By Ikenna Asomba
As the strike embarked by truck drivers in Lagos over the restriction directive given by the Lagos State government, entered its day 5 on Monday, concerned stakeholders in the maritime sector have continued to express mixed reactions.
Following the full implementation of a section of the 2012 Lagos Road Traffic Law, which restricted trailers and articulated vehicles from plying the metropolis between 6am and 9pm, the aggrieved drivers under the aegis of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) had last week said that they would withdraw their trucks from the road with immediate effect over the restriction directive.
They were said to have embarked on strike last Wednesday.
The Chairman of AMATO, Mr. Remi Ogungbemi, who expressed the plights of the truck drivers said that it was difficult for members to comply with the state government’s directive restricting movement of trucks to the night, because the safety of trucks, drivers and the cargoes could not be guaranteed.
Vanguard gathered on Monday, that the strike action had paralyzed the lifting and conveying of goods from the terminals particularly in the Tincan Island/Apapa ports.
However, as members of AMATO and officials of the Lagos State Government continue to hold negotiations over the restriction order, it was learnt that drivers of trailers and trucks who came from various parts of the country such as Obajana in Kogi State, Igboji in Osun State, Ibadan, Osogbo, Ilorin among others have been caught in-between the strike.
Vanguard spoke to a cross section of the drivers sighted along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, as they have already parked indiscriminately along a section of the road on a queue already stretching between Mile 2 and the second gate of the Tincan Island Port.
One of the drivers Wasiu Akinyemi, expressed concern over the policy, lamenting that it has since made his job more difficult.
Akinyemi who disclosed that he came from Obajana, Kogi State to lift goods from one of the terminals in the Tincan Island Port said: “As I speak with you, I have been on this queue in the last five days. I left Obajana in Kogi State last Tuesday Lagos. Arriving here last Wednesday, I was surprised to meet this long queue.
“In as much as the Lagos State Government is trying to protect lives and properties, it should in the interest of common men like us take a second look at this restriction policy on truck drivers. The 24 hours of a day is not even enough for us to operate let alone restricting us to operate for only about nine hours. The government didn’t even take into consideration the man-hours we lost just to gain entrance into the port and terminals just to lift goods.
“For instance, if I come from outside Lagos to lift goods by 9pm, and by the time it gets to my turn, at the terminal it’s already 6am, where will I go to. The terminal operators would not let me park within their terminal, the Lagos State Government taskforce will arrest me if I drive out within the restricted period, so, tell me, where do we go from here?
“My advice for the state government is that they should go after drivers whose vehicles are not road worthy, who usually cause the accidents that prompted this law. Infact, their vehicles should be permanently impounded, instead of placing this stringent law on all of us, especially those of us whose vehicles are road worthy,” he said.
Similarly, Mubarak Olasupo, who said he came from Ibadan to lift goods in the Tincan Island Ports, lamented that he had spent over five days on the queue with no hope in sight.
Olasupo said: “I never envisaged that there would be strike before leaving Ibadan last Wednesday, because a driver colleague that I called on phone before coming told me that the strike only affected the Ports and Cargo terminal, not knowing that he tricked me to come and join him in the suffering along this road.
“Over the last five days, I have not taken a nice bath, as I have been bathing with sachets of pure water at nights. It has been hell for me, because there is no way out of this queue. To leave my truck here and return to Ibadan is even riskier.
“This restriction policy has indeed turned us to night watchmen. We barely sleep, because of hoodlums who are fond of coming here at nights to steal our vehicle batteries, fuel pumps, diesel and anything they could lay their hands on from our vehicles. Our lives are definitely in danger because of this policy restricting our operations at nights.
“I appeal to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to review this policy for the sake of our family whom we have left at home over the last five days, just to make earns-meet.”
On his part, Obinna Ngene, who said he came from Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, lamented that he had become financially broke owing to the long period he had spent on the road, without a knowledge of when he would get to the terminal to lift his client’s goods.
Ngene, however, bemoaned that the restriction policy poses a great danger to their lives. He accused some naval personnel and policemen who usually come at nights to extort N1, 000 from them.
He said: “We are not even talking of the suffering from mosquito bites, elements of the weather and the activities of hoodlums who come to steal our vehicle parts at night. Can you imagine, naval personnel in collaboration with some policemen coming here also at nights to extort N1, 000 from each of us, for parking. They don’t even consider our plight.
“Last Friday, one of our colleagues was beating by a naval personnel for refusing to part with N1, 000. This is shameful for our security operatives, particularly in this era of change,” lamented Ngene.
Recall that the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, Mr. Oluseyi Whenu, had on September 6, announced that henceforth the state government would impound any articulated vehicle which driver contravenes the State Road Traffic Law 2012, adding that it will restrict them from plying the metropolis between the hours of 6am to 9pm.
Whenu stated that the measure became necessary following incessant auto accidents of articulated vehicles, especially, the fatal accident at Ojuelegba, Surulere Local Government Area, involving a container-laden trailer on September 2.
He said the trailer was discovered to have contravened Section 2 (i) and 2 (ii) of the Traffic Law.
According to Whenu, the state government would henceforth go tough on any trailer and long vehicle that contravenes the Law by impounding and making them to pay the stipulated fine accordingly.
Meanwhile, at press time, the leaders of the truck drivers are said to be having a negotiation meeting with the state government on alternative measures to the restriction directive.