By Godfrey Bivbere
THE Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and the Presidential Task Team, PTT, may have resorted to turning back trucks at the gates of the Apapa ports due to alleged breach of its call up procedure.
Some truck owners and barge operators are claiming that they were being forced to cough out hefty amounts as bribes or their trucks would either be turned back or impounded from the conveying barges.
But the NPA and PTT officers are saying that the trucks were moved by a cartel through jetties to illegally access the ports in Lagos as a result of the Apapa traffic gridlock.
Former Port Manager of Tin-can Island Port, Abubakar Umar, in an interview with Vanguard Maritime Report, said that normally, the call-up system arrangement is made for the control of the traffic in and out of the port, but trucks from these jetties find their way into the picture and distort the arrangement put in place.
He stated: “Yes, there are illegal trucks 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.”
Vanguard Maritime Report gathered that the cartel charged truck drivers and their owners between N120,000 and N150,000 to convey them by barges from various jetties away from the gridlock and ferry them to jetties close to or within the ports.
A truck driver who spoke with Vanguard Maritime Report said that it is better to go through the water route to get into the port than to stay in traffic for as long as three to six weeks before gaining access to the port.
The truck driver noted that apart from the time wasted in traffic, the truck owner would still cough out up to N200,000 as bribes to the various security officials, PTT and the unions.
Recall that the PTT recently blocked some trucks at a jetty in Apapa from getting into Creek Road for their onward journey into the port. Owners of the trucks have alleged that the refusal by the team was not unconnected with demand for gratification.
When contacted, Vice Chairman of PTT, Kayode Opeifa, spoke of the facility along Creek Road which he said registered as an events centre. He noted that the owners of the facility illegally converted it to a Trailer Park.
Opeifa said ENL terminals, Tin Can Island Container Terminal TICT and APM Terminal have stopped barge operators from using their terminal and that is why they have gone to the private property which they have converted to a trailer park.
He explained that the owner of the property has been calling the team to get appointment to hold meeting with them but that he told them that it is the responsibility of NPA to license them for operation. He further noted that trailers from that facility are the ones causing hold-up on Creek Road.