There was drama on Wharf Road, Apapa Lagos on Thursday as truck drivers embarked on a peaceful protest against extortion by security operatives and traffic management officials including officials of the Nigerian Navy, Police, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).
The truck drivers accused the security and traffic management officials of extortion and deliberately creating chaos on Wharf Road to slow down movement so as to collect money from the truckers.
The truck drivers eventually chased the traffic officials away from their duty posts and appointed some of their own to manage traffic along the ever busy but severely damaged road.
An official of the Lagos Port Complex Apapa, who witnessed the truckers’ action on Thursday and who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “We had an incident this morning with truckers loaded since Monday the 20th of November 2017 that were unable to exit the port complex due to earlier identified challenges with the road, especially the outbound lane.
“They (the truckers) protested, took over the management of the traffic from the port gate to under Ijora Bridge and got the outbound traffic moving again. If the truckers can clear the road, why can’t our traffic managers?”
Some of the truckers, who spoke with newsmen said apart from the bad roads, ongoing construction work and a lack of truck parks, the activities of security and traffic management officials working in Apapa is a major contributor to the perennial gridlock that has characterised the area.
One of the drivers who identified himself as Emeka Micheal lamented the incessant extortion by the security agencies saying he has been on queue for two weeks because he does not have money to offer as bribe.
He said, “I have been on the queue since two weeks and it is because I don’t have N40,000 to pay. The frustration is too much and that is why some truck drivers mobilised themselves today to go and control traffic to see if some trucks that are already loaded can leave the terminal and others can enter.
“The Navy officials fired teargas in the air when we got under the bridge and we ran back because we don’t have anything to fight.”
Another truck driver, Saidu Usman, who claims to ply the Apapa and Tin Can ports regularly, said, “Whether you are going to the port to drop container or whether you are coming out of the port, you are at the mercy of the traffic officials.
“Immediately we enter Apapa on the Ijora Bridge, Navy and Army officers begin to attack us. We pay between N1000 and N5000 per truck to them on the bridge or they deflate our tyres.
“Immediately we come down the bridge, the Police is waiting for us at Barracks. We go through the same harassment in their hands and shortly after surviving the Police officers, LASTMA, FRSC and Traffic Wardens are waiting for us at Airways Bus Stop.
“This harassment is becoming too much and unbearable. All our complaints have fallen on deaf ears.”
Another truck driver, Wasiu Alarape, said the activities of traffic management and security officials are a major contributor to the gridlock.
According to Alarape, “Those Police, Navy, Army and LASTMA – all of them – are not in Apapa to control traffic. They are only here to extort money from truck drivers and make a lot of money for themselves but while they are extorting money, they create slow movement of traffic which is the problem leading to the go-slow and gridlock.
“If they really control traffic, the go-slow and gridlock will not be as bad as it is.”
“Now we decided to control traffic ourselves and you can see that everywhere is moving well. Government should please sack all these LASTMA, Police and Navy and the other officers from Apapa and bring new ones. In fact they should be changing them every week to reduce their bad activities which are leading to the traffic problem,” he added.
Ismaila Sanni, on his part, said Customs officers as well as Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) security officials are also part of the rot in the Apapa area as they cannot be exonerated from the extortion of truck drivers on the road.
An independent study conducted by Ships & Ports and a don of the Lagos Business School, Dr. Frank Ojadi, and released in Lagos this week identified the nefarious activities of government security officials who have been deployed to manage traffic in Apapa as major contributor to the menacing Apapa gridlock.