Burnt NPA House
The last is yet to be heard about the alleged burning and looting of the corporate head office of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Lagos, as both the Managing Director of the Authority, Ms. Hadiza Usman and the Board Chairman, Chief George Rickets, have taken on the gauntlets, while expressing divergent views and assessment of the damage done.
While appreciating sympathizers and stakeholders for their concern and encouragement over the attacks, Hadiza however assured that “the situation has not affected operations of the authority in any way as we have continued to render our services unhindered.”
Rickets had within days of the incident deemed it necessary to issue an official statement, noting that the attacks on the NPA House and its facilities at Tin Can Island Lagos, could lead to major disruption of its activities and the port economy as a whole.
But Hadiza yesterday, faulted the board chairman and emphatically said the damage will in no way affect the authority’s operations; an assurance that immediately douse fears about possible disruptions of ports activities, and to some extent, also question the capacity of the board chairman to make statement ahead of the executive managing director, even though she may have gone missing for upwards of a week at the wake of the attack.
Hadiza’s clarification also raised other fundamental issues, such as who carried out the attack, as she inadvertently linked the attack to both unknown persons and hoodlums. Her position is more confusing as the Lagos State Police Command last week announced that a large number of hoodlums who perpetrated acts of arson and looting have been arrested and arraigned in court.
Her response is coming close to two weeks after the alleged touching of the building by suspected hoodlums. In a tour of the head office yesterday, Hadiza who was missing more than a week after the incident, regretted the attacks on her facilities, as she linked the attack to unknown persons on one breathe, and to hoodlums on another breathe.
The NPA boss’ apparent prevarication and lack of definite assertion on who carried out the attacks may have also lent credence to allegations and fears that the arson may have been an insider’s action, presumably undertaken to conveniently pass the blame on to riotous hoodlums during the EndSARS protests by youths.
Following the conflicting signals, industry watchers are believed to be anxious and apprehensive that the apparent opposing views and assessment of the damage done to the authority’s facilities by the managing director and board chairman could be a pointer to a covering up, a concern that is accentuated by the authority’s boss display of lack of urgency in making a public statement, which pundits describe as either one of official laid back attitude or a scheming to downplay suspected insiders act.
A statement by the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, NPA, Engr. Adams Jatto, sighted by our reporter, notes that while the attacks on its Tin Can Island facility took place on 20th October 2020, the attack on its head office followed the next day, while attributing the attacks variously to unknown persons and to hoodlums.
The statement reads, “The management of the Nigerian Ports Authority regrets the attack on its 26/28 Marina Road, Lagos, corporate headquarters and the Tin Can Island Port by unknown persons on Wednesday October 21st and Tuesday October 20th, 2020 respectively.
“The attack on the Tin Can Island Port commenced at 9:45am on Tuesday October 20th 2020. The hoodlums made an attempt to forcefully gain access into the port, attacked the administrative building and set ablaze a truck which was evacuating cargo.
“The attackers at the headquarters numbering over 300 persons, gained access into the premises at 8:42am on Wednesday October 21st 2020 from the outer Broad Street wing brandishing daggers, sticks and cutlasses.”
The authority said the attackers disarmed and chased away security personnel on duty out of the headquarters premises, and thereafter, “proceeded to burn and vandalise several vehicles belonging to the authority and some members of staff”, after which a wing of the office building was reportedly on fire.
Industry observers have also expressed further doubt at the sincerity of the authority’s management on what may have actually transpired, making issues out of Hadiza’s claim that its security personnel on duty were disarmed. Concerned stakeholders told Pinnacle Time that NPA security outfit is not an arm bearing organ, which further accentuate rising doubt on the credibility of what may have actually happened and what the NPA leadership claimed to have happened.
The NPA have a dedicated police command, which alone have the responsibility to carry arms. Could the NPA leadership have mistaken port police for its own security personnel? The miss up if it is one, seems curious and certainly sounds like a bedlam of inaccuracies and possible twist of facts.
According to the statement, officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces who were deployed to the premises upon invitation, who successfully dispersed the hoodlums and reclaimed possession of the premises, following which the authority’s firemen were able to gain access into the building to put out the fire.
“After an assessment of the extent of damage, it was discovered that apart from the annex wing that was burnt, many offices were vandalised, while computers, printers, water dispensers and other electronic devices were looted.
“A total of Twenty-seven (27) vehicles, including cars, utility vehicles, pick up vans and staff buses were set on fire, while Thirty-three (33) other vehicles, twenty-two of which belong to members of staff were vandalised. A Toyota Prado SUV, a Bajaj Motorcycle and one Hilux patrol van were also stolen from the premises.”
It will be recalled that NigeriaMaritime 360, an industry news medium, reported that Rickets had in a statement said the EndSARS protest attacks on the authority’s facilities will affect its operations as well as affect ports economic activities.
“While the youths have the rights to protest, it has become obvious that the peaceful protest was hijacked by criminal elements. The destruction of a critical facility such as the NPA building will affect the nation’s economy”, he was quoted as saying, adding:
“The NPA belongs to all Nigerians and as an import dependent nation, it is the port that feeds the whole nation. If they start pulling down critical structures of this nature, where do they expect the government to get the funds to meet their demands? he asked.
It is however noteworthy that the authority said that all its assets are comprehensively insured, and informed that “insurers are currently undergoing an assessment of the damages.”
Another curious dimension is the listing of private properties such as vehicles owned by members of staff, said to have been destroyed, in the authority’s official statement. It is not clear whether NPA and its insurers are also taking responsibility for these private assets and properties, carefully listed in its assessment report.
Those whose business it is to know say the listing and emphasis of the private assets and properties by management is unwarranted and suspicious.