TRUCK drivers have alleged that they now spend between N180,000 and N240,000 on gratifications to police officers, other government agencies, including the Presidential Task Team, PTT, to give them passage on the road to the Apapa ports.
Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, Hassan Bello, responding to Vanguard Maritime Report’s question on the above, said there has been a lot of complaint on extortion.
The Shippers Council boss said he has scheduled a meeting for this week with the truckers with the intention of finding a lasting solution to the problem.
The truck drivers who spoke to Vanguard Maritime Report on updates to the traffic crises in the Apapa port axis, also said that they spend between three and six weeks in traffic from the Mile 2 end of the Apapa – Oshodi Expressway to get to the ports.
A truck driver, Mr. Farouk Agodi, told Vanguard Maritime Report that the situation was so bad that in some cases the truck drivers were being turned back just before reaching the entrance to the port due to lack of space even after spending the money on bribe.
The situation, according to him, has forced some truck owners to opt for movement of their trucks by barges on the waterways.
It will be recalled that the drivers and motor boys recently protested against the PTT, with placards, one of which read: “Extortion, Extortion.”
One of the placards bearers had a lengthy inscription, “Imagine from Mile 2 axis through Fatgbems Petrol Station, to Coconut at the cost of N170,000 per truck, from Coconut to TinCan and Gate at the cost of N70,000, totalling N240,000.
“If you go by road, it takes several weeks from Mile 2 to TinCan Port. If you go by ferry it takes you three hours. Government which is better? No More Task Force!”
Speaking also, one of the leaders of the protesters, Anthony Agbanusi, said it was time the Federal Government came to their rescue as they were tired of the intimidation and harassment of the security and other government agencies charged with decongesting the Mile2 –Tin-can axis.
He said: “If you take ferry from Mile2 to Apapa, using barges, it takes only three hours, while it takes weeks by road. Now the task force, because by using barges, they are deprived of the monies they extort, they impound your trucks from the barges and intimidate you to part with some money. It is the Task Forces that are causing the congestion on that stretch of road.”
According to him, on June 1, 2020, the PTT went to Ibru Jetty where truck owners parked 100 trailers, and towed all the trucks with their mounted containers, locked them up for days, until the owners coughed out N200,000 for each truck without any receipt.
President of Association of Maritime Truckers Owners, AMATO, Remi Ogungbemi, told Vanguard Maritime Report that there have been series of accusations and counter-accusations about extortion but noted that he was now focused on finding solution to the problems faced by truck drivers.
Ogungbemi noted that the reason for the shift in focus was not unconnected with his previous activism which led to some people calling him names and even threatening his life. He, however, disclosed that AMATO was discussing with the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and the Lagos State government on ways of improving the truck call-up system that is expected to eliminate human interface.
Although he refused to give details, he explained that discussions were at an advanced state. He also said that truck drivers were in a dilemma as to who to obey because when they are called up by the system put in place by the NPA, the PTT turns them back half way for unknown reasons. Speaking on the PTT, he said the team has outlived its usefulness and should be disbanded.
Recall that the former Port Manager of Tin-can Island Port, Abubakar Umar, in an exclusive interview with Vanguard Maritime Report, had said that illegal trucks movements became worrisome at a point that they had to be turning back some of such trucks. He stated: “Yes, illegal trucks that are coming from illegal destinations. They push them and because we do not have enough space for such trucks to turn; we have to manage them but sometimes when we discover them early, we try to push them back to where they are coming from,” meaning, if they had paid bribe to get to the point, they would have lost the money.