By Joshua Yousouph
Shipping Position Daily has learnt first-hand how government regulatory agencies compromise and undermine enforcement of the Minimum Safety Standards set for articulated vehicles loading containers at Lagos ports.
These compromises have been largely responsible for the incessant accidents and deaths caused by container-laden trucks in Lagos.
According to the Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC), accidents involving trucks claimed 92 lives, in addition to 398 casualties in 2022 alone.
According to the enforcement agency, between January and December last year, a total of 92 people died with 398 casualties recorded in accidents involving 261 trucks.
Our findings revealed that a total of 74 male adults, eight female adults and 10 infants died as a result of different truck accidents in that year.
The government regulatory and enforcement agencies and other key actors in the logistics and haulage sector saddled with the responsibility of ensuring Minimum Safety Standards for trucks include: Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS), Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and Port Terminal operators.
The Federal Government requires the FRSC to establish minimum safety requirements for tanker/trailer operators seeking to operate on Nigerian roads. The responsibilities of FRSC include monitoring, certifying, registering and enforcing compliance with regulations governing safety operations of articulated vehicles in Nigeria.
Statutorily, before any driver could be permitted to operate articulated vehicles on the nation’s highways, especially on inter-city roads, he has to be certified in skills.
The Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) is empowered to issue motor vehicle license, roadworthiness certificate (after vehicles must have been thoroughly examined and declared fit to ply the roads). The agency is also empowered to impound and place of ‘Off the Road’ stickers on vehicles identified as a threat to safety on the highway, among others.
The Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) empowered Messrs Trucks Transit Park (TTP); operators of the electronic call-up system, to ensure the Minimum Safety Standards for trucks and articulated vehicles in and out of the ports. Similarly, port terminal operators are expected to instruct their personnel not to load on substandard trucks.
Our correspondent also observed the prevalence of sub-standard trucks in and around the two ports of Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port.
These trucks that would ordinarily fail the Minimum Safety Standard tests, dot the roads in Lagos, a situation that puts them at the mercy of enforcement officers.
A truck driver who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity disclosed that there are four major points where collection of money by state actors still takes place, even after the trucks might have left the TTP facilities at Ijora, and are moving towards Apapa ports.
Another truck driver also confirmed that despite having the call-up papers from TTP, trucker still pay money to state actors on the road. Yet another driver confirmed a similar occurrence between Mile 2 and Tin Can Port.
However, stakeholders who spoke with Shipping Position Daily, claimed that the ineptitude of the state government and extortion of drivers by enforcement and regulatory officials, who are tasked with the responsibility of making sure that road users, particularly motorists and truckers, abide by the safety rules has led to the abandonment of safety standards for container-laden trucks.
They alleged that the security and traffic enforcement officers prioritize extortion of truckers over and above implementation of minimum safety standards on the roads.
They alleged that each check points are mainly for extortion, rather than enforcement of minimum standard, expected of the trucks coming into the ports.
Specifically, the stakeholders also alleged that these officials collect bribes and allow trucks without container twist locks, headlight, side mirrors and other necessary safety accessories on the trucks to gain access into the ports to carry consignments, thereby jeopardizing the lives of people as well as properties on the roads.
The National President, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Mr Ridwan Bello alleged that security and regulatory personnel on the roads sabotage minimum safety standard and safety compliance of truckers through the damage of their windscreens, side mirrors, and beating of drivers who refuse to pay at their checkpoints.
Bello alleged that hoodlums also known as “area boys” do work in collaboration with LASTMA officials to forcefully stop moving trucks for LASTMA officials to impound and impose outrageous towing charges. He added that these hoodlums also work in collaboration with the Police and other enforcement agencies to extort truckers on the roads.
He also lampooned Ports and Terminals Safety Officers for carelessly allowing trucks with incomplete container hooks, worn-out tyres, bad tail body, and bad headlights, among others to access the ports, load and leave the terminals.
He stressed that allowing these trucks that do not meet the requisite standard, cause accidents on the roads.
The AMATO helmsman however advised that relevant stakeholders, including Lagos State Government, NPA, and Terminal Operators should encourage their safety enforcement officers to be more proactive in the enforcement of Minimum Safety Standard on truckers to prevent avoidable falling of containers and loss of lives on the roads.
