Two weeks ago, truck owners staged a peaceful protest in Apapa to seek the intervention of government in ending sufferings imposed on their businesses by security personnel in charge of traffic control on roads leading to Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports.
According to them, security personnel, including officials of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Security Department, Police, LASTMA, and FRSC, create multiple checkpoints on Apapa roads and mandate truck owners to pay a certain sum of money per point to gain access into the ports despite an electronic call-up system for truck movement.
With the extortion, truckers spend more money per trip due to illegal payments at checkpoints created by these security personnel that control traffic. This has continued to result in high cost of transportation as truck owners increase their bills, which at the end, is passed to the end users of the products.
These checkpoints create several bottlenecks to efficient port operations, and they include:
Obstruction to effectiveness of electronic call-up
Adedenuola Orimolade, operations manager of Trucks Transit Parks Limited, says checkpoints seriously affect the flow of trucks in and out of the ports.
According to Orimolade, for every 10 minutes trucks are checked, there would be an additional delay of 5 minutes, which will eventually take the truck 2 hours to complete a journey of one hour.
There are between 18 and 40 checkpoints mounted by the security personnel on Apapa roads, and truckers are forced to pay illegitimate fees of about N66,000 to N100,000 per trip.
The checkpoints include Orile Iganmu Bridge N2,000; Sifax N10,000; Ijora-Olopa N5,000; on top Ijora Seven-Up Bridge N1,000; Total N10,000; RRS N5,000; on top Danlami Bridge N3,000, and down Area B’ Bridge N1,000.
Others include Area B’ jurisdiction involving three checkpoints N7,000; Airways N1,000; Eleganza N5,000; Etisalat Roundabout N1,000; Fidelity Roundabout N1,000; Niger/Old Mr. Biggs junction N10,000; Creek Road checkpoint N1,000, and Hull Blyth Nnewi building junction N3,000.
Bala Mohammed, a truck owner, says truckers had come out to protest unlawful extortion by traffic enforcement agencies whose actions affect the economy, and impact trucking business negatively.
Adeyemi Adeola, another truck owner, states that about 85 percent of their income goes into payment of illegal fees to uniformed personnel on Apapa roads. He calls on the Federal Government to intervene in the situation.
On his part, Collins Dike, another truck owner, blames the NPA, terminal operators, and enforcement agencies for the extortion and technical delays in the movement of trucks in and out of the ports.
Olorunshola Adebola, a truck owner, also complains that trucks coming from White Sand must pay as much as N5,000 to LASTMA officials before the truck would be allowed into the port, and the same thing applies at the Niger Bus Stop.
He says these payments are against the electronic call-up because truckers pay close to N100,000 per trip to access the ports, and this affects the economy negatively.
Cause of traffic jam
Findings have shown that multiple checkpoints create a backlog of trucks waiting to access the ports, hence, vehicular traffic. In addition, members of security agencies are also accused of creating artificial gridlock, which prompts truckers to prefer bribing their ways to have fast-track services.
Presently, there are two lanes of trucks going to the ports. They are the export lane and empty container lane. In some cases, there would be a third lane called express lane – for those that bribed their way out.
“These multiple checkpoints are causing a serious backlog of traffic and it poses threats to smooth operations of the electronic call-up system, which does not require obstruction on the road. We want traffic sanity in Apapa,” says Mohammed.
Delay of export cargo
Sadly, export goods that are meant to generate foreign exchange and ratify the balance of payment deficit in Nigeria, generate employment and develop the economy get encumbered in the Apapa challenges.
Rather than pass export containers, the security personnel pass empty containers, and truckers describe this as huge economic sabotage that the government needs to look into.
On his part, Mohammed states that there have been occurrences of export trucks being turned back because the driver refused to pay a bribe despite having valid call-up tickets.