The delay in generating call-up tickets for truckers to access Apapa ports for dropping off empty containers and picking up laden goods has been fuelling ticket racketeering at the port.
In the past, it used to take two to three days for truckers that entered the Lilypond Terminal in Ijora, which is the designated pre-gate terminal for all port-bound trucks, to be issued an Eto ticket by Trucks Transit Parks Limited (TTP), the private sector company that manages Eto call-up system.
It currently takes between one and two weeks for trucks in Lilypond with terminal delivery orders (TDOs) to get an Eto ticket to be able to access the port.
This has resulted in the creation of the Eto call-up system black market where desperate truckers can go and buy Eto ticket that is officially sold for N10,750 and N21,500 with VAT inclusive, depending on the park or pre-gate, for as much as N150,000.
“TTP is really making truckers suffer as people spend longer time now at the Lilypond terminal; they are forced to seek alternatives and an easy way into the port,” Yusuf Liadi, a trucker, told BusinessDay on the phone on Thursday.
According to him, truckers used to secure an Eto ticket within two to three days of applying for it, but today it takes as much as two weeks, thereby creating a backlog that leads to truckers sabotaging the system.
He said: “If you want easy and fast access to the port, you can buy an Eto ticket for N150,000. Two weeks ago, it was sold for N100,000 but the demand keeps increasing and the price has also increased.
“But if you want to buy the ticket online using the normal process of going to the Lilypond garage, the trucker will spend between one and two weeks due to the delay; unfortunately, we don’t know what is causing the delay.”
According to him, many people are duping truckers at the port due to the issues with getting Eto tickets to access the port.
He urged TTP to address the issues causing delays in the Eto call-up system in order to eliminate the fraudulent activities truckers faced while accessing the ports.
Giving insight into the issues around the Eto, Bala Mohammed, a truck operator, told our correspondent on Thursday that there is now a black market where truckers who do not want to face delays in securing Eto call-up system go to buy genuine tickets at N150,000 without having to go through the normal process.
“The official charges for securing an Eto ticket is between N10,800 and N21,500 but truckers who do not have business at the port would go to Lilypond, generate call-up tickets and return to the black market to sell the tickets to truckers with TDO who are desperate to access the port to pick up cargo,” he said.
Mohammed, who showed BusinessDay an official Eto call-up ticket he brought from TTP on November 21 for the rate of N10,800, said the TTP needs to devise a means of ensuring that access barriers or the automated gates at the port would not recognise trucks that do not follow due process in getting Eto ticket.
Meanwhile, Customs-licensed agents are already bearing the brunt as the systematic delay in generating call-up tickets is also delaying the timely delivery of goods to importers’ warehouses.
This is also translating to a high cost of doing business for the cargo owners as truckers who buy the Eto ticket at the black market for exorbitant prices transfer the cost to importers by inflating the cost of haulage.
For instance, Tony Anakebe, a Customs-licensed agent, told our correspondent on Thursday that the cost of moving a 40-foot container from Apapa Port to Mushin or other warehouses in Lagos has risen to N700,000-N800,000 from N350,000-N370,000.
He said the situation is adding to demurrage importers’ pay on containers, which is now as much as N60,000 per day for a 40-foot container and N45,000 per day for a 20-foot container demurrage.
However, Irabor Akonoman, head of operations at TTP, said in a response sent to BusinessDay that the fraudulent practices are not facilitated by the company or the Eto system.
According to him, truckers fail to affix their plate numbers on their vehicles, and this allows for the potential swapping of plate numbers between trucks, leading to the resale of tickets at inflated prices.
He said: “TTP still sells Eto tickets at NPA-approved prices, which range from N10,750 and not exceeding N21,500 with VAT inclusive, depending on the parks or the pre-gate that trucks are electronically scheduled to go through before they are batched and released to the port.
“While some truckers book Eto tickets through the standard procedures, some opt to circumvent the process by not using their tickets but reselling them to those in a hurry to access the port.”
Akonoman said TTP will obtain NPA approval to implement a consequence management system that would disable the user account of any transporter or agents found to have committed this infraction or any other ones that contravenes the Standard Operating Procedure that sabotages the electronic call-up system.
“We are in the process of implementing advanced technologies such as Radio-Frequency Identification and other measures, including the mandatory display of permanent plate numbers on trucks. These initiatives aim to prevent the swapping of plate numbers and, subsequently, discourage ticket racketeering,” Akonoman added.