*As Lagos team mulls military back-up for enforcement
*Stakeholders accused of threatening e-Call Up system operation
*Motorists, commuters groan
*Influx of vehicles, as Lagos shuts Lagos-Badagry expressway for 2 months; Customs clears air on presence at Otto Wolf area
*Tanker drivers also suffering —Official
By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Godwin Oritse, Godfrey Bivbere and Ebun Sessou
Vehicular and human movements were brought to a standstill, yesterday, following heavy influx of articulated truck and tanker drivers who parked indiscriminately along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, despite the presence of security personnel, thereby bringing commercial activities to a total halt.
Also, overwhelmed by activities of recalcitrant operators, the Lagos Special Traffic Management and Enforcement Compliance Team, expressed willingness to mobilise military personnel to complement the existing structure in ensuring compliance to the newly introduced Electronic–Call Up system in port operations, particularly along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.
Yesterday, truckers, particularly tanker drivers, parked indiscriminately along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway beginning 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 the Nigeria Customs Service stationed at Otto-Whaff also constituted a major factor to the gridlock around the area as trucks from the ports were 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 the chaotic traffic in Apapa area of Lagos is being fueled by security agents who use civilians to extort truck drivers.
A truck driver, Salisu Yaya, said: “The security agents are the major cause of the gridlock in Apapa in recent times.
“Until the government exhibit enough will power to deal with this group of people, Apapa will not know peace in terms of free flow of traffic.”
But a member of the National Executive Council of the National Association Truck Owners, NARTO, Mr. Inuwa Mohammed blamed the gridlock on the ongoing road reconstruction adding that tanker drivers have not been integrated into the E-Call up system.
RTEAN faults truck e-Call-Up system
Some stakeholders in the nation’s ports transportation services, however, faulted the e-Call-Up system at 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, insisted that the loopholes, on its part, not only hampered their operations, but also impacted negatively on their businesses and livelihood.
An official of RTEAN at Tin Can port Second Gate, Francis Okechukwu, lamented that the e-call-up system has not done their business good as expected, adding that the process had been infiltrated.
Okechukwu said: “NPA should ensure shipping companies comply with the international standards. The shipping lines are saddled with the responsibility of making sure 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 traffic control agencies, including LASTMA, FRSC, Nigerian Police, are extorting the truck owners.”
We’ve been turned to ATMs—Truck drivers
Also, Comrade Femi Gbeleyi, who is in-charge of Tin Can port Second Gate, described the situation as unbearable.
Gbeleyi said: “We are only trying to control ourselves. 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 daily.
“They have turned us to ATM in the name of e-Call-Up. Once the call-up expires, they will tell us to pay another N150, 000 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.’’
But some truck drivers blamed the gridlock on lack of coordination between NPA and officials of NUPENG on the operation of the e-call up system.
A trucker, Alhaji Musilu Ahmed said: “The issue of call-up system is not being followed here; it is the highest bidder that gets access to the port.”
Speaking on the Otto-Wolf allegation against Customs officials, the Public Relations Officer of the Port and Terminal Multi-Purpose Limited, PTML, Mr. Mohammed Yakubu, said there was a control system in accessing the Annex Terminal in Mile-2.
Yakubu said: “This is a very major road and the tankers are the major users of part of the road, but we are doing our best to put some measures in place to bring about sanity on the road.”
Mazamaza/Signal Barracks road shut for 2 months
But the traffic situation along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway got worse, following the closure of the road between MazaMaza and Signal Barracks, Mile 2, along the Lagos Badagry Expressway by the state government for repairs.
The repairs, which commenced on Monday, March 29, are scheduled to end on Monday, May 31, 2021.
The repairs, according to the Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, are 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.
According to him, alternative routes have been created with adequate traffic management measures in place to ensure movement despite the expected inconveniences.
“The cooperation of all and sundry is needed to achieve the set goals by the current administration in the transport sector,” Oladeinde stated.
Why we’re involving the military—Fayinka
On the plan to involve military personnel to tackle the chaotic traffic situation on Apapa axis, the leader of the Lagos Traffic Enforcement Team, the Special Adviser to the governor on Transportation, Toyin Fayinka, said the arrangement became necessary following the flagrant refusal by truckers and other stakeholders to obey the e-call up system aimed at decongesting gridlock in Apapa and environs.
The traffic management has been taken over by miscreants as traffic law enforcement agents abandoned traffic control.
Fayinka had blamed the development on recalcitrant truck drivers who deliberately flouted the rules.
He said: “I have reached out to the NUPENG Chairman in Lagos, Mr. Tayo Aboyeji, on the need to embrace the 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 to park their vehicles at MRS Park at Iyana-Isolo and pull out 10 by 10 at intervals to the ports.
“As regards Ijora to Apapa, the APMT is still the problem. Deliberately, they are slow in accepting the trucks they call up, 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 they have given 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 said: “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.”
Efforts to speak with the leaders of the Petroleum Taker Drivers, PTD, branch of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, were unsuccessful as it was gathered that they were in a crucial meeting.
However, an official of PTD, who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said “Tanker drivers are also suffering from the gridlock.”
The official said: “Any tanker driver you see on the road has a destination. The driver’s destination is the Tank Farm to lift products.”
The Tanker Drivers are increasingly finding it difficult to access the tank farms because of the menace of other articulated trucks. The tanker drivers you see on the Apapa–Oshodi Expressway left their families and loved ones from different parts of the country to come to Lagos lift products only to be held back and trapped on the road by the gridlock. We have no control over other articulated truck drivers. They are not our members and as such, cannot listen to us. They have no union and we cannot control them as we control our members. Nobody controls other articulated trucks especially the containerized trucks. We call on the government to ensure sanity for every road user.”
Why e-call-up system must work—LG boss
Also, Apapa Local Government Chairman, Mr. Adele Elijah, restated the need for residents, business owners and other stakeholders in Apapa to ensure that the e-call-up system works.
The council boss, who spoke at the second stakeholders’ forum on how to solve the traffic bottlenecks in Apapa and environs, said: “it is glaring that the congestion has adversely affected the socio-economic life of our people and slowed down our efforts at infrastructural development and poverty alleviation. Therefore, our goal is to move Apapa stress-free.”
Elijah, however, described the traffic situation in Apapa as unfortunate.
He said: “We discovered, from our investigations, 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 economy, with the obvious fact that businesses are either closing down or relocating. This has affected our revenue generation.”
In their conclusion, most of the concerned Apapa residents called for a synergy among the Federal, State and Local Governments to checkmate the menace of recalcitrant truck drivers on the road.