Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) raised alarm on Tuesday over the continued detention of 17 dockworkers by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
The detainees were arrested from two vessels one of which had 32.9 kg of cocaine on board.
President-General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, said in a statement issued in Lagos that the vessels berthed at Greenview Development Nigeria Ltd. (GDNL) a terminal inside Apapa Port, Lagos.
Adeyanju stated that the union was informed of the arrest and continued detention of the 13 dockworkers and crew by the NDLEA since Oct. 13 and demanded their immediate release.
He added that the workers were reportedly arrested whilst on duty on board MV Cha Yaree Naree which berthed at the GDNL terminal and on which narcotics were said to have been found.
Adeyanju argued that there was no information that the drugs were found on the workers.
“Surprisingly, the workers, who were neither the ship’s agents nor the consignee of the vessel, were arrested and kept incarcerated by the NDLEA since Oct. 13 till date without being released or charged in court.”
“Similarly, the union is also informed that on Nov. 7, another four dockworkers, who were on duty on board MV Kartena, were arrested by the NDLEA over a bag said to have been found in the vessel, the content of which was not disclosed.”
“Again, this bag that was found with undisclosed content was not found on any of the workers arrested and kept in detention for days without being released and charged in court.”
“Their cell phones were also said to have been taken by the NDLEA operatives,” he stated.
Adeyanju stated also that the union was worried as its members seemed to be targeted for arrests whilst ship agents and consignees who were in possession of the ship’s manifest were not even interrogated, let alone arrested.
He noted that the union was not in any way in support of either the importation or peddling of hard drugs, but frowned at the continued harassment, intimidation, arrest and detention of its members.
Adeyanju stated that the dockworkers had been kept incommunicado for over two weeks without being released or charged in court.
“This is not in tandem with global best practices.”
“The MWUN is hereby calling on NDLEA to release its members in its detention or charge them in court accordingly,” he stressed.
When contacted, Femi Babafemi, Director, Media and Advocacy at the NDLEA, told our correspondent that the agency had a court order to detain 11 of the dockworkers.
He said the others were not detained but were being interrogated over the drugs found on their vessel.