Alhaji Abdullahi Inuwa is a truck owner and the Public Relation Officer of the Council of Maritime Truck Union Association (COMTUA). He also played a significant role during the time the Presidential Task Team on Apapa Traffic was in place. In this Interview with Oluyinka Onigbinde, he talks about the challenges the Presidential Task Team faced and the successes recorded by the team.
Can you list some of the achievements of the Presidential task team on Apapa Traffic?
The Presidential task team recorded significant success, first in the sense that before the take-off of the task team, people who were going to Eko Bridge axis and approaching Lagos Island could not, everybody knows what we were suffering then, also from Oshodi accessing Mile 2, we know what the people were passing through then. You will also recall that residents of Apapa were selling their buildings, people left their businesses due to the traffic situation, but after the setting up of the task team, they were able to gain back their houses and offices because the presidential task team ensured that there was free flow of traffic.
Many have forgotten so quickly that then residents of Apapa were always lamenting the evil the traffic gridlock was causing them. But now many of them are returning.
Also when the presidential task team came on board, there was a synergy between government agencies and the truckers, so the synergy helped resolve some of the challenges of the dreaded traffic.
Also it was during the Presidential task team that the Lily Pond Park functioned well, before then it was not functioning well, but through the development and deployment of a manual call up system, it functioned very well.
There was development and deployment of an efficient and effective traffic management plan for the entire port area traffic. The truck transit park also functioned perfectly well.
There are allegations that the Presidential team made some people millionaires. How true is this?
Well, I can’t say, but I know that in life; in any situation you find yourself some people will cry while some people will be happy. I can only tell you the PTT performed very well despite the challenges they were confronted with.
I remember there was one time we went out including the former General Manager at the NPA, Capt Iheanacho Ebubeogu and the Shippers Council’s Mr Cajetan Agu to clear traffic and a community came with petrol that they were going to set us ablaze, we were almost set ablaze just because the Presidential task team wanted to restore law and order in that area, but the team used their professional way to calm these people down, so the presidential task team witnessed challenges but thank God they were able to carry out their assignment during the period.
What other difficulties did the PTT experience during their stay?
There are a lot of difficulties, first you know when you are trying to bring back sanity, there are some people who will not want sanity to come into being, because that’s where they have been eating from and like I said before, some people will even come to attack and all that.
Do you think the new committee that was recently put in place will succeed?
The major key for them to succeed is synergy, if there is no synergy between NPA, NSC, the truckers and the security operatives, it will be difficult for them to succeed, there must be synergy, let them communicate with each other and liaise with NPA; they should ensure that NPA work together with them; with that I believe they can succeed.
When the PTT was in place, the cost of moving goods skyrocketed, truckers were charging ambiguously, even above the duty collected by Customs on the items why?
I will disagree with you, it was just during the peak period that we had increase in the movement of containers, people have forgotten that earlier last year, the COVID 19 came which made it impossible for importers to import their cargoes. So after the lockdown was relaxed that was when the importers were able to take delivery of their containers, due to that there was huge demand for truckers to move these containers and not quite long after that we entered the #EndSARS protest and the hoodlums took over the road, there was no movement, in fact more than 500 trucks forced themselves to pass through Mile two down to Tin Can and also at that time the road construction was ongoing, so these are some of the things that led to increase in the cost of moving the containers at that time, it is not because of the Presidential task team. It is more of competition because their trucks were scanty and the importers wanted their goods out at all cost; so these led to high demand and you know when there is increase in demand and there is scarcity, the cost of the truck will go up because it will now be about the highest bidder. So the presidential task team had nothing to do with the high cost of moving the containers.
If the PTT has done so well like you said, the best thing would have been the government retaining them, but they have asked them to handover, why do you think they asked them to hand over?
Personally, I will say let’s look at some of these agencies to see what are the problems, like I said earlier synergy is important, if a government agency is not in full support how are they going to keep moving. I know what the task team did to ensure that the road construction got to this point, if not for Opeifa, I am very sure the contractors would have abandoned the project and ran away, because they were frustrated at some point, but he ensured that the contractors remained and keep working, so I think it is for us some of the government agencies to look at where we got it wrong.
Do you think the present committee can do better than what the PTT did?
Well I do hope, but I still keep hammering on synergy if there is synergy they will do well synergy will be the only thing that will make them succeed, let all the government agencies we have at the port give them maximum support and I am sure, they will succeed.
Are you part of the present committee?
Some members of the COMTUA are part of the committee, so we are part of them.