“The original plan of the ports have been altered”
Alhaji Abdullahi Inuwa is the chairman, dry cargo Section of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO). In this interview with Anozie Egole he spoke on the challenges of road haulage, especially in the maritime sector.
“We refused to pay for 2018 stickers because of failed promises by NPA”
“In terms of employment, our association is next to federal government”
How would you assess this year in the maritime industry especially for truckers?
Actually for me to assess this year as regards transport activities, I will say that things have been low in terms of exports, exportation has dropped compared to years back and the situation on ground has affected the turnaround of trucks. If I should asses the year so far, I will say that our turnaround has been low compared to what we had last year.
What is your association doing towards addressing this issue of traffic situation where trucks are parked on the main road?
This traffic has been there for years and the government regulatory agencies are not doing what they are supposed to do. What I am trying to say is that year’s back, after the ports were concessioned when they noticed that the roads are beginning to be congested, in 2008 the then Comptroller General of Customs issued circulars to all the shipping companies to start using their holding bays to stack their empty containers outside the ports , but nobody obeyed. Even the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in 2012 had the same resolution of operation modalities in the ports, but they didn’t pay attention to it. But today going by the original plan of the ports so many things have been altered because when they planned these ports there were containers stacking area, there were parks for trailer and sheds where some of the cargoes were kept. But during concessioning, they didn’t consider that attention should be given to the stacking areas for the empty containers. They only did the concession and where the containers are stacked before is no longer there and then the shipping companies and terminal operators didn’t provide facilities.
Recently there was a misunderstanding between your association and the management of NPA over the 2018 sticker, what is the latest about that?
Well, that issue of sticker, the previous years when they introduced that sticker, we saw it as multiple charge in the sense that we all agreed and accepted minimum standard because a standard truck is even an asset to the owner. We were not objecting to minimum standard, even before then there was this particular terminal, PTML, they have always been on safety tips, if your truck didn’t meet the standard they won’t allow you to enter the ports and they didn’t attach any money to that. But when NPA came with the minimum standard of trucks which will attract sticker, we agreed with that but attaching money to that, we saw it as multiple charges, because VIO issues road worthiness certificate which NPA will still certify before they will give you that sticker which is multiple charges, that was why we disagreed at the early stage. There were many failed promises, they said that when we obtain the stickers there will be zero extortion, and there would be electronic gate but we didn’t see all that.
Another factor attached to the sticker was that they mentioned that trucks that will be coming for certification will either go to Brawal or Lilypond for inspection. But now with the present situation how will the trucks assess Lilypond or Brawal knowing that transportation didn’t start and end in Lagos alone. You will agree with me that over 80% of trucks that do business at the Lagos ports here came from other parts of the country which we have our members in all the states including Abuja.
If you ask your trucks from another part of the country to come and certify at Brawal or Lillypond, how many days will it take the truck to do that. Another issue is that they told us that the sticker is N10, 000 but it happened that before our members can get the sticker they had to pay between N15, 000 to N25, 000 and it has now turned to another way of extorting our members. You will see a lot of people coming under sticker and it is another burden to us and once they stop any truck because of the sticker it will add extra burden to the truck. Because of that, we had meeting with the manager of the ports and we said that NARTO as a reputable association, we have heard them and we are ready to key in with the sticker based on what the MD, has done. We have seen her efforts because so many of those who have been there before her have not done what she has done in terms of the roads. Based on that we promised them that we are ready to collaborate but because they year is almost ending, its left with just two months, we now advised them that they should start planning for next year, for them to start asking for sticker by this time is unfair, and we will not accept that. We saw them blocking our trucks some weeks ago because we don’t have sticker that was why we had total blockage on the port access roads.
What is the latest on the ultimatum by task force on getting idle trucks off the roads?
As far as I am concerned there is no idle tuck on the road, if there are no activities in the ports you can’t see any truck and all those trucks that you see, 85% of them are carrying empty containers so they are not idle.
Recently we have had cases of truck drivers dying in the container, what are your strategies to improve the welfare of your drivers?
Not even one truck driver, as I am speaking with you, a couple of weeks ago another driver died along that Agboju road and I receive reports steady about drivers dying while on duty. As regards welfare, you see it is only here in the dry cargo section that such things happen because we have multiple unions and associations and there is freedom of association. But we in our association, we know we have condition of service that is at the wet cargo section. In the case of death or terminal disability, they have something to take home. So we are trying in this dry cargo, we have started before and our national leadership is trying to put things together for us to continue.
How would you assess your loss during the recent NLC strike a couple of weeks ago?
Actually I cannot be able to quantify it, but let me tell you that at least 20 persons depend on one truck alone excluding the owner. Talk about the driver and the family, the motor boy, labourers that will load and offload the truck and some people on the road. So if you calculate all these things you will see that an average of 20 person depend on one trucks. So by the time they said that the truck didn’t move because of strike it affects generally because there are some people who only eat when the truck loads. It is when you drive that you get what to eat and the owner will also see something for himself. Don’t forget that in terms of employment; after the federal government, it is our association that is next.
What was the cause of the recent riot by members of your association?
We got a call that there was riot by some drivers from Mile 2 down and it was as a result that some drivers who were at the dedicated line to follow, they have been there for almost a month now and they can’t be able to cross while others were driving against the traffic to the place they were going. Because they came and colluded with some security agents and have their way, so they people who were on the main lane now protested against that.