Government must end extortion by security officials on Tin Can port road

Extortion by NPA security officials, Police, Presidential Task Team worsen Apapa gridlock

 

Over time, it has become obvious to everyone that the intractable gridlock on the Tin Can Island Port access roads is the handiwork of security and traffic control officials deployed to bring sanity to the access roads.

These security and traffic officials instead of discharging the responsibility, which brought them to the roads, have been seeing their assignment as avenue to make money. Thus, instead of being a solution they have become the problem, creating traffic where none exists, and ensuring that the traffic gridlock never goes away since that would mean the end of their unholy business enterprise.

For years, port users, commuters and other road users have suffered untold hardship as a result of the activities of these government officials who block the roads to extort money from truck drivers.

Port activities have suffered, resulting in periodic port congestions that take tolls on the nation’s economy. Haulage and shipping costs have been rising astronomically, thereby helping to fuel inflation in the country – all due to the activities of these unscrupulous government and security officials.

For the avoidance of doubt, all investigations and research conducted to ascertain the real cause of the Apapa gridlock have all identified security and traffic control officials as the major cause. Latest reports by investigative journalists have exposed how NPA security officials, police and the Presidential Task Team have been worsening the notorious Apapa gridlock.

A recent report exposed a well-organised racket of security officials at the Tin Can Island Port Complex who extort between N70,000 and N200,000 per truck before such trucks are allowed into the port. This syndicate, which includes NPA security department officials, police and the Presidential Task Team, has been making life unbearable for truck drivers, while considerably slowing down cargo evacuation from the port.

Truck drivers can no longer access Tin Can Island Port unless they pay the huge sums of money demanded by the syndicate. The situation has become so critical that port activities are almost grinding to a halt.

Notably, in February, the House of Representatives resolved to investigate this extortion of truck drivers on the port access roads by security operatives. The lawmakers had identified extortion by security officials as a major factor responsible for the traffic challenges as the operatives delayed the movement of trucks drivers who refused to cooperate with them. The House noted that truck drivers were being forced to part with N200,000 to N300,000 in order to gain access into the port to load or offload containers.

The legislators also noted that the “ugly trend” had been going on unabated for years, “but became worse after naval officers were removed from the operations as the sum of N60,000 to N100,000 was extorted when the naval officers were in charge of the operation”.

From the foregoing, it is clear that the activities of security operatives and the Presidential Task Team on the port road has been common knowledge for a long time – even to the Federal Government. It is therefore baffling that despite this knowledge and the constant shouting and exposure by the press, the evil has persisted over the years.

One is also appalled that after all the investigations and discussions, nothing was heard again until recently. Last week, the House asked the Federal Government to disband the Presidential Task Team, and to end the extortion of truck drivers on the port access roads.

We commend the House of Representatives for speaking out against the atrocities being committed by government officials on Apapa roads, which have been the major cause of the notorious Apapa gridlock. We also support their call for the immediate disbandment of the Presidential Task Team on Apapa Gridlock, which has refused to leave the roads even after a resounding failure to address the gridlock.

We are amazed that this Presidential Task Team has continued to constitute a nuisance on the port access roads, after failing abysmally in their assignment, and after announcing their exit in November 2019, having claimed to have completed their assignment ‘successfully’. Instead of leaving the road, the task team that was given a time frame to work, decided to establish itself firmly as one of the institutions of extortion and corruption on Apapa ports access roads.

We unequivocally join the House of Representatives in calling for the immediate disbandment of the task team by the Federal Government since they have refused to leave. Their presence has been a failure, and has not added any value in tackling the Apapa gridlock.

It is shocking that a government that claims to be fighting corruption would allow a task team that it set up to last for two weeks, with an extension of one month, to continue operating illegally on the ports access roads, amidst incessant allegations, by all stakeholders, of extortion and constituting obstacles to traffic flow.

Specifically, we call for immediate redeployment of all security officials around the ports, especially the Tin Can Island Port. A new set of officials should be posted to replace them, and their activities strictly monitored and controlled. The present set of security officials at the Tin Can Island Port have done considerable harm to port activities with their extortion syndicate, and must be replaced without further delay.

It is amazing that NPA security department has been part of the extortion and cause of the traffic gridlock and port congestion, with NPA management not doing anything about it. In the light of this, we call for the immediate redeployment/transfer of all the security officials at the Tin Can Island Port and Apapa Port gates. Their replacements should be strictly monitored and anyone caught should face severe punishment.

This is without prejudice to the recent announcement by NPA that it would deploy electronic call-up system for trucks in January 2021 in a bid to tackle congestion and the problems on the ports access roads. While the deployment of the electronic call-up system and efforts to provide more holding bays are long overdue, it may still not go far in addressing the problem if corrupt security officials are allowed to remain at their duty posts. With the new call-up system should come new security officials and dismantling of all task forces and checkpoints on the roads. Nothing should stop a truck that has been called up on the road. Every check must be performed at the gate, and the truck granted entry without paying any fee or bribe. Enough, they say, is enough.



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