.As stakeholders pass buck
By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Kingsley Adegboye, Godwin Oritse, Godfrey Bivbere, Providence Adeyinka, Prisca Achonu, and Nelson Alu
Despite several interventions by relevant authorities, persistent gridlock along Apapa Expressway, inward ports access roads, and environs, occasioned by activities of truckers and other articulated vehicles has been attributed to corrupt practices and policies by Nigerian Ports Authority, and its agent, Terminal Truck Park, TTP, operators.
However, stakeholders in the port operations have continued to pass the buck on one another as the cause of the intractable gridlock in the axis.
Stakeholders in the port operations include: Council of Maritime Transport Unions and Association, COMTUA, Amalgamated Container Trucks Owners, The United Truckers Forum, UTF, National Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, NCMDLCA, beRoad Transport Employer Association of Nigeria, RTEAN, Nigerian Police, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, among others.
Chairman, Special Traffic Management and Enforcement Compliance Team, who is also the Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Oluwatoyin Fayinka, and Senior Special Assistant to the state governor on Traffic Team, Mr. Sola Giwa, have always put the blame on sharp practices by port managers and its agents as well as security personnel not under the control of the special team which was inaugurated in February, 2021 to restore normalcy and keep traffic flowing in Apapa and environs.
Undoubtedly, the achievements and success story of the Presidential Task Team set up by President Muhammadu Buhari with the mandate to clear the Apapa gridlock, chaired by Vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and coordinated by former Commissioner for Transportation in Lagos, comrade Kayode Opeifa, had been eroded by corrupt practices exhibited by various interests.
According to Fayinka, a major challenge, is that the team sees corruption fighting back, because the people the traffic team has prevented from the regular corrupt practices are back spreading falsehood information about the team inorder to frustrate its efforts.
While some have commended the team others have accused it of incompetence and lack of will power of enforcement.
Fayinka, faulted series of allegations of sharp practices levelled against the team in some quarters, saying that rather the team should be commended for work well done, restoring sanity and orderliness in Apapa.
He said the traffic gridlock was man-made adding that corruption was the reason for the gridlock “and we are working hard to make it a thing of the past soon.”.
He however said that the State Government was working round the to roads leading to free of traffic.
Last Sunday, when the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway usually free, there was standstill situation due to the closure of NPA gate which resulted in uncontrolled influx of truckers subjecting other road users to untold hardships.
It was gathered that NPA and TTP are solely responsible for the calling of truckers to the port, either to drop containers or pick consignments, which attracts extra fees when operations are intentionally delayed.
How bad road worsens Apapa/Oshodi gridlock
All efforts to sanitise Apapa and its environs, and ensure free flow of traffic into and out of Apapa, the economic nerve centre and financial hub of Nigeria, may drag longer than expected, and this is why commuters, motorists and residents of Apapa cannot heave a sigh of relief yet due to poor state of the port access road, particularly by Sunrise area.
Vanguard’s visit to Apapa, starting from Berger Yard of the Oahodi-Apapa Expressway yesterday, showed the terrible state of the ever busy expressway into and out of Apapa as a result of neglect of decades.
Our findings revealed that the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway which links the Murtala Muhammed International Airport with two of the nation’s busiest seaports of Apapa Wharf and Tin Can Island has failed beyond imagination at several locations which is one of the reasons for the persistent gridlock on the dual carriageway particularly inward Apapa axis.
The craters on the express have caused truck drivers, commuters, motorists and cyclists to make use of the service lane which condition is not as deplorable as the express. This is why vehicular movement into Apapa is sluggish and takes hours to navigate the chaotic traffic.
The condition of the road appears worsen as one moves more into Apapa, because between Ottor Wolf and Sunrise axis, a truck driver can wait for over an hour before he can move for a few second and stop. This situation is like this to Tin Can port. For the trucks going to Apapa port through Creek Road, the situation is even worse, as Creek Road is being reconstructed to Tin Can Island.
The worst portions are Berger Yard under bridge, Sunrise, Coconut area and Tin Can.
These failed portions have particularly worsened the agonies of motorists and commuters on the expressway on daily basis with traffic stretching several kilometres and lasting throughout the day.
With the rains, the road has become a no-go area for smaller cars and buses which could not wade through the flood on the expressway whenever it rains. Even the failed parts of the road have also continued to increase in size as the flood washes off most parts of the road.
