By Moses Akpan-Etukudo
May 8, 2019 marked one month since the murder of an operative of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and a Korean employee of SHI-MCI by an NSCDC personnel guarding the LADOL Free Zone in Lagos. The facts of the shooting were widely reported by the Nigerian media at the time. LADOL responded to the shooting by falsely claiming in a press statement issued on April 18 that the shooting was in error, despite CCTV and eye-witness accounts demonstrating that the shooting was deliberate.
The remains of the Korean employee have since been repatriated to Korea, accompanied by members of his family. The gunman remains in police custody and will be prosecuted for his terrible crimes. Nigerian and Korean workers have bravely returned to the SHI-MCI fabrication yard for work. However, operators and investors have continued to ask the zone administrator, a LADOL subsidiary called GRMFZC, questions about what has been done to improve security at the free zone to prevent the reoccurrence of the ugly incident.
It was gathered that after the shooting, the Nigerian Exporting Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) Zone Administrator for the LADOL Free Zone called for a meeting of representatives of all government agencies, Free-Zone enterprises and the NSCDC to discuss the issues raised by the shooting incident and to identify what lessons that could be learnt.
Unfortunately, LADOL does not seem to have learnt any lessons from this accident as the company has not taken any proactive steps to respond to this incident. For instance, the Chief Security Officer at the LADOL Free Zone has remained in his post. Secondly, there has been no direct apology or offer of compensation from LADOL to the families of the victims.
In fact, LADOL has not even accepted that this shooting by the NSCDC operative was deliberate.
The company has also continued to disregard and neglect its responsibility as a zone manager of the LADOL Free Zone.
Before the shooting incident, SHI-MCI had previously argued that armed guards were unnecessary and presented risk to Korean and Nigerian employees and to the guards themselves. But despite the protest, the condition of armed guards was imposed by LADOL.
The LADOL shooting has destroyed the aspiration that Free Zones are supposed to be safe-havens for industrial and individual safety and harmony. SHI-MCI’s concerns about safety at the yard are genuine. Some of the workers at the yard were foreign workers that expected to be able to work safely in Nigeria. If LADOL refuses to rectify mistakes from the past, risks to workers in the LADOL Free Zone remain real.
The good news is that NEPZA has now urged a review and overhaul of security in the LADOL Free Zone to reduce the likelihood of a shooting happening again. It has also recommended that it, as the regulatory authority, will investigate who might be directly or indirectly responsible for the incident and impose appropriate sanctions.
NEPZA’s intervention may provide a path to justice for the families of the victims.
..Akpan-Etukudo, an investment advisor, writes from Warri