Road haulage operators early last week commenced mass movement of their trucks away from the Lagos ports access roads to an evolving holding bay in the neighbourhood of the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex, Badagry Expressway, Ojo, Lagos.
The evacuation exercise was expected to have been concluded by last Saturday when the authorities are expected to tour the roads to confirm that the trucks that have over the years become constant features on the Lagos ports access roads, and contributing to the perennial gridlock on these roads.
The trucks exodus is pursuant to the marching orders issued the truckers by the Federal Ministry of Transport, as Nigeria struggles to beat the deadline of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) for full compliance with the International Ships and Ports Security (ISPS) Facility Code, or risk the nation’s ports being ostracized from calls by vessels coming from the US.
Similarly, it would be recalled, the USCG has threatened to bar vessels from Nigerian ports calling in the US.
The Federal Government, it was learnt, has been making frantic moves to rectify perceived gaps in Nigeria’s implementation of the ISPS Code, a part of which is the quit notice the Federal Ministry of Transport on the truckers for the immediate evacuation of their vehicles from the port access roads.
Confirming that the evacuation will commence the day after, the Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi, explained that the association has directed its members to promptly comply with the directive and their trucks from being impounded.
Speaking at the International Maqritime Press Centre, Apapa, Lagos, last Tuesday, Ogungbemi directed that truck owners should take advantage of the newly-acquired expanse land at the Lagos Trade Fair Complex and relocate their trucks there.
“There is a marching order that they want all the trucks evacuated from the roads, individual members having trucks that liter the roads both at Tincan and Apapa port should go to trade fair and park,” the AMATO boss said.
He added: “We will not want a situation where they will bring their jamboree way of doing things, bringing black maria, or shooting at sight or damaging our vehicles, we don’t want that to happen, we are human beings that can communicate and can be communicated to, we will on our own tell our members to start moving these trucks.”
Also speaking, AMATO General Secretary, Mr. Chiaka Nwogu, who noted that the Federal Government issued the marching order to the truckers, and not the association, posited that the directive is a welcome idea, because, according to him, the evacuation of the trucks from the ports access roads will further portray Nigeria before the USCG and the entire world as an ISPS Code-compliant nation.
Chiaka explained that the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar; and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had notified of a general inspection to take place by this weekend, and that the ports access roads must be rid of hindrances.
“Nigeria is about to go into another round of test, by Saturday when the will come to inspect we want to pass the test, because if we fail it is going to affect everybody, if the ships does not come into our ports, we will not have anything to carry,” the AMATO scribe said.