…Stakeholders accused of threatening e-call system operation

..Motorists, commuters groan

.High influx of vehicles as Lagos shuts Lagos-Badagry expressway for 2 months

.Customs clears air on presence at Otto Wolf area

By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Godwin Oritse, Godfrey Bivbere and Ebun Sessou

Vehicular and human movements were brought to a standstill on Tuesday, following the heavy influx of articulated truck and tanker drivers who parked indiscriminately along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, despite the presence of some security personnel bringing commercial activities to a total halt.

Meanwhile, apparently, overwhelmed by activities of recalcitrant operators, the Lagos Special Traffic Management and Enforcement Compliance Team, has expressed willingness to resort to using the military personnel in order to complement the existing structure in ensuring compliance to the newly introduced Electronic–Call Up system in port operations, particularly, along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.

On Tuesday, March 30, 2021, truckers, particularly tanker drivers parked indiscriminately along the Oshodi- Apapa Expressway axis, from Sanya Bus stop to Otto-Wolf point, and subjected other road users to untold hardship for several hours.

The presence and activities of the men of Nigeria Customs Service stationed at the Otto-Wolf axis are said to be a major contributing factor to the gridlock around the area as trucks from the ports are being scrutinized for clearance, leading to traffic build-up.

Commuters had to walk several kilometres to their places of work and businesses due to the heavy traffic jam.

Some drivers who spoke to Vanguard said that the traffic situation in the Apapa area of Lagos is being fueled by security agents who used civilians to collect bribe from truck drivers.

According to Salisu Yaya, a truck driver, “the security agents are the major cause of the gridlock that is being experienced in Apapa in recent times.”

Yaya also said that if payments were not made to their civilian agents, they will not pass the truck to either the tank farm or the port to load products and carry container.

“Until relevant government with the will power to deal with this group of people Apapa will not know peace in terms of free flow of traffic.”

In his reaction, a member of the National Executive Council of the National Association Truck Owners, NARTO, Mr Inuwa Mohammed blamed gridlock on the ongoing road construction and the fact that the tankers drivers have not been integrated into the e-Call up system.

. . . As RTEAN picks a hole in the truck e-call-up system

Some stakeholders in the nation’s ports transportation services have picked holes with the e-call-up truck control system at the Apapa seaports, calling for reforms barely one month after its take-off.

They urged the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, to address the loopholes in the system urgently.

The Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN, made the call, adding that all regulatory bodies should ensure stiff regulation of operations in the ports in line with global standard.

In a protest organised by the association including truck drivers, truck owners among others, the group insisted that the loopholes have not only hampered their operations but also unleashed havoc on their businesses and livelihood.

With different inscriptions including, “Check activities at Sunrise B/Stop, extortion B/Stop, “We welcome genuine Call-Up’’, “Speed up the road work at Sunrise’’, “NPA must provide e-Truck Park’’, “8 garages are avenues of extortion”, among others, the group called on all relevant authorities to rise to the challenge at the seaports.

Speaking with newsmen, Francis Okechukwu, one of the officials of RTEAN at Tin Can port Second Gate, lamented that the e-call-up has not done their business good as expected, adding that, the process has been infiltrated.

“NPA should make sure the Shipping companies comply with the international standard. The Shipping lines are saddled with the responsibility of making sure that they have Loading Bay.

“With the call-up system, we still spend so much money on the road. We are requesting that the call-up should be per trip for each truck and not for 48 hours.

“The security agents including LASTMA, FRSC, Nigerian Police are extorting the truck owners,” he said.

Also, Comrade Femi Gbeleyi, who is in-charge of Tin Can Second Gate, Lagos lamented that the situation is unbearable.

“We are only trying to control ourselves and for us, the e-call up system is a good strategy to ensure free-flow of trucks on the road but the process is now corrupted.

“Most of the officials are influencing the call-ups with financial gains thereby making life unbearable for truck owners.

“From Sunrise bus stop, once your call-up has expired, the officers will turn back your truck and that is what is happening on a daily basis.

