Story By Roland Ekama.
The Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association has accused some of the marine agencies at sea over issues bothering on extortion.
National president of union, Matthew Alalade, in a chat with newsmen in Lagos, fingered the Nigerian Immigration Service and the Nigeria Customs Service Marine unit as major agencies allegedly extorting seafarers in the line of duty at sea.
Alalade expressed concern over the situation faced by seamen in the hands of government agencies at sea, even as he disclosed that the maritime unions would engage the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in addressing the situation.
According to him, first hand information by members of the seafaring fraternity clearly indicated that operational conveniences were increasingly becoming problematic for Nigerian sailors operating within the maritime space.
The president also accused the Marine Unit of the Nigerian Police Force of similar practice of extortion, adding that navigation with Nigerian waters is in jeopardy courtesy the marine agencies at sea.
"In recent times, the Nigerian Immigration Services has extended a strange exercise of stamping Nigerian seafarers in and out of Nigerian flagged vessels operating within the Nigerian territorial waters and failure to do this has regularly resulted in the seizure of Nigerian crew seaman book, contract papers and international passports.
"Large amounts of money are usually exchanged to get these documents released at all times. Now the question is, do they usually stamp the international passports of Nigerian pilots or crew working on board Nigerian registered aircrafts plying our domestic airspace?" Alalade quizzed.
On the part of the Customs, he alleged that "Nigerian seafarers are constantly taxed when buying common food items from local Nigeria market to their various vessels flying Nigerian flag within the Nigerian territorial waters and customs permit is usually demanded from Nigerian crew and failure to meet these demands or heavily settle each customs patrol boat on their way usually lead to outright impoundment of the food items."
Alalade said "where the crew refuses to settle, the food items will be kept for days and the perishable left to rot."
PIX: Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association Matthew Alalade