The Acting Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko, recently accused police and other uniformed officials of mounting illegal checkpoints on the access roads in Lagos to extort money from hapless truck drivers.
In addition to exacerbating the Apapa gridlock, the NPA helmsman said the action of the security officials is hampering the implementation of the electronic call-up system for trucks plying the port.
Bello-Koko also accused military personnel of sometimes escorting vehicles illegally into and out of the ports.
“There are multiple checkpoints within what we call the red zone. Let me explain. So you have multiple checkpoints that are just springing up. And these checkpoints are manned by police officers. At times you find men in uniform – naval or military – escorting vehicles illegally,” he said.
This is not the first time security officials posted to the port roads will be accused of working against the smooth flow of traffic for pecuniary gains. In January 2020 during a stakeholders meeting to brainstorm on solutions to the seemingly intractable Apapa traffic gridlock, Port Manager of the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Olotu, said trucks stayed perpetually on the roads and bridges around the port because uniformed men stop them to exert illegal tolls.
Olotu said, “We are talking about why the trucks should not be staying on the road, why are they there? Because there are armed security men on bridges passing, controlling, saying you can go, you cannot go. Can we have the armed men off the bridges so that the trucks can be moving? We know the points where we can stop the trucks.”
Residents of Apapa under the aegis of the Apapa GRA Residents Association (AGRA) as well as several road users have also blamed uniformed officials on the port road for creating artificial bottlenecks on the road.
Clearly, the corruption and unbridled extortion of motorists, especially truckers, by the security and traffic control officials is the only tonic sustaining the Apapa gridlock. These unpatriotic officials see their postings to Apapa as opportunity to make quick money, hence, they convert their assignment to a lucrative business where they must return home daily with swollen pockets. They extort, and lend themselves to bribery by truck drivers who want to be allowed to park indiscriminately on the roads, streets and bridges to the detriment of vehicular movement. Sometimes, they allow truck drivers to drive against traffic after money has exchanged hands.
Corruption among the security agents working on Lagos ports access roads has become so dire that any effort at finding a lasting solution to the Apapa traffic problem must address it. It may be recalled that one of the highlights of the recent intervention on the Apapa gridlock by the Lagos State Government last year was the removal of all former personnel involved in controlling traffic in Apapa, and the dismantling of all the numerous checkpoints on the port access roads. In spite of these, however, corruption and extortion of truck drivers still persists as the new crop of uniformed men prove that they were not immune to the infectious corruption on Apapa roads.
At present, uniformed armed men have continued to be part of the Apapa gridlock problem. It is, therefore, high time concerned security authorities called their men to order. The continued silence of the security agencies in the face of the deluge of allegations against their men with regards to the Apapa traffic debacle does not portray their organizations in good light. They should be able to control and discipline their men and ensure that those detailed to be part of the control of Apapa traffic protect the image of their organizations. Where they continue to keep quiet can only mean that they are in tacit support of the illegal activities of their men or that they are indirect beneficiaries of their excesses as often alleged.
As NPA and stakeholders continue to labour to see how they can bring an end to the Apapa gridlock, security agencies should not be found wanting, or be seen to be sabotaging these efforts. They should be able to have complete control of the activities of their personnel, and ensure that they do not violate laid down rules and procedures for tackling the traffic mess. The security and law enforcement agents should be found only where they are detailed to be in order to ensure that the roads and bridges are free from bottlenecks.
We deplore a situation where the personnel of various security and law enforcement agencies should be working at cross-purposes with other stakeholders on Apapa roads for personal benefits. We, therefore, call on them to turn a new leaf, as free port access roads and smooth-moving traffic will be beneficial to all. Enough, they say, is enough.
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