The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has resolved to take punitive measures against its staff taking advantage of the traffic chaos in Apapa to extort money from truck drivers.
The Acting Managing Director of NPA, Muhammed Bello-Koko, who disclosed this in Lagos on Sunday after a meeting with Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Sanwo-Olu, also expressed optimism that the agency’s collaboration with the Lagos State Government will bring an end to the perennial gridlock within and around the Apapa area.
Bello-Koko said the gridlock affected the access roads leading to the country’s two busiest ports in Lagos, emphasising the need to strengthen enforcement of traffic laws along the Apapa and Tin Can Ports roads.
He said NPA had been inundated with complaints of extortion from truckers, especially by security operatives demanding money from drivers before accessing the ports. He described the practice as a major disincentive to the smooth implementation of the truck call-up system.
“One of the complaints of the truckers has to do with extortion by security operatives, the Army, the Police, the Nigerian Navy and even NPA security staff.
“This is one of the areas we require the intervention of government, in this case the Lagos State Government, because we have police officers deployed from the State Command who are allegedly involved in this. We at the NPA have resolved to take the right punitive measures against any of our staff involved in this.
“We have moved some of them out of port locations, and we will do further reviews. Whoever is found involved would be appropriately sanctioned.
“Because of the involvement of several security units, many checkpoints have been created. We believe there are over 30 checkpoints within the Apapa and TinCan Port axis, and we believe that this is a major issue causing delays and a whole lot of problems, this was one of the concerns we raised at our meeting with His Excellency,” Bello-Koko said.
Earlier in the year, the agency and the state government had renewed efforts to evacuate the trucks from the highway but the relief was short-lived.
The NPA boss acknowledged that the Lagos State Government had been a close partner, especially in terms of enforcement.
He said this was both in terms of providing security operatives and monitoring of the electronic call-up system named “eto”.
Bello-Koko, however, said there was need to further strengthen that collaboration.
He said he had directed the “eto” project consultant and operator of the Lilipond Truck Transit Park to redouble their efforts.
This is especially on the deployment of necessary physical and IT infrastructure, as well as adequate human resources, to address the gaps and complaints of delay from port users.
Bello-Koko further said that the meeting discussed the matter of poor access roads, especially around Sunrise Bus-stop leading to the Tin Can Port.
“The situation now is that trucks going to Tin Can are now following the Apapa Port road, so no matter how much you control the traffic in Apapa, it will be seen as if you are doing nothing.
“NPA has reached out to the Federal Ministry of Works, we have been speaking with the Director of Works in the state, and we have asked that they should provide some palliatives around Sunrise Bus-stop.
“We were made to understand that the contract for that section of the road has just been awarded, but because of the rains, work has been delayed.
“There is need for that part of the road to be graded so that the Tin Can Port corridor would begin to enjoy some measure of free flow of traffic,” he said.
He said manufacturing concerns within the port premises also contribute to the perennial gridlock in the area.
“There are businesses like Dangote and others who have factories within the port and each of them may need to bring in about 300 trucks daily,” he said.
He said the manufacturing concerns will have to carry out their operations in a way that “do not affect the need of other port users to send in their trucks or exporters to send in and bring their trucks out freely.”
He quoted Sanwo-Olu as assuring that the state would work closely with the NPA in ensuring the success of the truck electronic call-up system.
He reportedly assured that the state government would commence engagements with the petroleum tanker drivers, tank farm owners and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) to ensure that they are factored into the “eto” call-up system.
The Lagos Governor was also quoted as identifying the poor state of the Sunrise Bus Stop corridor as the major cause of the traffic congestion into the Tin Can Island Port, emphasizing the “need for the contractors to speed up work around that area”.