“It is the responsibility of NPA at the gate to turn back trucks that do not meet minimum standard”
“The average price for a Tokunbo truck is about N20 million”
Mrs Folake George is the Global Vice Chairperson North and West Africa of Women In Logistics and Transport (WILAT). In this interview with Oluyinka Onigbinde, she speaks on issues affecting trucking business in Nigeria and other sundry issues.
As a truck owner can you put a figure to the daily losses incurred by truck owners due to the gridlock in Apapa?
The loss is unquantifiable. That is the way I will put it, because it is not only to truck owners; but to the economy of Nigeria as well. When import comes into Nigeria and documentations have been concluded, our part is to transport the goods out of the ports probably to warehouses or to the end users; as the case maybe. But when you look at what happened to the traffic, even when we thought we have found a way when the ETO programme came on board, but with what we are seeing, you will know that it is not only truckers that are incurring the loss, the Nigeria government is also experiencing a lot of loss in terms of revenue, because if we are able to complete our job on time, import will be coming in early enough and you know with a vicious circle and everything would work accordingly.
So, it is not only truckers that are bearing the loss, it is a general thing, but our own is seriously enormous because most of the companies are into transportation, the driver also is losing a lot of money, because of the turnaround, most of the drivers are on commission because if you go three of four trips in a week, that’s how your money will be able to meet up to responsibility; same to that of the truck owner. I don’t know what we want to do about this gridlock, we believe that with e-call up system we are going to have some respite, but you can see that there are some issues that need to be addressed as a matter of swiftness to address some of the problems. We believe also that as the e-call up has come into regime and it’s going to be work in progress, we cannot say because we have e-call-up in progress, we should go and sleep, issues will come up and we will be dealing with it as it comes up owing to the sincerity of the agencies in charge, that is all I have to say.
A lot of people are already losing hope in resolving the problem of the gridlock, have you also lost hope?
I can’t lose hope, because that is my only sustainability and it’s my job, I cannot lose hope, we will keep on trying until we get it right. I told somebody that when Nigeria wanted to start cashless system, we were like it can never work but see where we are, with consistency and perseverance we would get there because the e-call up is a new system within the transportation industry trying to stop the gridlock in the port and within then Apapa environment. So we know that with continuous falling down, getting up we would get there so I cannot lose hope.
Some have already tagged the e-call up as a failure; do you also think it is a failure?
That is Nigerian for you, you know that we are very quick to judge, during (Ex-President) Jonathan’s regime we were like, no, we don’t want again; now you can see people asking for the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime, so we are quick to judge and I have learnt and seen that you cannot throw a baby away with the bath water, you have to give it a trial and continue trying, we would get it.
What are the factors affecting the e-call up from working the way it ought to?
Number one factor is that construction and infrastructure is not in place in terms of road construction, you can see now that there is construction going on in Apapa Wharf axis and automatically that will delay movement of trucks going into the port and coming out of the port. The Apapa-Tin-can axis road has been under construction for long and it has not been concluded, so we have that on the side of the government because they have not provided infrastructure for operation to be smooth. Number two is enforcement; the body that is supposed to enforce e-call up has not agreed among themselves holistically to solve that issue, so we don’t know who is enforcing. We have Sola Giwa representing Lagos state , we have SSA on transport enforcing, we have NPA security team enforcing , we have all sort of enforcement and I don’t think they have really sat together to harmonize how they really want to enforce this traffic issue; going into and coming out of the port in Apapa is another problem, another problem is the problem of APMT. According to TTP; they said APMT told them that they can do 100 containers and trucks in an hour, so they calculated receiving 60 trucks in an hour and I don’t think APMT is receiving 20trucks in an hour. When you want to look at it; APMT will tell you they are receiving 300 trucks; are the 300 trucks from the road? What the TTP and the NPA told government is that , the 100 is from the road, so I don’t know maybe they are considering the ones that are coming through barges and dislodging, so we have gridlock here and there and I don’t think government is holistic and serious about this Apapa gridlock based on that, because they have said government is going to name and shame whoever that is causing this Apapa gridlock. We have mentioned APMT and we said if you name and shame, name and shame it openly, so that at least the citizens and those that are involved will see what the government has done to those that are causing problems, we have not heard anything. We have started ETO call up system since 27th of February and it’s like this Apapa is a case of “Abiku” that we are trying to solve the issue another one is rearing its ugly head. So when do we want to come out of this one and for us as truck owners and logistic providers, we cannot take enforcement into our hands and another issue is that ii is okay for my member s in Corporate Truck Owners Association, we have a criteria of having your park, having minimum of 10 trucks before you can become an owner, but you find out that 70% of those that are doing transport business in Apapa are one man two men truck owners, how do you want to harmonize , most of them don’t have maintenance with anybody and they would want to feed their family, so how are we going to solve this problem. I just think that some of the issues that are affecting Apapa and the port should be addressed by harmonization of the people that are doing the job before going into ETO for operation. That is just my own take.
