Apapa gridlock induced by powerful mafia, maritime stakeholder alleges at Powerful Pen Congress in Lagos
By Sylvanus Ekpo
Rising from a One-Day Special Congress of The Powerful Pen Media Chapel of Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN), stakeholders in the Maritime Sector alleged that the Apapa gridlock is a mafia-induced problem that can be solved if there is sincerity on the part of government.
The theme of the Workshop was “Apapa Traffic and Skyrocketing Inflation in the Country; Effects on Port Operations and the Maritime Industry.”
They noted that the proliferation of checking points on the highway and on the Ijora bridge by task forces, Navy, Customs, the Army, LASTMA and a sundry mix of touts and buccaneers had invariably led to the high cost of haulage and consequently, inflation.
They stated that since the gridlock started more than five years ago, the cost of movement of cargo from the port to destinations within and outside Lagos have gone up by 1000%, leaving the final consumers to bear the brunt of the logistics nightmare in the form of higher prices of goods and services.
A top official of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) who was one of the Guest Speakers at the Powerful Pen parley, Alhaji Inua Abdullahi, said during the #Endsars protests, more than 500 trucks tried to make their way into Apapa port through Liverpool, causing unprecedented logjam.
According to Inua, importers tried to maximise their time and profit by moving their goods out of the port to avoid paying demurrage, but alas, the lockdown created further problems for them.
He stated that through the Council of Maritime Unions and Associations (CMUA), they had tried to mitigate the suffering of their members by raising their haulage fares.
On the way forward, the NARTO chieftain called on shipping companies to provide holding bays while Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should ensure the electronic call-up system is enforced.
Another speaker at the Powerful Pen Media Chapel workshop, the Chairman/CEO of Bontex Shipping Ltd, Mr. Boniface Okoye, lampooned the government for allowing a cabal to take over the maritime business.
He disclosed that the Barge operators in the industry were also the owners of the terminals, thus making it difficult to regulate the sector.
He said because of insincerity on the part of the Economic Regulator, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), cost of trucking was astronomical.
“I paid N600,000 to move a container from Tincan Port to Satellite Town in Lagos, what used to be N200,000.”
From Tincan to Ladipo, it is over N400,000.
“The Federal Government should revoke the licenses of Shipping Companies for failing to show proof of their holding bays.”
He disclosed that most truckers have abandoned their haulage business for lack of profit in Lagos, noting that mischief makers have ingressed themselves into the haulage business.
He called on the NPA to discuss to have regular meetings with all stakeholders so that common solutions can be found to the problems in the port.
Speaking also at the Powerful Pen Media Chapel parley, the Chairman of Tincan Port chapter of National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents, Alhaji Isa kazeem, said Apapa receives 65 per cent of total cargo inflow into the country but a litany of problems such as artificial toll gates, compulsory cash fees, lack of truck parks and trucks without road-worthiness have all conspired to make business a nightmare.
* NPA should manage the port access road
* Some businesses have no business operating within the port
* Multiple access points for trucks result in chaos
* Dumping bay should be enforces for shipping companies
* Truck park at Tincan port not well managed and constitute nuisance to the environment
Alhaji Isa kazeem called on government to encourage the use of barges for movement of cargo while traffic control should be totally overhauled.
According to the Tincan port chairman, terminal operators should be sanctioned if they are found wanting.
The last speaker but certainly not the least, the National Secretary of National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents, Mr. Humphrey Oviosu, called on the government to maximise the use of Eastern Ports, open up the rail system and use of ICDs, for a more efficient and robust post environment.
The congress ended with a Communique that would be sent to Government and all relevant maritime stakeholders.