The acting Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, has accused security officials of sabotaging the electronic call-up system for trucks plying the Apapa and Tin Can Island ports in Lagos.
Speaking in Lagos on Sunday during a press conference, the acting NPA Managing Director said military men, policemen, officials of NPA security department and others interfere in the effective functioning of the electronic call-up system and eto – the app used by truck drivers in accessing the ports.
He also decried the mounting of “several checkpoints” in and around Apapa by security to extort money from port-bound truck drivers.
He said NPA is concluding plans to improve on the call-up system by introducing the use of Quick Response (QR) codes by truck drivers to gain access into the ports.
A QR code, which is a type of barcode, is a machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached. In practice, QR codes often contain data for a locator, identifier, or tracker that points to a website or application.
“One of the first executive actions I took when I was appointed was to visit the Tin Can-Apapa corridor to ensure that the right things are done and the right infrastructure is deployed. We are getting there gradually.
“We have put in measures to minimise the congestion in and around the port. NPA was using manual manifest and call-up system which was not very effective because of human interference.
“We have brought in eto electronic call-up system to ensure smooth inward and outward movement of cargo from the port. The idea was to ensure that all trucks coming in are supposed to move from trailer parks to the Truck Transit Park (TTP) at Lilypond, Ijora, then to the port.
“TTP was supposed to have deployed some physical and electronic infrastructure but that was not done. When I was appointed, I gave them ultimatum to ensure that those items are installed as quickly as possible. I can assure you today that there has been more deployment of assets by TTP.
“I also requested that we need to sit down and reappraise what they have achieved. Incidentally eto was 90 days old when I resumed. We did an analysis to see where we are, what has been achieved and we identified where the gaps were. So, what I did was to push for immediate implementation of the agreement between us and TTP.
“The idea of enforcement – whatever you come up with there must be enforcement – so we liaised with the Lagos State Government to ensure that we have the right security operatives on ground.
“We have also collaborated with Lagos State Government through Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA), which has brought a bit more sanity to the system.
“Because of our intense focus, there is already some improvement. There is better flow of traffic but let me finally say that the major hindrance to eto is the road. The Tin Can corridor is bad. We have had discussions with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing to ensure that the construction company deploys its equipment to start construction around that area,” he said.
He said rather than use the eto app, some truckers “find a way to use military men”.
“You find out that at night, military men escort vehicles (into the port), which is sabotage,” he said.
He also said that street urchins and touts, commonly known as ‘Area Boys’, take advantage of the chaotic traffic situation on the Lagos port access roads to extort money from truck drivers.
“They (area boys) are involved in extortion and find ways to divert these trucks. We discovered a building not far away from Apapa gate where one can get a number plate printed in less than 20 minutes.
“This number can be used to get an eto ticket. We have told the security agencies. They have raided the building and investigations are ongoing. So, we are moving from the normal eto that has digits to QR codes which are difficult to duplicate.
“There are also saboteurs even among our staff. We have had to issue queries to NPA staff involved and we are taking actions. We have sent some home to allow for proper investigation. Others have been queried and some have been moved across ports.
“We have made it clear that we shall not tolerate saboteurs in the system no matter where they are coming from,” the acting Managing Director said.