As it is now, only trailers and heavy trucks with big tyres and axles could afford to wade through the road and it takes them over six hours or more to go through the distance of about one kilometer
We are paying heavily to terminal not port in Lagos – Truckers lament
…We pay N15,000 for sticker
UTF has decried continued extortion at Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, claiming NPA policy created room for such unhealthy situation for truckers in Lagos state.
The forum said that their trucks are forced to pay N11 thousand at KLT using a POS on behalf of TTP.
The forum revealed that as a first step, the authority directed immediate stoppage of the payment arrangement which is outside the procedure laid down between the TTP and the NPA.
The forum said that the Ag MD of NPA ordered an investigation into the extortion being perpetrated at KLT, using TTP account following the revelation.
The truckers said that the Ag MD had, had a meeting with the forum to ensure truckers are charged only when approved structures are put in place, and that trucks plying the KLT corridor will continue to enjoy entry into KLT I & II without payment until such a time when the service provider installs infotech and physical infrastructures for such locations as required by the agreement guiding its operations.
They said that the authority will continue to work with stakeholders to review and rejig all processes and procedures to ensure value for all charges by it partners and third party service providers.
Speaking on behalf of the forum, Taskforce Chairman of NARTO, Mr. Hassan Adekoya, said that NPA policy created a platform for terminal to be collecting money from truckers against their wish.
Adekoya said, “KLT is a terminal not port, it is like a bonded terminal that we accuse of collecting N150 thousand for empty container. NPA, TTP are denying that they are not collecting any money. NPA policy makes terminal to be collecting money from us. A terminal not port.
“It is NPA policy that is creating problem for truckers, trucking business is an investment and not thuggery. NPA policy legalized extortion and made it possible on Lagos road even with account number,”.
“We have written several petitions and nothing is coming out of it. One of NPA policy disturbing us is the stickers, for minimum standard, we pay N15 thousand and we have FRSC in charge of minimum standard, we pay all of these and yet there are vehicles without road worthiness.
“We have paid over N400 million to NPA for sticker. We pay N10 thousand for sticker and N5 thousand for check up, which is N15 thousand in total.”
“To end extortion, NPA policies must be reviewed.”
Stakeholders accuse Customs of contributing to the Mile2/Tin-can gridlock
The Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS has been accused of contributing to the gridlock along the Mile 2 – Tin-can port.
Some stakeholders who spoke with Vanguard said that operatives of FOU, Zone A have about four points between Tin-can port and Mile 2 with different sets of operative collecting toll from already cleared consignments from both Tin-can and Apapa ports.
They gave the extortion spots on the bridge just before Cocoa-nut bus stop, West Minister bus stop, around Sunrise bus stop, Berger under bridge area, and Mile 2 bus stop.
Speaking with Vanguard, a truck driver who simply gave his name as Kunle Adebayo, said they collect between N10,000 to N50,000 from every container-laden truck as well as vehicles cleared from the port.
Adebayo further stated that in the process of collecting the toll, they free flow of traffic is stalled.
He explained that there were times when the officials stop between five to 10 trucks during the peak period in the evenings “as we have it now.” (He spoke with Vanguard during an on-the-site visit by our reporter).
The President, NCMDLCA, Lucky Amiwero, described the alleged extortion as one of the biggest corruption in the maritime sector.
“One of the biggest forms of corruption is that Customs don’t comply with the law. When you operate out of the law, it is the height of corruption.”
Amiwero said the Kyoto Convention, which aimed at facilitating trade by harmonising and simplifying customs procedures and practices, has not been complied with by NCS, noting that the service has many units, which contravenes the convention.
Also, former President of the NAGAFF, Eugene Nweke, lamented the level of extortion and exploitation at the ports.
“Every form of extortion is an extra cost passed to the final consumers or the end-users of goods and services. When you extort, you are indirectly increasing the cost passed on to the poor masses.”
Responding, the Public Relations Officer of FOU, Zone A, Peter Duniya, has distance officials of the Unit from traffic griclock along that route.
Duniya explained that Customs officers are performing their statutory duty and do not stop consignments leaving the port for stopping sake.
“If you see any vehicle that is being stopped, that is done based on intelligence or based on information by suspicion. They don’t just stop every vehicle, so they act based on information,” he said.
Recall that freight forwarders had during the heat of the #EndSARS protests shut down commercial activities at Tin Can Island Port, seeking an end to extortion by the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).