By Eromosele Abiodun
The Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Vicky Haastrup, has condemned the looting and burning of the headquarters of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Haastrup also conveyed the sympathy of all STOAN members to the board, management and staff of the Authority over the incident.
The NPA building, which is located on Marina Street, Lagos, was last week torched by suspected hoodlums, following the shooting of unarmed protesters at the Lekki tollgate.
The hoodlums also set many official and private vehicles parked within the vast NPA premises on fire.
Speaking on the unfortunate incidence, Haastrup said: “Setting a national asset like the NPA headquarters building, which belongs to all Nigerians, on fire is an ignoble action. We urge the government to bring the perpetrators of this evil act to justice. These are trying times for the country and it is the responsibility of all Nigerians to protect, not destroy, critical national infrastructure.”
The STOAN chairman said while it was within the rights of the youth and other Nigerians to express their grievances through protests, such expressions must be done in a non-violent manner and must also be carried out within the ambits of the law.
She added, “It is rather unfortunate that hoodlums hijacked the otherwise peaceful #ENDSARS protest that received global commendation for its campaign against police brutality in the country. Those who destroyed the NPA building, public assets and private businesses, cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be termed #ENDSARS protesters. They are criminal elements who decided to hide under the guise of an otherwise noble cause, to steal and destroy public property.
“This must not be condoned by any means and we do hope that the relevant security arms of government will secure what is left of the NPA building and other national assets across the country so as to prevent another round of destruction. We also do hope that an investigation will be promptly launched into the incident to unravel the perpetrators.”
Haastrup also asked government to beef up security at all the seaports in various parts of the country, while protecting port workers against attacks.
“The seaports are critical to the economic well-being of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Port workers are also essential service workers, so I wish to use this opportunity to urge governments at all levels to ensure that hoodlums are not allowed to gain access into the ports or launch attacks on pork workers.
“The country cannot afford prolonged interruption of port operations though we have seen severe interruptions of services at the Apapa, Tin Can and Onne Ports over the past few days.
“Trucks have been unable to go in and out of the port and many perishable items are rotting away.
“We therefore urge government to make it possible for port workers to return to work immediately so as to minimise the impact of prolonged closures,” Haastrup said.
She also expressed deep sorrow over the loss of lives, and prayed God to comfort the families of those whose lives were lost in various parts of the country.
In a related development, the leadership of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has paid a solidarity visit to the NPA to access the level of damage wrecked on its building by hoodlums during the recent EndSars protest.
In a statement by the President General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, the union expressed shock at the enormity of damage visited on the magnificent building and the destruction of valuable property.
He said: “Whilst peaceful protest is universally acknowledged as a legitimate instrument usually engaged to draw the attention of government to its inadequacies/mis-governance, but when this protest turns awry and weapons are wantonly used, property looted and damaged and innocent souls wasted, it becomes regrettable and counterproductive.
“The wreckage visited on the NPA headquarters building and the looting of its property is protest carried too far and it is only vandals whose brains are no longer in the right position that can carry out such. Whilst we condemn in its entirety the barbaric destruction of the NPA building by some mis-guided youths, we pray that the perpetrators are apprehended and made to face the wrath of the law. We seize this opportunity to express our unalloyed support/solidarity with management of NPA at this difficult time and always.”