• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Fuel tankers ignore system meant to fix Apapa gridlock

Lagos-Ibadan Expressway: Motorists heave sigh of relief as FG opens closed section

Fourteen months into the implementation of the electronic call-up system, popularly known as the Eto App, used for managing the movement of heavy-duty trucks into Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports in Lagos, tankers lifting imported petroleum products from tank farms are still not using the system.

BusinessDay learnt that the development had made it impossible to control thousands of tankers that lift fuel from about 27 tank farms located within the Apapa environment, causing gridlock at the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, especially between Mile 2 and Coconut as well as a portion of the Apapa-Wharf Road.

Though the use of electronic call-up has brought relief that has seen economic and recreational activities slowly returning to some parts of Apapa, many articulated vehicles doing business within the port city needs are still not moving in a regulated manner to ensure a sustainable order.

According to the Apapa Traffic Demographics Study carried out by Trucks Transit Parks Ltd (TTP), the private firm in charge of the electronic call-up system in Lagos ports, about 30 percent of daily truck traffic in Apapa is constituted by tankers that lift imported petroleum products from tank farms.

The study revealed that 50 percent of the traffic in Apapa is for port-bound trucks while the remaining 20 percent is for trucks lifting products from various fast-moving consumer goods manufacturers in Apapa.

Oil marketing companies in Nigeria are divided into major marketers and independent marketers. The major marketers are six in number, while the independent marketers are about 2,000, according to the study.

The study revealed that major marketers have all the infrastructures such as trailer parks, pre-gate facilities, and access control required to onboard their trucks on the Eto platform while the independent marketers do not have the infrastructures required for the electronic call-up.

To bring the tankers owned by independent marketers on the electronic call-up system, the TTP needs to first develop the physical infrastructure such as trailer parks, pre-gates facility, and access control to enable them to use it.

However, BusinessDay understands that one of the issues limiting the oil and gas tankers from using the electronic call-up system is that petrol is still regulated in Nigeria.

Read also: LASG, NPA cut checkpoints along Apapa/Tincan axis

This mandates oil marketers to abide by the guidelines provided by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) template.

“In the PPPRA template, all the costs for the oil marketers are represented and the cost of using Eto is not there. To enable oil and gas tankers to use the Eto platform means there is a need to go back to PPPRA to adjust the template of the oil marketers to include the cost of using Eto,” Jama Onwubuariri, MD of TTP, said in an interview with our correspondent.

According to him, it will be easier to cover the cost of using electronic call-up if the sector is fully deregulated.

He said the fuel tankers’ unions had been able to apportion dates, time, and days to each marketer to minimise the gridlock associated with petroleum tankers moving at the same time.

BusinessDay also learnt that another factor limiting fuel tankers from coming on board the electronic call-up system is the thriving rate of extortion on the roads leading to the ports in Lagos.

Many fuel tankers and their unions have expressed concerns over the rate at which containers carrying trucks were being extorted.

“They said that if they have to pay for the call-up, comply with the process, and still get extorted, it will affect the cost of doing business. This is why they want assurance from the government that they are going to be protected from either enforcement team or touts that mount checkpoints on the road,” Onwubuariri said.

He, however, said TTP was still discussing with the Lagos State Government for a policy that would enable the tankers to come on board the Eto platform.

BusinessDay gathered that discussions are ongoing with the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria on the benefits of using electronic call-up.

“These benefits are twofold. It can give them assurance of the timeline for which they can move their trucks from point A to B. It will also help to ensure that other truck categories that have complied with the use of electronic call-up in Apapa do not use tankers as an excuse not to comply. We believe that a coordinated approach to truck movement, irrespective of the category, is going to benefit everyone in the port,” Onwubuariri added.

Tony Anakebe, a port user, who highlighted the need to control the movement of tankers coming to Apapa, said the tankers had made the Mile 2 to Coconut axis of Apapa-Oshodi Expressway impassable.