The failure of Hitech Construction Company, the contractor handling the repair of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, to open up alternative roads for use of port haulage trucks and other motorists is responsible for the current blockade of the Tin Can Island Port, the Controller, Tin Can Island Port Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Comptroller Musa Baba Abdulahi, has said.
Movement of trucks in and out of the Tin Can Island Port, which is Nigeria’s second busiest seaport, has become almost impossible as a result of unending gridlock occasioned by deplorable access roads and extortion by security operatives managing traffic in the area.
Hitech Construction Company has also been blamed for its refusal to comply with the directive of the Federal Government to open up the major highway leading to the Tin Can Island Port. The directive was issued on behalf of the government in Lagos on Friday by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT), Dr. Magdalene Ajani, during a meeting with stakeholders on how to resolve the perennial gridlock on the port access road.
Speaking in an exclusive chat with SHIPS & PORTS on Wednesday, Comptroller Abdulahi decried the lingering traffic congestion along the Tin Can Island Port access road, calling on Hitech Construction Company to “define alternative access into and out of the port” to ease movement of trucks and evacuation of cargo.
He said, “Anytime there is road construction or rehabilitation like this, there must be provision for alternative routes. That is the standard. What is typically happening here is that there are no alternative routes. The man going out and the one coming in use the same route. So they have not really defined which route to take to the port and the one to take out of the port. That has to be defined.
“You will see someone coming to Tin Can Port and another going out and you see both of them head on. The worst is finding these trucks loaded with 30 to 60 tonnes on the bridge. Bridges are not supposed to take static weight. The Liverpool Bridge used to be for exit but now it is for both exit and entry into the port.
“The contractors should define the access route which means somebody going out is not supposed to be found on the lane into the port but nobody seems to be responsible to make sure that is done. We have tried to engage the stakeholders by bringing in the Police, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) but by the time you start, implementation becomes another issue.”
The Customs boss said the poor road infrastructure along the Tin Can Island port was the major challenge faced by the command in the course of the year as it impacted negatively on trade facilitation, revenue generation as well as officers’ level of productivity with most of them having to trek to the office on many occasions.
He noted that while Customs clearance is achieved within 12 to 24 hours, evacuating the cargo from the port becomes a challenge because of the poor access road and intractable gridlock.
“The situation has been terrible. On many occasions, most of our officers have had to trek in and out because of the traffic situation. On two occasions, I abandoned my car and just had to go on my foot. The essence of cargo clearance is trade facilitation so that the cargoes can move into their warehouses and factories. Unfortunately, you achieve the clearance in good time but you don’t get them delivered to the premises.
“Our trade facilitation cycle will be complete if cargoes arrive at the factories or warehouses successfully but where you clear it here and yet they can’t get to their destination they create congestion in the port and the purpose of trade facilitation is defeated completely.
“It also affected our revenue generation because people will probably have to sell their goods to get money to pay the duties for new imports. Cargo that ordinarily has import cycle of not more than three months will take an average importer six months with less than three turnaround in a year.
“The issue of access and infrastructure as well as logistics is the most challenging for us because sometimes, even when they manage to repair the road, the truckers will still bring truck that is more than 30 years old and when they put it on the road as soon as it ascends Liverpool bridge, it breaks down and it is parked there on the bridge.”
Abdulahi, however, said that despite the odds including the COVID-19 pandemic, the command as at December 21, 2020 had generated N371 billion revenue.
“We started the year with a lot of expectations but suddenly in March, COVID-19 pandemic started but despite all that, we have so far generated N371 billion as at Monday and we were expected to collect about N350 billion. Even if we made our revenues for the period but if the cycle has been more, the revenue would have been higher. If the roads are in place, then it means we would have achieved far above our target,” he added.