“They have turned us to ATM in the name of a call-up. Once the call-up expires, they will tell us to pay another N150,000 and that will expire within 48 hours.

“They have given priority to some trucks because the owners are in positions of authority and once those trucks have been given a pass, the rest of the trucks will be turned back.’’

Also, some of the truck drivers blamed the current gridlock on lack of coordination between the Nigerian Port Authority and officials of NUPENG on the operation of the e-call up system.

According to a trucker, Alhaji Musilu Ahmed, “The issue of call-up system is not being followed here, it is the highest bidder gets the access to the port.”

Meanwhile, the Apapa Local Government Chairman, Mr Adele Elijah has reiterated the need for residents, business owners and other stakeholders in Apapa to ensure that the current e-call-up system put in place to ease traffic congestion in the area works.

The council boss, Adele Elijah made the appeal at the second stakeholders’ forum on how to find a solution to traffic bottlenecks in Apapa and the environs.

“The glaring facts are that this congestion had adversely affected the socio-economic life of our people and slow down our efforts at infrastructural development and poverty alleviation. Therefore, our goal is to make movement around Apapa stress-free.”

Elijah described the traffic situation in Apapa as unfortunate, adding that, “We discovered during in our investigation that at least 70 per cent of trucks operating in Apapa and environs are not roadworthy. The traffic, infrastructural, and security situation in Apapa is having negative effects on the National and state local economy, with the obvious fact that businesses are either closing down or relocating. This has affected our revenue generation.”

However, most of the concerned Apapa residents stressed the need for Federal, State and councils to synergise in order to checkmate the rising indiscipline acts by truck drivers who were fond of indiscriminate parking, disobedience to traffic law, driving against traffic, (One-way), the influx of commercial motorcyclists, popularly called “Okada,” tricycles, the proliferation of food vendors under and on bridges which had posed security and healthy living challenges in the axis which had also killed socio-economic life of residents.

The leader of the Lagos traffic enforcement team, the Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Transportation, Toyin Fayinka, made the remarks while reacting to the gridlock situation that has persisted along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.

The arrangement, it was learnt became necessary following flagrant disobedience and refusal by truckers, and other stakeholders to abide by e-call up system and traffic management directives aimed at decongesting gridlock in Apapa and environs.

Also read: Apapa gridlock: Sanwo-Olu’s traffic team helpless as miscreants, “okada” riders take over road

The traffic management has been taken over by miscreants as traffic law enforcement agents abandoned traffic control. Few officials of the newly created state traffic team appeared helpless as they watched the rowdy situation without any force.

Fayinka had also blamed the development on recalcitrant truck drivers who deliberately flout the rules. The team had earlier uncovered a scandal involving the counterfeiting of e-call up tickets, tagged; “Eto” by truck drivers and owners to beat security agents who are on the ground to manage the traffic.

He explained that the Nigeria Union Of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, who were not part of the initial arrangement had also agreed to work with Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, one-call up system, even as they blamed bad road as one of the factors inhibiting their operations as it slows down their vehicles while entering the tank farms.

According to Fayinka, “I have reached out to the NUPENG chairman in Lagos, Mr. Tayo Aboyeji on the need to embrace call-up system operation.

“He stated that because of the on-going road repairs their tankers make use of the entry point as an exit point. But I am still in talks with them that they should park their vehicles at MRS Park at Iyana-Isolo and from there they will be pulling out 10 by 10 at intervals to the ports.

“As regards the Ijora to Apapa, it is usually free not to High bridge, the APMT is still the problem. Deliberately they are slow in accepting the trucks they called for, but we have reduced the trucks that will go inside ports to 100 for now.

“Equally, we have stopped the export trucks from going inside ports to allow those that they have given a call up to enter before new ones are called.

“At least we have made them accept they are the problems. But in the end, they are ready to cooperate.”

On the allegations that members of the team were only barking and could not bite, Fayinka stated, “If they say we are only barking that is their opinion. If they do not see a better relief on the road compared to what was obtainable years back, it is unfair and unfortunate. Do you heal a wound of years in a day?

