By Godwin Oritse
IMPORTERS, clearing agents and truck owners have expressed concern over the worsening traffic gridlock along the access roads at the Tin-Can Island Port Complex, TICPC, Apapa, Lagos.
They are pointing at corruption by security agencies at the Apapa corridor as well as the dilapidated port access roads among others as the major factors responsible for the gridlock.
Reports available to Vanguard have indicated an organized syndicate of the security agencies which extorts between N70,000 and N200,000 per truck before such truck can access the ports, forces a large number of trucks to mill around the access roads while negotiations are going on, thereby blocking the roads.
The development, according to the stakeholders in the port industry, has negatively affected port operations as cargo delivery has been considerably slowed down while increased haulage and shipping cost escalates the nation’s inflation.
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A truck owner and executive member of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMATO, Mr. Sanni Bala, said that the security agents, demand huge amount of money depending on the bargaining power of the truck drivers, in order to be allowed into the ports.
He stated: ‘The issue of unlawful extortion by security agents along the Tin-Can road axis has become a daily nightmare and an institutionalized phenomenon that is taking a serious toll on the income of truck owners.
“The issue of traffic on the access road is artificial and caused by human factor because without the traffic, there is no how they can extort people. So they have created the traffic with the delays in negotiating with truckers.
“They collect between N70,000 and N200, 000 and as a result many truckers are left with nothing to take home and maintain their trucks and yet the government is complaining of rickety trucks on the roads. It is the outcome of the extortion by the Police and others and yet they have refused to vacate the roads.”
The National Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, Mr. Kayode Farinto, called for the disbandment of the Presidential Task Team on the Apapa traffic.
According to him, clearing agents lose an average of N300million weekly to illegal collections by security agents.
Kayode also lamented the lack of a call-up system saying that the manual call system currently in operation is fuelling the corruption.
He stated: “It is high time the NPA (Nigerian Ports Authority) begins the electronic call-up system. The manual system is full of anomalies and it is encouraging corruption.”However, the Vice Chairman of the Presidential Task Team, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, challenged this reporter to go and investigate the claims of the people accusing security agents of extorting truck drivers.
He said: “These people talking are criminals, they know the problem, they are the cause of the traffic situation in Apapa.”
The NPA’s Assistant General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communication department, Mr. Nasiru Ibrahim, said that these are mere allegations as nobody has been caught. Ibrahim also said that management is aware of the allegations but it is still looking for a scapegoat.