Occupants of Tin Can Island Container Complex have vowed to resist every move to evict them out of the port complex following the eviction notice served on them by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Lagos State Taskforce team.
The eviction notice followed the commencement of the clean-up exercise at the Tin Can Island Port, which started two weeks ago by the NPA in collaboration with the Lagos State Government.
Recall that there is an ongoing legal battle between occupants of the complex and the management of the NPA. The occupants subsequently dragged NPA to court leaving the matter unresolved.
Also in 2016, under the Habib Abdullahi administration as NPA Managing Director, freight forwarders in the port complex were first issued a quit notice by Seaview Properties Ltd., a subsidiary of NPA.
Speaking with journalists, the Chairman of the Container Complex, Shedrack Chukuemeka said the Manager of the NPA Tin Can Port, Yunusa Muhammed and some task force team had visited the port on last Wednesday and issued a 72-hour notice to the occupants to vacate the complex, notwithstanding the court case.
Shedrack vowed that the freight forwarders would resist any attempt to evict them forcefully from their office space, warning that the NPA and the task force must be ready to kill 1, 000 freight forwarders after the expiration of the 72 hours notice.
He also alleged that there is a conspiracy to concession the container complex space to one of the terminal operators.
He narrated: “The matter is still pending in the court, but the NPA sent their delegation with the police to tell me that I should ask my people to park out in the next 72 hours. When we went to see the port manager, he said it was the decision of the Federal Government to sanitise the port and that a task force has been constituted, and that we have not been paying for the past four years.
“I reminded him that the matter is in court and NPA should follow the due process. The place does not belong to us, but the owner must take it back in a polite and lawful manner, they should allow the court to decide the matter.
“If the NPA decides to bring the task force, we would resist them and the world would hear. We have equally told the police DPO to be ready, and come with a lot of arms and ammunition because they will kill more than 1, 000 people here that day.
“They should come and kill all of us. We are standing there waiting; we are not moving an inch until the court decides, and if the court fails to decide, let the port manager bring his hoodlums to evict us.”
Chukuemeka stated that the occupants of the complex have been issuing cheques as payment to Seaview Properties for the past four years but they refused to accept it.
He also said the court case was supposed to come up on June 2021, but because the court was on strike, the case did not hold, noting that a new date is being expected for hearing.
When contacted, the Port Manager, Tin Can Island Port of NPA, Yunusa Muhammed said the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had given an express directive for the Tin Can Port to be cleaned up.
He said the Federal Government is worried that the Tin Can Island Port has maintained a reputation of being the dirtiest, worst and porous port in the world and that effort is now being made to correct that wrong impression.
Muhammed said the move is to ensure that Nigeria meets up the world port standard as Côte d’Ivoire is taking over as the best port in the world, noting that Nigeria is competing with them.
“If you go to Ghana Port, all the shanties you are seeing here at our port cannot be found there. Even at Togo Port, you cannot find it, and we are the richest country, so why should we continue to be dirty and harbour criminals?” he stated.
Muhammed said the NPA management gave the port occupants quit notice over six years ago, which is contrary to the law that mandates the landlord to give the tenant six months maximum to move out.
“The shipping world wants to choose a country in West and Central Africa as the hub for international trade, but in Nigeria, we are losing our values, vessels are abandoning our ports and we are competing with Ivory Coast, if we don’t fix our ports, we would lose,” he said
He further added that the NPA has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Lagos State Government for them to carry out the clean-up around the Lagos ports.
Meanwhile, last week, the task force visited the Tin Can Island first and second gates and destroyed all existing shanties and criminal hideouts.