Some truck drivers and motor boys yesterday expressed their displeasure and outrage over what they alleged as continuous harassment and lack of access into Lagos seaport, they protested in front of the Lagos Port Complex in Apapa.
They accused officials of the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) and some members of the task team in charge of free flow of traffic at the Apapa port of alleged extortion and favouritism.
One of the protesters who gave his name as Ayotunde Ismaila, alleged that agents of government create illegal roadblocks where they detain truckers. They then use the opportunity to harass and extort monies from them, adding that the refusal to release money can see the truckers being detained for hours or even days.
Another trucker who spoke with our correspondent, said only privileged truckers or truck drivers that have agreed to meet the financial terms of the law enforcement agents are granted access into the port.
Also speaking with our correspondent, a truck owner and former Chairman of Lillypond chapter of the Association of the Nigerian Customs Agents (ANLCA) Mr. Femi Olabanji said the reason for the protest is as a result of the long stay of trucks at the Lillypond terminal without being able to access the port to carry goods.
He said: “we are fed up, I have some goods to carry at the port, but I cannot carry them, my trucks have been at the Lillypond transit park for four weeks now still waiting for call up, and the drivers of these trucks collect money from me every day, without doing any single job, in fact I heard that recently a driver abandoned his boss’ truck and said the man should go and carry the truck whenever he has the time because he was frustrated, there is no job for him to do anymore, he has been there for weeks without accessing the port”.
Mr Olabanji further alleged that NPA officials give some individuals who do not have a single truck the opportunity to extort N10,000 from truck owners and drivers by disguising as garage owners.
“Another frustrating thing is that individual truck drivers cannot access the so called Lillypond park, they will have to be under a garage owner, so what some of these people do is that they go to NPA, as soon as they know somebody there and register their name as garage owners without having a single truck”
“These people will now go round collecting N10, 000 from individual truck drivers before they can access the port, imagine somebody who do not have a single truck collecting N10, 000 from like 10 trucks daily you know how much such a person is making daily now imagine that monthly”, he said.
In a swift reaction to the alleged extortion, the Vice Chairman, Presidential Task Team, Mr Kayode Opeifa who spoke exclusively with our correspondent said the protest was not actually against the task team, but against the system put in place by the NPA to see to the decongestion of the gridlock caused by the trucks on the road.
“First I don't think the protest is against the task force, let me start from there, because we have no business with Lillypond in terms of our operation, our terms of reference are clear; our operation is to remove those things that cause gridlock on the road, and we have achieved that, we are to develop a call up system for them and we have developed one and that’s where their protest concerns me.
“They are saying they have to go through a nominated procedure that is lay down, if they have a park they don’t need to go to a nominated park in the first place, so when you want to run this kind of business you can’t move from your park and head to the port , they will have to go to Lillypond transit park, but because of the old system where they just stay on the road, and disturb me and you, that’s want they want and we are not going to allow that, they can protest from morning till night, nobody will allow them to use the road as their park, so if their complaint is that they have to go through a nominated park, that’s their own arrangement and somebody own the nominated park which could be one of them”
“But if your park is in Ogere like that of Dangote, you only come straight to the port when you are supposed to come. They are not bound to use somebody’s park, you are to register your own park, if your park meets the criteria by NPA, so NPA has done nothing wrong and that system have been in place before we came we only refined it”, he explained.