Apapa: No more racketeering on ports access roads – LASG
The problem of extortion and racketeering on Apapa and Tincan Island ports access roads have been eliminated by the introduction of the electronic call-up system, Lagos State government has said.
This assurance was given by Sola Giwa, senior special assistant to Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu on Central Business District, who spoke in an interview with Arise Television News on Wednesday, noting that the introduction of the electronic call-up system has helped in controlling truck traffic into Apapa ports.
Giwa who doubles as head of operations, Apapa Traffic Management and Enforcement Committee on the implementation of the call up system, however, pointed out that the people who were benefiting from the Apapa gridlock, are fighting back, giving the impression of extortion.
“The allegations of extortion and racketeering on port roads are false; the video showing a lady complaining of extortion is an old one. We are talking of the period between March this year and now,” he said, challenging truckers raising such allegations to come up with evidence.
Giwa boasted that the state government, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), and Trucks Transit Park (TTP) have achieved 90 percent success in the management of traffic along Surulere-Western Avenue axis leading to the Lagos Port Complex in Apapa, which is not the same as the Tin-Can Port.
“Apapa traffic has improved. The Lagos State, the NPA, and TTP, a private firm in charge of managing Eto call-up system, have been managing the traffic going into the port. Nine months before we came, there used to be traffic from Onipanu up to the Apapa Port while on the Mile 2 axis, we used to have traffic as far as Cele and sometimes up to Oshodi to the Tin-Can Port, but that is no longer the case,” he explained.
Giwa explained further that the electronic call-up is having issues on the Tin-Can axis due to the bad state of the road and ongoing construction as well as the failure of truckers to make use of the transit parks and shipping companies’ empty containers holding-bays.
He added that there were initial inefficiencies in the implementation of the call up system and that was because there was no test-run, describing the system as work in progress.
Explaining further, he said that a manual call-up system was formerly used to control truck traffic into the port and it involved human interference leading to static traffic on the port roads, which no longer exists.
He blamed some pockets of traffic experienced presently on some truckers who insist on coming to the port even when there is no space at the port terminals to attend to them and, as a result, they try to bribe their way into the port.
Giwa explained that truckers were expected to register on Eto App and the NPA has approved parks where these trucks should go before they can be called up to the port terminal, depending on the availability of space and the situation on the road.
He said that Governor Sanwo Olu gave the enforcement team comprising the Police, LASTMA, FRSC, and NPA security department, the mandate to ensure that Apapa residents and businesses are able to move in and out of the port city.
He noted that the capacity of Apapa and Tin-Can Ports are overstretched, hoping that the commencement of Lekki Deep Seaport, other ports in Nigeria and Lagos state continued expansion of infrastructure provision will help to decongest Lagos ports.
“Lagos is expanding and the state government is providing infrastructure for businesses to thrive. When we see traffic, we see progress as well as development but the management of the traffic is what we do,” he assured.
Giwa, however, called for the unbundling of the TTP because, according to him, most of the inefficiency experienced in traffic management presently was due to the monopoly of TTP as well as the non-test running of the Eto App before usage.
On several occasions, truckers have complained of brazen extortion from them by security agencies, mostly those of the federal government. This is contrary to expectations that the introduction of the electronic call up system would stop all forms of extortion and long hours in traffic.
At a point, it was reported that about 30 toll-points have sprung up in Apapa for the collection of illegal monies. Mohammed Bello-Koko, acting managing director of the NPA, was quoted as saying that such an act was a major disincentive to the smooth implementation of the call up system.
Unconfirmed report also alleged that the security operatives, who were apparently sabotaging the call up system, extort N175 million from the truck drivers on daily basis.
The extortion is such that, according to Jama Onwubuariri, co-founder/managing director of TTP, even truckers with valid tickets complained of being forced to bribe the law enforcement agents to have access. “Even those without tickets have to pay their way into the port, and security forces that are not involved in the system also take position on the road to create toll-gates for themselves,” he stressed.
Stakeholders point out that rent-seeking, corruption and vested interests have always been identified as the bane of Apapa gridlock. “Government’s attention has always been drawn to these cankerworms and it does seem that government is either handicapped or unwilling to deal with them,” they say.