.. Traffic gridlock resurges

…We have paid N3bn to extortions this year – Truckers

By Godfrey Bivbere & Providence Adeyinka

THERE are indications that the recent accord between truck owners and the various authorities managing traffic at the Mile-2 to Apapa road corridor has collapsed leading to a resurgence of gridlock on the nation’s premium port access roads.

Meanwhile, the truckers have alleged that they have spent over N3 billion on extortions by the traffic management authorities as well as official payments to access the ports in eight months of this year, an amount they are now pushing to recover from the organisations that collected them.

The settlement leading to the accord had followed a massive protest by the truckers in September and a major stakeholders’ meetings with the leadership of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, as well as the Lagos State government.

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But barely one month after the settlement which vacated the payments that often held down trucks on the roads, the truckers are now saying that the extortions have now been restored unofficially with payments in cash instead of Point-of-Sales, POS, terminals that was used before the settlement meetings.

Consequently, truck queues have returned to the roads while the truckers allege that minor adjustments and cosmetic changes have been effected in the payments and extortions.

One of the leaders of the protest, Task Force Chairman, Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, Hassan Adekoya, told Vanguard Maritime Report that the agents of the state government, security agents and those claiming to be representing the NPA are still collecting illegal monies amounting to about N41,500 per truck per passage.

He said before the protest, truckers were forced to pay a total of N46,500 in two separate payments of N20,750 and N25,750 along the Mile 2 –Tin-can route, but that as a result of the protest, the N20,750 was reduced to N15,750 under the accord.

He also disclosed that so far they have paid about N3 billion into the official accounts of the agencies while another N200 million has been spent on traffic management agents of the state between February and September 2021. He also alleged that after the settlement meetings the N11,000 per truck per access which was part of the official payments made to a transit park management agent was vacated but it has now been re-introduced though at lower rate of between N8,000 and N10,000 per truck per passage.

He also stated that instead of using the POS, the payment is now made in cash.

He added, ‘‘We have written petitions to the DSS, Police commands, Governor of Lagos, Shippers Council, NPA, among others.’’

Adekoya said that his group had a meeting with the Acting Managing Director of NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko, to complain about the policies that have negatively affected the port economy as well as how truckers are being extorted with evidence.

According to him, the extortions and the consequent traffic gridlocks led to an all inclusive meeting called by the Lagos State government about two months ago, where the truck park agents admitted to the collection of N11,000 from truckers.

He, however, lamented that despite the revelations and the assurances to address them, the problem still continue leading to a return of the chaotic gridlock along the route.

But a source told Vanguard Maritime Report that the commencement of work by the contractors handling Lot-2 of the Apapa – Oshodi expressway from Cele end of the road, may have also contributed to the gridlock.

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