Say Presidential Task Team worse than Navy in extortion
By Godwin Oritse
AGITATED freight forwarders are currently spoiling for a show-down with the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, over the failure of the call-up system initiated to address traffic crises in the Apapa port area.
They allege that the collapse of the system introduced by the NPA to sanitize and streamline truck access to the port, has thrown up huge operational challenges that are threatening to muzzle them out of business.
READ ALSO:Apapa : Truckers change operating strategy, allege failure of call-up system(Opens in a new browser tab)
According to Alhaji Tanko Ibrahim, the Vice-President, Western Zone of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, who has rallied all the freight forwarders in other sister associations, terminal operators, shipping companies and the presidential task team on Apapa traffic gridlock have all cashed in on the chaos that resulted from the failed call-up system to subject freight forwarders to a worse form of extortion and harassment.
Meeting of relevant stakeholders
Ibrahim disclosed that as a result of these challenges, the concerned freight forwarders have written to the NPA to convene a meeting of relevant stakeholders to address the problems.
He stated: “The NPA call-up system has collapsed due to the failure of the shipping companies to adhere to the NPA directive to have holding bays. Also, the terminal operators lack adequate cargo handling equipment which made trucks cleared to access the terminal get stranded at the gate, thereby causing long queues on the access roads.”
He said these developments have now further complicated the traffic nightmare on the port access roads which has thrown up lots of challenges.
According to him, “as results of this, the Presidential task team has cashed in on the situation to subject truckers to mindless extortion. They now demand the sum of N200,000 per truck before they are given access into the port. They humiliate, molest and harass truck drivers in the course of perpetrating this illegality.
“Consequently, these truckers build-in these unreceipted charges to the cost of evacuating our containers out of the ports.
“For instance, to transport a 40 ft container from Apapa to ASPANDA on Lagos – Badagry express way, they charge N700,000 instead of initial N50,000-N80,000.”
He further disclosed that as a result of the gridlock, the shipping companies slam on them huge and unwarranted demurrage charges.
In addition, the freight forwarders complained that their Terminal Delivery Order (TDO) issued by the shipping companies usually get expired as truck drivers are perpetually entangled in the traffic mayhem, while the shipping companies insist on revalidation of the TDO at a cost.
“These operational challenges thrown up by the gridlock have placed additional financial burden on the freight forwarders and their principals due to no fault of theirs.
“So last week, the concerned freight forwarders convened a meeting where we invited all the relevant stakeholders including the NPA, Shippers’ Council, Shipping Companies, Terminal operators , NARTO, AMATO, Maritime Police and all the freight forwarding associations of ANLCA, AREFF, Council of Managing Directors and others.
“But to our greatest surprise and annoyance, while other stakeholders honoured the invitation, the shipping companies and terminal operators, who are the major culprits of these illegalities, stayed away.
“So we resolved to ask the NPA management to convene another meeting where all the stakeholders, including the recalcitrant shipping companies and terminal operators, would be compelled to attend.
“This is because the NPA, as the regulatory agency, will have enough clout to compel them to attend”, Ibrahim stated.
In a letter addressed to the Executive Director, Marine and Operations of the NPA, dated November 28th, 2019 and signed by Ibrahim on behalf of concerned freight forwarders, the group had asked the agency to, as a matter of urgency, convene an urgent summit of all the stakeholders in the industry to address the identified operational challenges.
In the letter, which receipt was acknowledged by the NPA on November 29th, 2019, the group warned that the NPA should convene this meeting “to forestall further restiveness before it snow balls into an unmanageable crisis.”
It stated further, “We are therefore giving the NPA a 21-day ultimatum from the day they received the letter, to convene this crucial summit or be prepared to face massive strike action by the freight forwarders.”
Meanwhile, the Vice-Chairman of the Presidential task team on Apapa traffic, Kayode Opeifa, has dismissed the allegation of extortion against the task team as baseless and an attempt to blackmail the team.
“It is corruption fighting back”, he declared.
He said it is pure mischief and uncharitable to ascribe access clearance for trucks to enter the terminals to the task team.
“That is not our responsibility. It is the responsibility of the NPA to issue call up notice to the truckers”, Opeifa explained.
He said the claims by the freight forwarders that truckers pay N200,000 as bribe to enter the port is blatant lie and an attempt to justify the huge charges the truckers put on their services.
“Who do they give the money to? It is a trump up allegation by the freight forwarders to extort their principals”, Opeifa noted.