Police Accuse NIMASA of Hiding N900b Shipping Fraud
Police authorities at the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) have accused the management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), of deliberately frustrating Police investigators in the attempt to unravel how Shipping companies and clearing agents in the country diverted a whopping N900 billion government money to their private pockets.
A top Police source at SFU revealed to our correspondent that getting NIMASA to cooperate and avail policemen of necessary information and documents that would have helped to substantiate allegation of sleazes against some shipping companies and clearing agents operating in the country, has been difficult.
“I think NIMASA has something to hide. It is either they are screening the affected Shipping/Clearing companies from the law, or they are part of the scam, as such would not want to be exposed through Police investigation.”
The Police said, several correspondences to NIMASA management in regard to this issue were never replied. “Not even acknowledgement of any of our letters to them. Meanwhile, we have a case of stealing/diversion of government property against them.”
The source said as things are now, it might be forced to hit the court room, for an order compelling NIMASA to open its books to police investigators from SFU. It would be recalled that our correspondent had reported exclusively that Nigeria is bleeding seriously in the maritime sector as it loses over N2.4 billion daily to cargo under-declarations by shipping companies and their agents and a whopping N900 billion in three years.
This under-declaration affects the various kinds of cargoes: bulk cargo, liquid cargo and dry cargo, says Transparency International (TI) in a petition its forwarded to Police detectives at the Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Force Criminal Investigations Department (FCID) of the Nigeria Police Force.
According to the petition, which was obtained by our Correspondent recently, “while the nation loses much in liquid and bulk cargo because they cannot easily be quantified aboard ship, it is baffling that shipping companies will still under-declare the quantity of dry cargo their ships bring even when it is easier to quantify.”
The petition which is signed by two rapporteurs, Xantus Timipere and Otonye Briggs in Nigeria for and on behalf of TI and dated, June 12, 2013, stated further that, “many of the containers and vehicles brought in are not declared, all in a bid to avoid payment of the statutory charges and fees collected by government agencies, including NIMASA, NPA among others.
Investigation revealed that, the fraud investigated by the Police spanned three years, 2010, 2011 and 2012. “These are the ones that we could lay our hands on documents, but the sleaze is a continuous exercise in the industry with NIMASA officials pretending that all is well,” the petition posited.
Police detectives at SFU confirmed to our Correspondent that top officials of the fingered companies were recently arrested by the Police and, “they have made statements to us (Police) but effort to verify their claims further with NIMASA met a stone-wall as management of NIMASA refused to cooperate with the Police in the investigation.
NIMASA collect statutory 3 percent surcharge fees from all shipment into the country through the Ports. The money is paid in dollars. “In short all NIMASA transactions with shipping companies are carried out in hard currencies”, our source said.
The Commissioner of Police (CP) SFU, Idris Umar, in a chat confirmed the development. He also confirmed that the existence of such petition in the department and added that investigation was on going, “when we are through, you shall be duly informed about the outcome. For now that is much I can say. Do not forget that I inherited most of this high profile cases from my predecessor, so I have to continue from where he stopped, but it is a huge economy wastage.” Umar stated.
Effort to get NIMASA comment on the allegations met a brick wall also as our Correspondent was not allowed entry into the agency at Apapa area of Lagos. Also several telephone calls to the Deputy Director (Public Affairs) of the agency, Isichei Osamgbi, were not picked neither did he return our Correspondent’s missed calls on his phone.
Similarly, officials of the indicted companies would not also want to speak on the issue. For instance, at MOL Head office in Apapa, one Charles, whom a security man at the main gate described as the Administration Manager, told our Correspondent that his company does not speak to journalists. “My company has no business with the press, you can go to NIMASA and get whatever information you want and go ahead and write your story.”