No facilities to hold 4,000 trucks
Extortion and bribery are the twin evils bedevilling the newly introduced electronic call-up system to eliminate the perennial gridlock on the Apapa Wharf Road and making a nuisance of the effort. According to a cargo consolidator and the Chairman of Sceptre Consult, Mr. Jayeola Ogamode, the issue of extortion cannot be eradicated even at the new parks.
He alleged that some powerful individuals were behind the sudden reappearance of trucks on the road despite NPA and Lagos State Government warning, most especially the Mile 2- Tincan Port road axis. He said government should roll out stiff penalties for truckers and their officials who abuse new ecall up system. Ogamode said: “The presence of oil tankers and tank farms will continue to spoil the implementation of the electronic platform. This group will go to any length to oppose any policy that will affect their private business.
“Apart from this, some security operatives including the officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management (LASTMA), who have served on the road are still deep necked in the affairs of the roads. “They engage thugs to extort money from truckers on the road.
In some cases, these security operatives collect money to escort truck drivers to port gate.” Also, the Chairman, Skelas Group of Companies and former National President of Association of Nigerian Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, urged government to scrap the port terminals common user roads in order to make the Electronic Call- Up System (ETO) work.
He explained that whatever challenges ETO was facing could not be divorced from lack of consultation and sensitisation by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), accusing the authority of failing to call for dialogue before embarking on ETO. Shittu noted: “I will suggest that we scrap the common user roads surrounding the terminals in Lagos ports. Scrap it entirely, it’s not necessary. All terminals should have their exits and their entries facing the expressway. Terminals should have private access and exit roads and you will be surprise how soon all these issues of clogging will disappear.”
He explained that whenever relevant departments of government failed to carry stakeholders along in addressing sensitive industry challenges such as ETO, such neglect would always produce fault lines that will slow down implementation of projects. He added that important project like electronic call-up system should enjoy robust dialogue, consultation and sensitisation from stakeholders.
Shittu said: “Our style in this country is that people who are in position of power just assume they can force anything on you and then allow the system to take care of it. Right from the time of port concession, the disagreement I had with the former Managing Director of NPA, Chief Adebayo Sarumi, who was one of my mentors in the maritime industry, and Ojo Maduekwe, was the system of concession they wanted to impose on Nigeria.”
In less than two weeks after the introduction of the electronic call-up system on February 27, some truck drivers had been caught with counterfeited e-call up slips to by-pass officials mandated with the responsibility of enforcing the electronic call-up. The Nigerian Ports Authority’s electronic call-up system is powered by a web application called “Eto” but findings revealed that it has been cloned and hacked by unscrupulous agents and truck drivers.
Already, many trucks which disappeared in the first three days of the electronic call-up implementation had returned to the roads despite the Lagos State Government and NPA’s threat to punish and expose the offenders. Worried by the latest development, the NPA in a directive to agents, freight forwarders and truckers, said it has become mandatory to obtain their tickets only when they arrive at a holding bay.
NPA and Truck Transit Park Limited (TTP) had adopted a new measure to boost the implementation of the ecall up system as gridlock returned to Tincan Island Axis of the Apapa Oshodi Road. It added that all flatbeds drivers from Ikeja industrial area and the environs must be serviced from either JOF truck park, Oregun or Foru truck park, Ojota, while those from Amuwo, Apapa and the environs shall be serviced from H and C logistics trading enterprise, Amuwo Odofin and Army Truck Park, Mile 2. In addition, the directive stressed that all flatbeds from the Army Truck Park and H and C logistics will serve the Tin-Can corridor only, while trucks with Terminal Delivery Order (TDO), shall be serviced by Anet Con-struction park and Bomarah Park, adding that all export containers shall be serviced from the Foru Truck Park Ojota. According to the new directive, “special BAU shall service all categories of trucks coming from the hinterland. Hog-Amazon shall service all categories of trucks approaching from Ajah Epe axis. All fish trucks shall continue the way they operate at the moment. Reefer containers shall be accommodated by a truck park. Shipping line holding bays as pre- gates shall go to the ports directly.
“All RoRo barges movements are approved through Lagferry Jetty at Mile 2 and landing points at Standard Flour Mills and GMT jetties at Creek Road, Apapa. All movement shall be batched and sequenced by TTP.” The directive stressed that “Eto” tickets would only be generated to all agents and truckers on physical presence of the truck in the parks and confirmed by the operator, saying that agents and truckers are advised to hold extra funds to prevent delays in truck parks leading to additional charges.
The authority said that it would checkmate the forgery of the e-call-up tickets by the stakeholders. NPA in a tweet said: “We are currently investigating some cases where truck drivers were caught with counterfeited e-call up slip in order to by-pass security and officials saddled with the responsibility but we are on top of the situation. We will beat them to their game.”
Meanwhile, the aggrieved , Congregation of Registered Freight Forwarding Practitioners of Nigeria (CREFFPON), has described the costs attached to the ecall up system for trucks in which the operators were asked to pay N10,000 for using the platform and additional N43,000 for each transport company as worrisome.
They explained that truckers had been forced to raise their charges which importers must pay to have their goods delivered. According to the freight forwarders, “NPA truck transit park and the e-truck call up system are a modernised extortion tool via ICT application.
However, the Vice President of National Association of Roads Transport Owners (NARTO) Dry Cargo section, Mr Abdullahi Mohammed, told Saturday Telegraph that the truckers paid between N15,000 and N16,500 all together at the parks, saying it was better than when the drivers were paying between N200,000 and N300,000 to private pockets on the port roads. He stressed the need by the authority to register more parks to accommodate more trucks, saying that the existing parks could only accommodate 3,000 trucks out of the 7,000 registered by NPA. Mohammed said: “I believe that NPA will still register some parks which met the required standard. When you compare and weigh what happened in the past with latest development, the most recent development is better than what we were facing in the past on the roads.” Nevertheless, findings revealed that those who had been benefiting from old order on the road for over a decade had been working against the success of the new call up system.
It would be recalled that the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Usman-Bala, had warned that any truck that had not been called up, but was found on the road in Apapa would be impounded. She said that all shipping companies must have their own holding bays for empty containers. Similarly, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi had mandated the NPA to punish truckers who failed to comply with government’s directives when the rail end of the Apapa Port spur line is completed. Amaechi directed the management NPA to ensure that the trucks are moved out, adding that only registered trucks conveying goods imported or to be exported should be allowed into the ports.
Similarly, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo- Olu vowed to fight, name and shame saboteurs, be it a corporate organisation, company, police officer, Lagos State officer, who were trying to frustrate government’s effort to tackle Apapa gridlock. He noted: “We will not stop at anything to ensure that anybody who tries to take us back to where we are coming from on the gridlock in Apapa, we will do everything that we have to fight those people.
“We will bring them to the public court for them to see that we are about seriousness. We cannot condone the recklessness and carelessness that our citizens have gone through. “Obviously, what we are doing now is that we have taken the unscrupulous people who have been benefiting from the gridlock out, we have taken whatever it is they are earning from them and we know they will want to fight back.”