The Federal Government has disbanded the Presidential Task Force on Apapa Gridlock headed by a former Lagos State Commissioner for Transport, Kayode Opeifa.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, disclosed this in Lagos on Friday during a meeting she held with stakeholders including officials of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), truck owners and representatives of shipping companies.
The meeting was held to find solution to the perennial gridlock on the access road leading to the Tin Can Island Port Complex, Lagos in a renewed effort to check congestion at the nation’s second busiest seaport.
The Permanent Secretary also disclosed that a new team would be reconstituted to manage traffic on the port access road.
Ajani said the blockade of Tin Can Island Port by trucks due to the activities of different government officials, truck owners and drivers was no longer tolerable and must be dealt with decisively.
She said before the deployment of an electronic call-up system by NPA in January 2021 to manage the movement of trucks on the port access road, urgent actions must be taken to address the gridlock, which has almost brought cargo evacuation at the Tin Can Island Port Complex to a halt.
She said, “We must have some form of orderliness. Trucks must only get on the road when they are called to come in, and if that happens we shouldn’t have trucks on the road.
“We also want to plead with the Federal Road Safety Commission and the Police; enforcement is very key. Enforcing means don’t let people who should not be on the road come on the road, because if there are no trucks on the road, we won’t have the miscreants. There will not be anyone to coerce on the road. Who gives the miscreants access into the port when they are not supposed to be there?”
Ajani said the first step to take in addressing the gridlock is to instil discipline on the road.
On the truck electronic call-up system proposed by the Nigerian Ports Authority as solution to the gridlock, the Permanent Secretary said, “Before the electronic call-up system starts, you’ve been operating for decades. How have you been calling up your trucks? Manual, I presume. So, why can’t you get back to that and make sure that it is a functional call-up? Functional call-up is the word.
“We all have our roles to play, but the typical thing is that we want to show that we have authority somewhere, and everybody trying to show that they have authority somewhere is what has ended us where we are now.”
The gridlock, according to her, “just boils down to gross indiscipline”.
She said though instructions have been issued by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing to “open up the roads” leading to Tin Can Island Port, this might not solve the gridlock until trucks that have no immediate business at the port are taken off the road.
“We go on air and make pronouncements; that is very easy to do. But who is to enforce it?” she asked.
Speaking further, the Permanent Secretary said, “The issue of Presidential Task Force or no Presidential Task Force; I threw up that question on Tuesday to the Vice President and he said ‘Madam Perm Sec, that has been disbanded’. I have been trying to get a written document because I clearly stated that I don’t have a written document. If I have the communication as a Ministry, then we should be able to do the needful. So I have requested that we get the communication both to the Ministry and to all the institutions – Lagos State, the Police, all the parastatals; NPA, NSC, are all part of the transportation.
“So once we have that, then we can sit down to chart what needs to be charted. We have invited the relevant agencies for 8 a.m. meeting tomorrow because we must chart the course of who takes responsibility for what to at least decongest the road. That is the immediate thing we have right now to do, and then allow people to come out of the port and open up the roads if need be.
“I’m using the word if need. We may just open temporarily to move all those ones that are blocking the roads but going forward, we need to do the right thing, and that is discipline ourselves and having an effective manual call-up till we’re able to implement the electronic (call-up).”
The Permanent Secretary advised FRSC to deploy more truck towing vehicles on the port access roads to remove broken down and unwanted trucks to free up the road.
“We will engage Lagos State and maybe Ministry of Works if they have land around those areas, so that at least there is a clear place where you drop the impounded trucks. I guess when we begin to do that; people will take us a bit more seriously.
“So if you have not been called up and you get on the road, then your vehicle will just be towed. By the time you are there for three months, the goods you want to export is there, you begin to talk with the owner of the goods. People will probably be a bit more serious in dealing with what needs to be dealt with.”
SHIPS & PORTS reported last week that truck operators jerked up their costs by 50% from N1.2million to N1.8million within one week to move a container from the Tin Can Island Port, Lagos to any other part of the city, as extortion by security officials on the port access road continued unabated.
The blockade of the port access road has led to massive congestion at the Tin Can Island Port, with no fewer than 40 ships stranded at anchorage due to lack of space to discharge new cargoes at terminals in the port.
Truck drivers and stakeholders who spoke with SHIPS & PORTS said cargo evacuation from the port was hampered by multiple toll points mounted by security operatives including men of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) security department, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Army and officials of the now-disbanded Presidential Task Team on Apapa Gridlock.