APAPA GRIDLOCK: Anxiety As Task Force Begins Impounding Deviant Trucks Today

• ‘They are blackmailing us’-----NARTO

Even as the Presidential Task Force on Apapa Gridlock has said that it would from today (Monday) start impounding deviant and idle articulated vehicles on Lagos bridges and roads, some stakeholders have kicked against the action, saying it was uncalled for.

Task Force Chairman, Commodore Okon Eyo, had while announcing the impending action at stakeholders’ meeting on Apapa traffic gridlock last week in Lagos, explained that the punitive measures would only apply to non-compliant drivers of articulated vehicles.

Eyo, who is also the Commander NNS Beecroft,  had explained that the delay in  enforcement was due to lack of holding bays to accommodate the trucks and other modalities needed to be put in place.

But reacting to the action, maritime practitioners have taken the task force to the cleaners describing the ultimatum as draconian and a show of intimidation.

A former president of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF); Dr. Eugene Nweke described the task force action as uncalled for and draconian.

He called for the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) to be urgently transmuted into the National Transport Commission (NTC) so that issues like this will be properly addressed through regulations and not force.

“That must be draconian, you see that is why we are praying that the Nigerian Shippers’ Council transmutes into Nigerian Transport Commission as soon as possible. Some of these things have to go by regulation and not necessarily by force. In an ideal environment we should have declared state of emergency in Apapa ports”

On his part, the Dry Cargo Chairman of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) Alhaji Abdullahi Inuwa lamented that the association is unnecessarily being blackmailed, even as he maintained that the group is still consulting with the national executives to see the way forward.

He reiterated that more than 85% trucks on the roads are with empty containers moving to the ports to discharge.

He also said that the best practice would have been for shipping companies to have their holding bays adding that it will create more jobs. 

“But we have seen some level of blackmail in the sense that they are saying that trucks are moving to look for jobs when you see that more than 85% of the trucks are carrying empty containers moving to the ports to discharge them”

“Now the best practice is for the shipping companies to be receiving their empty containers at their holding bays, we quite appreciate if that will be done, it will create more business because there are some people that will be dedicated to transferring the empty containers to the ports. But because they want to cut cost they abandon the holding bay and as I am speaking with you now, you will find out that even if they have holding bays they don’t have the handling equipment”, he alleged.

Explaining further he said that some terminal operators refuse to accept their empty containers even as he accused the task force of boycotting the stakeholders during their meeting.

“At times you will come to the terminal they will tell you that they are not receiving empty containers where do you want those trucks to go to. Let them declare that once you are coming with an empty container they are collecting it from you and see if they will still see containers on the roads. 

 Also speaking, the Public Relations Officer (PRO), NAGAFF, Stanley Ezenga, said that all the trucks on the roads have business with the ports, even as he called the government to look for a way of fixing the roads instead of giving them ultimatum.

“I don’t believe there is any idle truck plying the Apapa- Oshodi expressway, all the trucks you see there are all on queue going to the ports. If they want to impound the trucks, that means they have to also impound the ones with empty containers. What they should be looking at is how to fix the roads; they should properly fix the roads and not apply the fire brigade approach of impounding trucks. Even if they want to impound trucks they should impound all the trucks because no truck on this axis is idle, they are all busy trying to access the ports”, he maintained.

But, the Task Force Chairman  insisted that it was now determined to return all empty containers on the road to the holding bays.

“Articulated vehicles henceforth are no longer allowed to be on the roads and bridges, but at the holding bays and from there, they would be programmed between the agencies, terminal operators and NPA management.

“These agencies will then generate call cards for the articulated vehicles. The call card is what the security agencies will be checking on the roads.

“When we brought up the idea a month ago, the operators were not ready, so we gave them time to put the required infrastructure for holding bays in place.

“Right now, we are very serious and they do not have a choice other than to comply,” he said.