Few weeks after both decided to begin a call-up system for trucks entering into Apapa port; maritime stakeholders including truck owners, truck drivers and clearing agents have alleged that officials of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Navy officers were extorting truck drivers and tankers accessing the ports.
Specifically, the stakeholders accused the ad-hoc traffic management officials of collecting as high as N70, 000 on a 40- foot container while N40, 000 is allegedly being collected on a 20-foot container.
The traffic management system which was being coordinated by the Nigerian Navy through a call up card system that was introduced in March 22nd, 2018 to stem the perennial traffic lock down in the approach to Apapa port, has been a huge success since its introduction as it has restored sanity to Apapa port access road.
But, Ibrahim Tanko, the Vice-President, Seaport (Western Zone) of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) accused the naval personnel involved in the traffic management system of collecting between N70, 000 and N40, 000 per container.
"The Naval officers collude with the NPA officials to collect this un-receipted money from truck drivers before they could be issued call-up card to access the port.
"If any driver refuses to part with this amount, he would stay in queue till eternity and because these drivers want to enter the port to get job, they are constrained to pay”, he alleged.
He disclosed that the drivers then pass the bill to the clearing agents who need their services.
Also, speaking on the allegation, the National Publicity Secretary of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANCLA), Mr Joe Sanni corroborated the claims made by Tanko which he described as unfortunate.
"Yes, there is an extortion going on by the Navy and NPA through the call-up card system.
"We don't even know that the money they collect has increased to N70 , 000 and N40,000, it used to be between N30,000 and N40,00.
"What is happening is necessitated by unfortunate stance of shipping companies not to obey the directive of NPA to take empty containers to their holding bays, so they allow these trucks to float which causes congestion in the first place", he told our correspondent.
He however blamed the truck drivers of being the ones inducing both the Naval and NPA officials in a bid to enter the port with their empty containers and load other ones.
"The truck drivers are the ones inducing and bribing these officials to enable theme gain access into the ports, drop the empties and load again, so they are ready to pay", he claimed.
His claims were echoed by Chief Remi Ogungbemi, the President of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) who said although there is high level of extortion among these officers, but blamed the drivers who willingly offer them to get into the port faster.
"Some of these drivers offer money to the officials who control the traffic to get the call up card and enter the port.
"Some of them may not even tell the truth about the actual amount they pay as a ploy to inflate the real amount for the owners of the trucks.
"Yes, extortion goes on day and night there", Chief Ogungbemi declared.
He also blamed the situation on NPA directive and the unwillingness of shipping companies to obey the directive which he said created opportunity for the Navy and the NPA officials to have a field day.
However, both the Naval Authority and NPA management have denied allegations of extortion against their officials on the call-up system.
The Naval spokesperson for the traffic management committee, Lt. Commander Charles Brinemigha dismissed the allegations as unfounded.
Even though, he did not totally rule out such a practice, he said it was not to the knowledge of Commodore Okon Eyo, who is the Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT, who is in charge of the traffic call up system.
"No Naval officer is collecting money from any driver. The Commander has even asked the drivers to report to him directly if any of his men ask them (drivers) for money for disciplinary action.
"He even gave them his personal number on which they could reach him for complaint and he also pays impromptu visits to the operational site", he added.
Corroborating what Sanni and Chief Ogungbemi said, Lt Commander Brinemigha said some drivers, out of desperation, induce officers with money in order to get call up card ahead of others to enter the port.
"But you know some of these drivers are so desperate, they entice officers with money to get call-up cards.
Similarly, Mr Isah Suwaid, the spokesman for the NPA dismissed the bribery allegation against NPA staff involved in the Apapa traffic management system.
"This allegation has not been brought to the notice of the NPA management, but let me assure you and members of general public that any NPA staff caught soiling his hands in such a sordid practice shall be summarily dealt with", Mr Suwaid declared.
He however reminded those whom he said are peddling the allegation that NPA is not the one that issues the call up card to drivers.