The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is optimistic that its renewed collaboration with the Lagos State Government will bring an end to the perennial gridlock within and around the Apapa metropolis.
Mr Olaseni Alakija, General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications disclosed this in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos on Sunday.
According to him, the NPA management led by its Acting Managing Director, Mr Muhammed Bello-Koko has met with Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu to adopt measures to tackle the gridlock.
He said the gridlock affected the access roads leading to the country’s two busiest ports in Apapa.
According to the statement, measures will also be adopted to curb corrupt practices and alleged extortion of truck drivers by traffic and security operatives along the Lagos Ports corridor.
He quoted Bello-Koko as emphasising the need to strengthen enforcement of traffic laws along the Apapa and Tin Can Ports roads.
Bello-Koko said that the NPA had been inundated with complaints of extortion from truckers, especially by security operatives demanding money from drivers before accessing the ports.
He described the ugly practice as a major disincentive to the smooth implementation of the truck call-up system.
“One of the complaints of the truckers has to do with extortion by security operatives, the Army, the Police, the Nigerian Navy and even NPA Security staff.
“This is one of the areas we require the intervention of government, in this case the Lagos State Government, because we have police officers deployed from the State Command who are allegedly involved in this.
“We at the NPA have 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, and we will do further reviews; whoever is found involved would 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 TinCan Port axis, and we believe that this is a major issue causing delays and a whole lot of problems, this was one of the concerns we raised at our meeting with His Excellency,” Bello-Koko said.
The NPA boss acknowledged that the LASG had been a close partner, especially in terms of enforcement.
He said this was both in terms of providing security operatives and monitoring of the “Eto” call-up system.
Bello-Koko, however, said there was need to further strengthen that collaboration.
He said he had directed the “Eto” Project Consultant and operator of the Lilipond Truck Transit Park to redouble their efforts.
This is 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 the Authority had given the TTP company “marching orders” to immediately see to the deployment of these 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.
“The situation now is that trucks going to Tin Can are now following the Apapa Port road, so no matter how much you control the traffic in Apapa, it will be seen as if you are doing nothing.
“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 would begin to enjoy some measure of free flow of traffic,” he said.
According to the NPA chief, there are stakeholders like Dangote and others who have factories within the Port and each of them may need to bring in about 300 trucks daily.
He said this had to be done in such a way that their operations do not affect the need of other port users to send in their trucks or exporters to send in and bring their trucks out freely.
He said that Sanwo-Olu had given his commitments to further engage the Commissioner of Police in Lagos, and had also directed the CEO of LASTMA and his Special Assistants, who all had given their commitments, that further action would be taken to keep the Port roads free of congestion.
He said that it would be 24-hour operations, and would rely on the LASG on enforcement as it affects traffic along the Port access roads.
Bello-Koko restated that henceforth, trucks that have not been registered or do not have the “Eto” ticket would not have access to the Port,.
He said that they wanted residents of Apapa to be able to commute daily without stress.
The NPA boss also shed light on efforts by the Authority to address the myriad of hiccups associated with the return of empty containers to the Port.
He explained that the empty container policy of NPA required all shipping companies bringing boxes into the country to establish holding bays for their containers.
“The Authority is collaborating with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to establish a seamless integration of the export processing terminals into the “Eto” platform.
“This in addition to the Lilypond Export Terminal expected to take off soon, will serve as dedicated export loading points.
“The move would 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,” he said.
Speaking at the meeting, Sanwo-Olu is quoted as assuring that the State would work closely with the NPA in ensuring that truck call-up system was successful and the nation’s economy benefited optimally.
He said there was need for Port service providers, security agencies and NPA to adhere to their Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) as well as invest in the needed infrastructure which would galvanise the “Eto” system to heightened performance.
He assured that the State Government would commence engagements with the petroleum tanker drivers, tank farm owners and the NUPENG Union, to ensure that they are 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 need for the contractors to speed up work around that area.
On his part, General Manager of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Mr. Jide Oduyoye, said that Port users should expect a renewed vigour from LASTMA in dealing with the traffic situation around the Lagos Ports.
He said, “There are issues of tankers that are not part of the “Eto” system that need to be part of the system, because once the roads are cleared, we suddenly find out that the petrol tankers occupy the roads which makes it look as if nothing has happened.
“The ongoing construction around Apapa needs to speed up.
“There is also the need for other road users to co-operate with the Government.
“If there is a process that we all adhere to, no matter the delay, it would be seen as fair and beneficial to everyone,” he said.