By Ray Ugochukwu
Truck owners have blamed the intractable stifling traffic gridlock in Apapa for the astronomical increase in cargo delivery from the Lagos ports, which presently has shot up by over 480 per cent.
The National President, Corporate Fleet Trucks Association of Nigeria (CFTAN), Mrs. Folake George, gave this explanation recently in Apapa, Lagos, in a chat with maritime journalists.
She informed that eight months ago, lifting goods from Apapa to Eric Moore, Surulere for example, used to take one week at the cost of N60,000 but regretted that presently, the same exercise now took three months; hence the increase in the charge to N350,000 or 483.3 per cent hike.
Mrs. George spoke at the Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN) Media Parley held at the group’s Apapa secretariat recently.
She lamented that truckers were not finding it funny as the ugly situation was eroding their investment as they found it difficult to break even.
The CFTAN boss however, expressed optimism that he situation would soon abate if some measures being put in place by relevant authorities were faithfully implemented.
One of such measures, she explained, was the marching order given to shipping companies to provide holding bays for their empty containers within one week, an outcome of a multilateral meeting held recently.
Mrs. George’s optimism also hinges on the measure tallying with the expectation that the Wharf Road would soon be completed and fully opened to traffic, but all the same urged all stakeholders to put hands on deck to ensure that normalcy returned to Apapa port city.
Meanwhile, truck owners have cried out over the incessant death of their drivers in the Apapa traffic gridlock following a distorted system which they have blamed on the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other regulatory agencies of government.
Speaking with journalists Tuesday in Lagos, the Vice Chairman, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Dry Cargo wing, Alhaji Inuwa Abdullahi, regretted that this year alone the group had lost ten drivers on the Apapa queue.
Apart from this, he lamented that the traumatic situation was draining their investments, even as they were being coerced to part between N90,000 and N100,000 as fine tickets, which were not accounted for.
Alhaji Inuwa, who spoke at the same MAJAN Media Parley, took a swipe at the NPA for its improper handling of the situation.
“There are no provisions for empty containers’ holding bays by shipping companies outside the ports; this has invariably affected many economic developments. Many businesses have closed down, their staffers have been thrown out to the streets and our trucks have also been turned to the shipping companies’ holding bays as they are parked all over the two major roads, Apapa-Ijora-Ikorodu and Tin Can-Mile 2-Oshodi expressway…”
“Our drivers are facing a lot of challenges such as stress due to loss of man-hours, intimidation, incessant harassment, which result to the death of about 10 of our drivers on queue this year alone”, Alhaji Inuwa lamented.
While pointing out that “NPA management cannot in any way shy away from the blame of this terrible situation of traffic gridlock”, the NARTO chieftain alleged that there used to be a taskforce that managed the traffic before it was latter compromised by shipping companies.
He informed that the taskforce was made up of NPA, shipping firms, transport associations and unions, who went about ensuring that holding bays were functional but regretted that the arrangement collapsed when shipping companies started manipulating the process.
In his words, “as they abandoned the use of the holding bays under the watchful eyes of the regulatory agencies out of greed for more profit…., that marked the beginning of congestion that led to constant traffic bottleneck” all over the place.
He disclosed that the chaotic situation had resulted in some truckers bribing their ways into the ports with as much as between N100,000 and N120,000 to drop empty containers.
On the way forward, he charged the NPA and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) to muster the political will to compel shipping companies that had no functional holding bays to among others, utlilise Lilypond terminal and Kirikiri Phase 1for that purpose.
Folake George, National President, Corporate Fleet Trucks Association of Nigeria