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Customs blames Hitech Construction Company for Tin-Can port blockade

The failure of Hitech Construction Company, the contractor handling the repair of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, to open up alternative roads for the movement of haulage trucks and other motorists is responsible for the current blockade of the Tin-Can Island Port, Musa Baba Abdulahi, comptroller, Tin-Can Island Port Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), has said.

Speaking in Lagos last Wednesday, Abdulahi decried the lingering traffic congestion along the Tin-Can Island Port access road, calling on Hitech Construction Company to ‘define alternative access in and out of the port’ to ease movement of trucks and evacuation of cargo.

“Anytime there is road construction or rehabilitation like this, there must be provision for alternative routes. That is the standard but here, there are no alternative routes. The man going out and the one coming in use the same route. So, they have not really defined which route to take to the port and the one to take out of the port. That has to be defined,” he said.

According to him, Liverpool Bridge that used to be for exit now serves for both exit and entry into the port, which allows trucks loaded with 30 to 60 tons on the bridge stay static on the bridges.

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“The contractor should define the access routes by creating the entry and exit route to the port. We have tried to engage the stakeholders by bringing in the Police, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA),” Abdulahi said.

The Customs boss said the poor road infrastructure along the Tin-Can Island port was the major challenge faced by the command in the course of the year as it impacted negatively on trade facilitation, revenue generation as well as officers’ level of productivity with most of them having to trek to the office on many occasions.

He noted that while Customs clearance is achieved within 12 to 24 hours, evacuating cargo from the port had become a challenge because of the poor access road and intractable gridlock.

“The situation has been terrible. On two occasions, I abandoned my car and just had to go on foot. The essence of cargo clearance is trade facilitation so that cargoes can move into their warehouses and factories. Unfortunately, you achieve the clearance in good time but goods don’t get delivered to the warehouses and they create congestion in the port, thereby defeating the purpose of trade facilitation,” Abdulahi added.

Abdulahi, however, said that despite the odds including the Covid-19 pandemic, the command as at December 21, 2020 had generated N371 billion.

“We started the year with a lot of expectations but suddenly in March, Covid-19 pandemic started but the revenue would have been higher. If the roads are in place, we would have achieved far above our target,” he added.

Recall that movement of trucks in and out of the Tin-Can Island Port, Nigeria’s second busiest seaport has become almost impossible as a result of unending gridlock occasioned by deplorable access roads and extortion by security operatives managing traffic in the area.

Also, Hitech Construction Company has been blamed for its refusal to comply with the directive of the Federal Government to open up the major highway leading to the Tin-Can Port.

The directive was issued in Lagos recently by Magdalene Ajani, permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT), during a meeting with stakeholders on how to resolve the perennial gridlock on the port access road.

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