In his words: “Our thorough investigation has identified a number of factors largely responsible for safety hazards that are causing the falling of container-laden trucks on Lagos roads. These can be traced to the carelessness of truckers, particularly the lapses, compromise and poor enforcement of Minimum Safety Standard by Security, Safety and Traffic Enforcement agencies on the roads.
“Safety, Security/Traffic Enforcement Officers prioritize the extortion of Truckers over aggressive implementation of minimum safety standards on the roads. They collect bribes and allow Trucks without container twist locks, headlight, side mirrors, neat tail body, weak break, good spring, good axle, etc to access the port to carry load and jeopardize the lives of people on the roads.
“Lawless hoodlums do drag steering with drivers of moving trucks. These hoodlums do work in collaboration with LASTMA to immobilize moving trucks for LASTMA to impound and impose outrageous towing charges. They also work in collaboration with Police and other enforcement agencies to extort Truckers on the roads.
“From the foregoing analysis of the root causes of container accidents on Lagos highways/ roads, without sentiment and bias, it is crystal clear that the Government, Port Authority, Truckers, Hoodlums, Security/Traffic/Safety enforcement agencies and Terminals are all culpable in the incessant falling of containers on roads in Lagos State”, Bello concluded.
Also speaking, the National Organizing Secretary of the Council of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA), Mr Collins Dike blamed the Lagos State Government for allowing activities of thugs and illegalities in the state without deploying mechanism to forestall it.
He lamented that despite several efforts by the truckers to meet the minimum safety standards for their trucks, the Lagos State Government has done nothing to ban activities of “area boys” who constantly vandalize these trucks.
Dike also blamed the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) through the activities of Trucks Transit Park, adding that they are only interested in getting money from the sales of tickets and issuance of Minimum Safety Standard stickers without proper inspection and enforcement of the compliance to these minimum safety standards by trucks going into the ports.
“The Lagos State Government is the arm controlling the Police. I have personally been to most of Area Commands and they tell me it is politically-motivated. I was beaten up by the Local Government Chairman of Amuwo Odofin, when I went to his office and I wrote a petition to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police. I still have the copy of that petition and nothing was done about it”, he alleged.
Speaking further on the role of TTP, he said, “They are not adding any input. They have been charging us heavily and there is nothing on ground as regards enforcement of safety. They said they are checking out trucks and giving MSS Stickers. I can even be in my garage and get MSS stickers for my trucks. They are only interested in the money. They are not even interested in the welfare of the truckers”.
“What is the Lagos State government doing about these thugs? Yet the government wants us to meet the safety measures. When we buy side mirrors and headlamps, the touts will vandalize them. They don’t allow us to operate the business according to standards. They also find a way to rob us heavily. When we speak up nothing happens, but when accidents happen they will find a way to throw back the blame on truckers. The government is fully to be held responsible, both the State government and the Federal government “, Dike added.
While debunking allegation of compromise, the Managing Director of Trucks Transit Parks Ltd (TTP), Mr Jama Onwubuariri stressed that TTP is committed to ensuring that all trucks registered on the electronic call up system platform are minimum safety standards-certified by the Nigerian Ports Authority.
Onwubuariri submitted that in certain situations some trucks may develop mechanical faults while in transit thereby causing certain issues on the road. He however, noted that the organization in conjunction with the NPA is intensifying the requirements/checks required by trucks before they are allowed to gain access to the ports.
He told our correspondent that: “We are committed to ensuring that all trucks that are registered on the eto platform are minimum safety standards certified by the Nigerian Ports Authority.
“We maintain a database of all trucks that use our facilities, which includes information on the status of their minimum standards certificate. This enables us to identify and exclude trucks that do not have the certificate as issued by the NPA. We also work closely with relevant authorities and stakeholders to ensure that all trucks operating on our network are alerted when their minimum safety standards certificate has expired, to enable them take steps to renew it”, he said.
“We do understand that in certain situations, some trucks may develop mechanical faults while in transit thereby causing certain issues on the road. However, in conjunction with the NPA, we are further intensifying the requirements/checks that should be met by trucks before they are allowed to gain access to the ports” Onwubuariri concluded.
However, several efforts made to get the reactions of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and Lagos State government proved abortive as at press time.
Similarly, efforts to get the reaction of the Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Transportation; Mr Sola Giwa were futile. He told our correspondent that he was on campaign duties and such could not entertain any question.
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