Now that we are into the ETO system, what will be your advice?
We would be addressing the problem as it comes; you know that Apapa transport business has a lot. We have those that are transporting export, we have those that are transporting open cargo, we have those that are transporting containers, we have the tankers, and we have the small fish buses; all going into the port and where are the infrastructures? Government don’t want to spend money, why can’t they expand this Apapa wharf road and relocate some of the people in other to expand the road , why can’t they finish Tin can axis for the over 10 years that they have been on that construction , what is holding it? So it’s like we are talking about kidnappers and the herdsmen, that we are not seeing what the government is doing , we are not seeing result, it is the same as Apapa . So I just conclude that the Apapa issue is a microcosm of the Nigeria entire situation.
Do you support the introduction of minimum safety standard for trucks by NPA?
Of course I do, when we started the minimum safety standard, why we supported was – one for safety of human lives and goods , human lives are wasted when you have issues with truck and goods are falling 0ff trucks , insurance sometime would want to give you excuse. So I support the minimum safety standard because they are not asking for too much; only that sometimes you have those enforcement like Police using stick to break side mirror sometime head lamp after we have done that , so I support minimum safety standard and I also support the fact that monitoring and enforcement agencies should talk to their men not to damage the trucks, if drivers misbehave they should punish the driver instead of punishing the trucks, because those are the things that would not make you meet minimum standard. You can imagine a driver that has been on the road going to the port for three days and when he gets to a point that police or LASMA would ask for something and the driver would not comply, so they would use their stick to break either the side mirror or the head lamp, so what would happen to the driver? He would want to go into the port and settle himself after spending three days on the road.
Don’t you think this is a repeat of the usual routine?
It is a yearly thing, we renew the minimum safety standard sticker every year, it is a yearly thing, but at least the standard should not wait until a year because if anything happens to the truck in between the year, it is the responsibility of NPA at the gate to turn back trucks that do not have side mirror and other things to go and fix it.
Are you concerned about the amount that is attached to the minimum safety standard?
The fee is N10, 000 and they are not using it to give us anything, we have fought but we cannot win government, so we have decided to let go and let peace reign.
Do you think the oil tankers should have been considered for e-call up, rather than having truckers alone?
We have them regulated through their NUPENG and jetties, but I don’t know how they go about enforcement among them, but I believe they ought to be regulated as well
What’s the average cost of a truck and why is it difficult for some truck owners to put their trucks in shape?
The average amount for a truck which is tokunbo and not brand new is almost N20 million and it’s a lot of money, it is about N20 million to have a tokunbo truck and you know the prices are not coming down and the spare parts that you need to have, to make sure your truck is in good shape , the prices are not going down and it a lot of stress and I hope we get some improvement soon.
Is that why it is difficult for some truck owners to put their trucks in shape?
I don’t know, I can’t answer the question because I am not involved, I am not one of those that won’t put their truck in good shape.
There seems to be too many trucking associations; we have NARTO, AMATO and others, why is it so?
It is because there is freedom of association, government allows freedom of association. You are free to register association and have people; once they believe in you, they are free to join you, nobody can force anybody, but you know that we have an umbrella association called COMTUA, so that one is covering all other associations.