there could be fire outbreak at both the popular NPA building known as ‘National’ around Tin Can Island Port second gate which affected several offices including that of Ada Akpunonu, a former vice chairman of ANLCA at Tin Can and the container complex which belong to the Seaview Properties Limited, both a subsidiary of NPA.
It will be recalled that the NPA had given occupants of the PTML container complex an eviction notice in 2016. The occupants alleged that it was an attempt by NPA to concession the complex to a popular port concessionaire and as a result, they had gone to court last year to challenge the quit order by the NPA.
On the allegation on involvement of NPA in the Tin-can Fire incident, a source spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it was not true. The source explained that if NPA wants the agents out, all it needed to do was to follow due process to get them out.
However, NPA has sympathised with those affected in the unfortunate fire incident which occurred at the Tin Can Island Port Complex, TCIPC, Apapa. The Authority in a statement by the Assistant General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Isah Suwaid, reiterated its firm resolve to ensure that safety and security of lives and property at the nation’s seaports were key priorities in its operations across board.
The authority enjoined stakeholders, operators and port users to imbibe the tenets of safety and security dictates as required by the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, and other International agencies in their operations. According to the statement, all and sundry were assured of a safe, secure and customer friendly environment for the ease of doing business at the nation’s seaports.
The Authority further charged stakeholders to continue their operations and activities without fear and be vigilant at all times, adding that all necessary machineries have been deployed by the management to contain and subsequently stem further re-occurrence.