Revisiting Adewale Adeyanju’s alarm on illicit drugs at ports


By Foster Obi

Bill Taylor, Best selling Author and former Editor of Harvard Business Review in his artiçle in the Money section of The Guardian newspaper titled, “Do you pass the leadership test,” captured it was this way, “The true mark of a leader is the willingness to stick with a bold course of action — an unconventional business strategy, a unique product-development roadmap, a controversial marketing campaign — even as the rest of the world wonders why you’re not marching in step with the status quo. In other words, real leaders are happy to zig while others zag. They understand that in an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special.”

Since he mounted the saddle as President of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), in 2017 and his relection in 2021, Adewale Adeyanju has passed as a non conventional leader, willing to ruffle feathers to achieve results, sometimes with the mix of a swashbuckler pushing the limits.

His cronies say he combines strength with gentleness, like the typical hammer that breaks the rock in pieces but pats an eggshell.

After the elections, he pledged to promote peace in the industry while also ensuring the welfare of workers. The MWUN leader has been singleminded about this resolve regardless of whose ox is gored.

For being people oriented and a man that walks his talk, certain stakeholders believe he has what it takes to rule the national body of the Nigeria Labour Congress.

Recently a trend emerged where drug dealers and couriers have found the waters a new safe route to move their poisonous wares into the country. In the process dockworkers has been fingered as culprits for aiding and abetting the crime even as the NDLEA has taken them in detention.

But Adeyanju has refused to be bamboozled by this high-handed approach but instead has blamed major agenices at the Ports like NPA and NIMASA for abandoning their roles and the government for chasing shadows and scapegoating in a matter of grave concern.

While he specifically mentioned that MWUN will not support illegality, he made it clear that dockworkers will not be used as scapegoats in a matter that requires proper investigation and sanction for agency heads that are negligent and lacking proactivity.

Before now, the Union under his leadership has shouted itself hoarse on the absence of Tally Clerks and Onboard Gangway Men at the ports. The NPA which disengaged these workers obviously did not take these loopholes created seriously, thereby giving drug smugglers, the vent to move in undetected.

According to the MWUN boss, “The moment a vessel berths, the first two persons you are going to see to mount the ladder is Onboard Gangway Men but the way it is now, since they have terminated the appointment of the Stevedoring Contractor managing the Onboard Gangway Men and Tally Clerks, who are the real Onboard Security Men? Who is managing them?

“The union is saying that the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Ports Authority should look inward and bring back Onboard Gangway Men as it is with international standards because all over the world, they recognise onboard gangway men to man the ladder.

“The result of lack of Onboard Gangway Men is the drugs you are seeing on all vessels because anybody can just go in as a visitor. Who stops them? Who checks them? Who identifies them?

“It is now the baby of terminal operators to be managing them but the union has come up that we are going to fight this thing to the last to make sure they restore the Onboard Gangway Men and the Tally Clerks but the most important one is the Gangway Men because if you see what is happening in other terminals now, they are trying to use the ports as hub for illicit drugs.

“But if we have the Onboard Gangway Men, they will be able to identify those coming in and identify what they have onboard the vessels. It is not the work of Navy or Police but the job of Onboard Gangway Men who would say we don’t know these people; they can even raise the ladder but who is raising the ladder now?

“You cannot even identify them; the development has made it possible for illegal people who don’t have any job onboard the vessel to be entering the vessel. It is a serious matter because if NDLEA concentrates on the port, what about the jetties?

“We have some vessels going to jetties. Who will work hand-in-hand with NDLEA? Is it not the onboard gangway men?

“We will fight it; we have already written to the president, the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Labour.

“We used to have the port labour manager but we don’t know who is managing the port labour now. We are asking that they bring the port labour department back, who will work hand-in-hand with the union and all stakeholders.

“As it is now, the NDLEA believes they can pick anyone they believe is a suspect and how do you determine that? You will pick somebody at random and believe he is an addict?

“How do you determine that when you are not his doctor? As I speak with you, the 15 Dockworkers that were arrested about some months ago are still in their detention facility.

“They have not released them and they have not charged them to court and you say you are investigating them. How long will it take you to investigate them? They are workers.

“Are they the consignees, owners of the vessels or receivers of the goods? I agree that they have every right to investigate anyone that they suspect that is involved in narcotics. The union will not support such illegality but what we are saying is that due process must be followed.

“They went to court to obtain a permit to keep them but if it is taking too long to put them on trial. We are going to react. We didn’t say they should not do their jobs but they should investigate properly and do the needful.

“We are ready to work with them; our door is open because this is our country, and we don’t have any other one.


Adeyanju’s fear is that “If care is not taken, this drug peddling will spread like wildfire in the port.

“It is the ones we know presently that we talk about; we don’t know what is happening at the Jetties at Ikorodu and other areas.

“That is why we say the presence of NPA and NIMASA should be visible in all the ports

While some people may want to play down on this alarm, DFCNews believes that the greatest disservice that could be done to this country is to politicize this issue.

Before the latest trend there had been pockets of reported cases. For instance earlier in the year 2021, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, intercepted container-load of tramadol at the Apapa seaport in Lagos, just as its operatives arrested 90 persons, including an Indian during raids of some drug cartels in parts of Lagos.

A total of 614.396 kilograms of various hard drugs were seized.

At the Apapa seaport, about two million capsules of tramadol (precisely 1,994,400 capsules) tucked in 554 cartons were intercepted in the container, which was falsely declared to contain ceramic tiles.

According to the Apapa seaport Area Commander of the NDLEA, Mr. Samuel Gadzama, one of the containers bearing the illicit drug had been intercepted and seized in Kenya.

The increased presence of hard drugs in the country is a solid testimony supporting Adeyanju’s alarm.

Perhaps it is time for agencies at the ports to wake up to their duties before the whole area is overun by dangerous peddlers.

Foster Obi is the Editor

Picture: Prince Adewale Adeyanju, MWUN boss.









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