The indiscriminate parking of tankers and container trucks on port access roads in Lagos have been identified by operators as the major cause of the perennial traffic gridlock in and around Apapa causing commuters to spend several hours on the road. In this interview with Shulammite ‘Foyeku, Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi, said the creation of a transit park for trucks will address the challenge.
How do you feel with the news that the Nigerian Shipper’s Council will assist truck owners in securing a transit park?
Well it we be a good thing going by the situation on ground that has to do with the chaotic traffic situation along the port access road. By the time we are able to secure a place like the Executive Secretary has just mentioned that they are planning and working on how to get a transit park, a place where the trucks will be coming from, it is then there can be sanity and orderliness on our roads.
All those truck you see on the road is not in the interest of the drivers or the owner of the trucks to leave their trucks on the road, it is because the original place earmarked for them to use as terminals have been taken over by other business activities. If you had come to the port environment about a decade ago, you would not find a single truck outside the port. Then we had places we were using but because the volume of goods that are coming into the port have increased, that is why we are having all these challenges. But we are happy the management team of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council is coming on board to assist to make sure that we have a befitting place where the trucks will be coming from so that it is only when their services are required that they will leave the place.
It’s been long that your association has been clamouring for a transit park for truckers, but it seems the authorities are less concerned about it. Is there any hope of having a designated place for truckers going by the promise of the NSC?
Well it is a situation that is beyond our control, it is not something we can achieve on our own because I believe every stakeholder in the maritime industry created the problem. So we only cannot solve the problem. All hands of every stakeholder’s in the maritime industry should come on board for us to collectively address and find lasting solution to the traffic situation. We are trying our possible best and we have identified many places and we have mentioned it to the authorities but we don’t have the financial power or the political will to achieve that goal but with you letting the authorities know, I believe if you drum it into their ears, they will know that it is very important that they address the issue once and for all because every persons working in the port or living within the Apapa environment is like sitting on a keg of gun powder that can explode anytime going with the fact that we have so many tank farms in Apapa. If there is any emergency, where do we run to? So there is urgent need for authorities to get us a place where these trucks can be coming from so that there will be sanity, orderliness on our roads and the industry as a whole.
Apart from the challenge of not having a transit park, what other challenges do you have to contend with as an association?
The biggest challenge is unavailability of a truck park. By the time we achieve that, most of the challenges, in fact 90 percent of our problems, would have been addressed. There are so many challenges, but a journey of one thousand miles has to start with a step.
It has been said that the use of old and rickety trucks is a major reason why containers fall off the roads. What is AMATO doing in ensuring it regulates the quality of trucks plying the roads?
Well, we are trying our best and you should know we don’t manufacture trucks here in Nigeria and for economic reasons, most of us are relying and depending on fairly used trucks that find their way into Nigerian shore because we don’t manufacture trucks. But we will not allow that or to continue seeing or experiencing carnage on our roads, we are trying our possible best knowing fully well how the economic situation in the country is. Even humans are not complete bodily so we cannot say because we have a new born baby and the old people in the town should die but however, there are measures being put in place through the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority to start implementing the minimum standards of vehicles that should be operating in the port.
On falling of containers, most of the incidents have to with the conditions of the road not of the truck. If you see any truck that fell and if it is only the container that fell off the truck, it is then you can now say maybe the container is not properly attached or hooked. But in most of the accident cases, the trucks normally fall together with the containers so that shows that it is as a result of the condition of our roads and not as a result of the condition of the truck. However the largest and the biggest room is the room for improvement. We are working to improve to make sure that we reduce the carnage on our roads nationwide. The condition of the road is very important in our operations. Let me appeal to the authorities concerned to see what they can do to maintain most of our roads that have turned into potholes. We refer to them as potholes but they have actually degenerated into a gully that can even swallow a car. That is why you see most of these trucks falling here and there and container trucks because of the size and height falls easily.