“The process has begun. Thank God the public is suggesting we use armed men to assist us. We will look at that option if it will help in restoring sanity.”

NCS reacts

Speaking on the Otto-Wolf allegation against customs, the Public Relations Officer of the Port and Terminal Multi-Purpose Limited, PTML, Mr Mohammed Yakubu, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs, said that there is a control system in accessing the Annex Terminal in Mile-2.

Yakubu also said that without the access card, even an Officer cannot access the terminal adding that the management of the terminal is very open to suggestion on how to free that part of the traffic.

He said: “You know that is a very major road and the tankers are the major users of the part of the road, but we are doing our best to put some measure in place to bring about some level of sanity in that part of the road.”

Mazamaza/Signal Barracks road shuts for 2 months

Meanwhile, the traffic situation along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway got worst following the closure of the road between MazaMaza and Signal Barracks, Mile 2, along Lagos Badagry Expressway by the state government for repairs. The repairs which commenced on Monday, March 29 is scheduled to end on Monday, May 31, 2021, a period of eight weeks.

The repairs, according to the state Commissioner for Transportation, Dr Frederic Oladeinde, was part of the ongoing road rehabilitation works in different parts of the metropolis.

Oladeinde stated that the traffic diversion plan was necessary to speed up the proposed rehabilitation works on Lagos bound lane which is already in its advanced stage, before the rainy season.

Also read: Trouble for Kalu as Aba contractor threatens court action for crediting project to FG

According to him, alternative routes have been made available with adequate traffic management measures in place to ensure movement despite the expected inconveniences.

Travel advisory

Motorists heading towards Apapa from Maza Maza are advised to use the newly constructed slip road by the Total Filling station to connect the ramp and access Apapa.

Oladeinde stated that traffic heading to Orile/Suru from Maza Maza will be diverted to the opening at Total Filling Station to link Toll lane and continue the movement to Orile or through the opening at Signal Barracks to access the Service lane from toll lane to continue their journey.

Motorists going to Oshodi from Maza Maza are also advised to ply the opening at Total Filling station to connect toll lane and drive down to the opening after mile 2 underpass to utilize the opening before Signal Barracks and access the ramp with counterflow to Apapa -Oworonshoki Expressway to continue their journey to Oshodi.

Those coming from Oshodi to Orile would be directed to Mile 2 Oke to connect the ramp to Signal Barracks and continue their journey to Orile while those going back to Oshodi are advised to make a U-turn and continue their trip to oshodi.

Other motorists coming from Otto Wharf should make use of the opening before Signal Barracks and connect the toll lane and continue their journey to Alaba/Orile.

The commissioner, while assuring that the state’s traffic management personnel, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, will be deployed to the axis to manage traffic, called for public support.

“The cooperation of all and sundry is needed to achieve the set goals by the current administration in the transport sector,” Oladeinde stated.

Modus operandi of traffic team

The Lagos traffic team is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring zero tolerance of traffic offenders and a seamless traffic management system specifically designed to restore sanity in and around Apapa and create a cohesive system that would aid the resurgence of business activities and ensure that residents live in a conducive environment devoid of traffic-induced stress.

The area of coverage of the team’s operations includes Ikorodu Road to Oshodi – Mile 2–Apapa, Ikorodu Road-Funsho Williams Avenue (Surulere) – Alaka – Iganmu-SIFAX-Ijora 7up – Apapa, Surulere – Alaka-Eko Bridge – Ijora Olopa – Ijora 7up – Apapa.

Traffic within Apapa and its environs are expected to be better managed by a team of dedicated officers include Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Police and Intelligence service officers.

According to the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the arrangement is that the Policemen from Area ‘B’ Police Command will tentatively provide security back-up for the team, pending the announcement of the new security architecture by the state government which is yet to be formed.

Fayinka and other members of the team are expected to work with the designated team of the Inspector-General of Police and collaborate with the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Hakeem Odumosu and other members of Law Enforcement Agencies in and around Apapa to ensure the success of the team’s assignment.

Vanguard News Nigeria 

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