Nigeria Port Health of Troubles

By Nwangwu Uba

For years there have been a silent war  going at the land border areas between officials of port Health Service and other government agencies. The port Health officials, according to sources, have been found to be doing the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS and Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA jobs, which these agencies officials did not find funny.

The situation is more worrisome at Seme Command where the port Health workers had at different times clashed with the NCS, Immigration, Customs and NDLEA officials over interference in their area of responsibility  to check  travelers bags and import documents instead of restraining themselves to the enforcement of  the rules for  the issuance of yellow fever cards.

There is no gain saying the fact that inoculation against yellow fever by international travelers from other countries to Nigeria is compulsory as Nigerian travelers are also expected to take the yellow fever vaccine injection before jetting out of the country to Europe or the United states including African countries. The rules may have been relaxed for travelers from member countries of the Economic Community of West African countries because of ECOWAS protocol.

This may have left the Port Health Service officials with little or no job to do at the nation’s land borders but to encroach on other agencies job: check  travelers and import documents as well as look out for drugs and arms .

The Value News Magazine cited the Port Health officials at the ECOWAS major route at Seme-Krake Border, the health officials at the the Seme-Krake  land Border  struggling with Immigration officials to check travelers documents. They were  found to be asking the travelers  who are mostly from Ghana, Togo and Cot D’Ivoire to produce their VISA or ECOWAS travelers certificate. The Value Magazine discovered that they never gave opportunity  to the immigration officials who were trained to  do the job to do it, fueling speculations that the Port Health officials may be up to something. The activities of the port health officials  at the Border was not different from what they are doing  along the Lagos-Seme  road where the presence of the Customs , police and the Border  patrol Immigration officials are much felt. The unruffled white shirt stand them out as government officials who have no business on the road. It could not be compared to the Customs,  Immigration or police personnel who stand on the scorch sun to check motorists and passengers.

A security source who spoke to the Magazine  confirmed that the port health officials business at the land border or the road was basically to extort money from  motorists as the opportunity is not there to help travelers obtain the yellow fever vaccine card without vaccination for a paltry sum of N2,000.00. It is not surprising why they rush motorists and passengers along the ECOWAS route as if they are  Customs, Immigration or NDLEA officials to collect their own settlement.

Investigations by the Magazine shows that there are many countries  where the yellow fever vaccination rules did not to apply to their travelers coming to Nigeria because of the bilateral relationship with these countries which had relaxed the rule to facilitate movement of goods and services, particular, ECOWAS countries.  That much was confirmed by a Senior Immigration officer.

Insiders told The Value news that Customs , Immigration and NDLEA officials  may have been tolerating the port health officials over the years in the spirit of inter agency relationship.

Given the heavy presence of security agencies along the nation’s border routes  in the north, southwest and the south-south geo-political regions, President Muhammadu Buhari  moves to streamline the number  of security agencies  that should be found along the border routes. Buhari, according to sources, was said to have given the nod to Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Federal government  to send out the letters to the  agencies at the land border for immediate compliance.

Hameed Ali: CG Of Customs

 

Insiders informed The Value News that directives had already been sent to the port Health, NDLEA, Immigration and Customs  Commands at the land border stations. The directive was said to have made it explicitly clear that port health officials  are not supposed to be on the road as part of measures taken to reduce the number of security agencies at the land border and the seaports.

A port health official from Republic of Benin  who spoke with the Magazine  disclosed that it is only in Nigeria that government agencies struggle to be on the road to do either Customs or immigration jobs. He stressed that it is rare to find  port health officials on the road  because they have no business being  on the road to struggle to check travelers document or import documents with Immigration or Customs personnel.

This is  where Isaac Adewole, a Professor and   minister of Health may have to  take the Buhari’s directive  on the approved agencies that should be at the seaport  or land borders to enjoin his men at the border to confine themselves to their responsibility of issuance of yellow fever vaccine cards and other duties as enshrined in the law setting it up instead of encroaching on Customs , Immigration or NDLEA, jobs to facilitate global  trade.

Already, the government has ratified the Trade  Facilitation Agreement , thus becoming the 170th member country of the World Trade Organisation to do so. It is not surprising why Buhari may not want  any security agency to be identified as posing a stumbling block to the implantation of the WTO agreement. The WTO, according to a ministry of Trade official had enjoined the Nigerian government  to curb the excessive  bureaucracy that exists  when goods are moved across land Borders across the country.  Okechukwu Enelamah, the minister of Trade, has no option but to work closely with  Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Muhammad Babandede, Comptroller General of Immigration and Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector General of police, IGP, to ensure  enforcement of the government policy to  avoid been sanctioned by the WTO.

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