Worried by the worsening gridlock on the access roads leading to the country’s two busiest ports in Apapa, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has met with the Lagos State Government to map out strategies to tackle the menace.
A statement by Olaseni Alakija, NPA General Manager, Strategic and Corporate Communications, indicated that NPA’s Acting Managing Director, Mr Muhammed Bello-Koko, at the meeting with Gov Babajide Sanwo-Olu, emphasised the need for measures to curb corrupt practices and alleged extortion of truck drivers by traffic and security operatives along the Lagos Ports corridor.
The statement quoted Bello-Koko as harping on the need to strengthen enforcement of traffic laws along the Apapa and Tin Can Ports roads.
Bello-Koko told the governor that NPA was being inundated with complaints of extortions, especially by security operatives, and described the menace as a hindrance to the smooth implementation of the truck call-up system.
Bello-Koko lamented that no less than 30 “toll-points” had sprung up around the Apapa and Tin Can Port, where bribes were allegedly being collected before trucks were allowed into the Port.
Speaking with newsmen after the meeting, Bello-Koko said that it focused on alleged extortion by security operatives, adding that NPA solicited government’s intervention to check the menace.
“At the NPA, we resolved to take the right punitive measures against any of our staff involved in this; we have moved some of them out of Port locations. We will do further reviews, whoever is found involved, will be appropriately sanctioned.
“Because of the involvement of several security units, many checkpoints have been created; we believe there are over 30 checkpoints within the Apapa and Tin Can Port axis.
“We believe that this is a major issue causing delays and a whole lot of problems, so this was one of the concerns we raised at the meetings,” he said.
The NPA boss acknowledged that the Lagos State Government had been a close partner, especially in enforcement, both in terms of providing security operatives and monitoring of the “Eto” call-up system, but emphasised the need to strengthen that collaboration.
He said he had directed the “Eto” Project Consultant and operator of the Lilipond Truck Transit Park to redouble their efforts, especially on the deployment of necessary physical and IT infrastructure as well as adequate human resources, to address the gaps and complaints of delay from Port users.
He disclosed that NPA had given the TTP company “marching orders” to immediately see to the deployment of the infrastructure, so as to reduce the waiting time of trucks in and out of the Port.
Bello-Koko further said that the meeting discussed the matter of poor access roads, especially around Sunrise Bus-stop leading to the Tin Can Port.
“Trucks going to Tin Can now use the Apapa Port road, so no matter how much you control the traffic in Apapa, it will not be noticed.
“NPA has reached out to the Federal Ministry of Works; we have been speaking with the Director of Works in the State, and we have asked that they should provide some palliatives around Sunrise Bus-stop.
“We were made to understand that the contract for that section of the road has just been awarded, but because of the rains, work has been delayed. There is need for that part of the road to be graded so that the Tin-Can Port corridor will begin to enjoy some measure of free flow of traffic.
“We have stakeholders like Dangote and others who have factories within the Port and each of them may need to bring in about 300 trucks daily, but it has to be done in such a way that their operations do not affect the need of other Port users.
“The governor has promised to further engage the Commissioner of Police in Lagos; he has also directed LASTMA to keep the Port roads free of congestion,” he said.
Bello-Koko expressed optimism that the renewed collaboration with the Lagos State Government would bring an end to the perennial gridlock within and around the Apapa metropolis, adding that trucks not registered would not have access to the Port.
“We want residents of Apapa to be able to commute daily without stress; we need to also ensure that containers go into the Port and come out smoothly. We believe that with this meeting, solutions have been found. NPA will play its part and the Lagos government will play its part,” he said.
Bello-Koko further said that efforts were in place toward improving the transfer and processing of exports at the Port.
“NPA is collaborating with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to establish a seamless integration of the export processing terminals into the ‘Eto’ platform. This is in addition to the Lilypond Export Terminal expected to take off soon, which will serve as a dedicated export loading point.
“The move will reduce travel time along the port corridor, safeguard the quality of the country’s exports and impact positively on government’s revenue from non-oil exports,” the NPA boss.
The statement also quoted Sanwo-Olu as saying that the Lagos State government would work closely with the NPA toward the success of the truck call-up system, while calling on all port users to be alert to their responsibilities toward ending the gridlock in Apapa.
He emphasised the need for Port service providers, security agencies, and NPA to adhere to their Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and also invest in the needed infrastructure which would galvanise the “Eto” system to heightened performance.
The governor said that the State Government would commence engagements with the petroleum tanker drivers, tank farm owners and the NUPENG Union, to ensure that they were factored into the “Eto” call-up system.
According to Sanwo-Olu, the poor state of the Sunrise Bus-stop corridor has been identified as the major cause of the traffic congestion into the Tin Can Island Port, and there is a need for the contractors to speed up work around that area.
On his part, Mr Jide Oduyoye, General Manager of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), said that Port users should expect a renewed vigour from LASTMA in dealing with the traffic situation around the Lagos Ports. (NAN)