By Ray Ugochukwu
High level extortion by officials of an amalgam of security agencies manning the perennial Apapa, Lagos, traffic gridlock has led to a serious increase in the cost of delivery of containers by as high as 400 per cent.
Raising the alarm at the weekend was the Chairman, Tin Can Island Port (TCIP) Chapter of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Alhaji Isa Kazeem.
Alhaji Kazeem said the increase in cost of cargo haulage had been a regular occurrence for sometime now but regretted that the recent alarming one, ranging from over 200 to 400 per cent, started since three weeks back.
Citing examples with the Tin Can Island Port he explained that to move a container presently to Alaba International Market along the Lagos-Badagry expressway, truck owners now charged N1.5 million as against the between N250,000 and N300,000 it used to be, a difference of N1.2 million or 400 per cent hike.
Similarly, he added, to move same consignment to Kano presently required one to cough out N3.0 million in contrast to the N900,000 it used to be some weeks back, amounting to N2.1 million or 233 per cent increase.
The most stunning revelation by Alhaji Kazeem is what it costs to move a container from Tin Can Port to National bus stop, a distance of less than one kilometre, which he said had shut up to N1.2 million from N70,0000, an increase of N1.13million or 1,614.3 per cent.
In his words, “Some three weeks ago, we were moving containers to Alaba International Market here in Lagos at between N250,000 and N300,000 but that is no more the case. It is now N1.5 million. The same thing is for going to Kano which used to be at the rate of N900,000 but as we speak, it is now N3.0 million. Tell me how much the importer will sell such goods? Of course, it is the common man on the street that suffers it by paying for the increase”.
He blamed the astronomical delivery cost hike on unscrupulous security agencies manning the traffic in Apapa. They comprise the Police, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) security personnel, the Military, Customs, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), personnel of Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LATSMA), among others.
Kazeem, who recently moved from Apapa chapter to Tin Can as chairman, revealed that because of the serious traffic gridlock, it usually took drivers three months on queue before accessing the ports. As a result, he maintained, the traffic mangers would capitalize on their plight to make easy and cheap money by providing shortcuts to the drivers to circumvent the queues.
According to him, it now becomes a case of “he, who pays, gets quicker access to the ports”.