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-buoyed by terminal operators, shipping companies knack for flippant circumvention of rules of engagement
By Jerry Aguigbo
The Apapa perennial traffic gridlock has caused a lot of unquantifiable loss to the Nigerian economy and to individual economies of Nigerians who either live around the Apapa axis of town or work and transit daily to the ports. Meandering through the rolls of parked container laden trucks to gain access to the ports is a Herculean task, this has caused businesses to either relocate or park up outrightly. Many lives have been cut short in their prime either because of stress induced illnesses, shock from loss of income or deaths from accidents which has become very rampant with the attendant besieging of the port access roads by dare devil unskilled bike riders who maim their passenger or unsuspecting passers by while trying to navigate through the blocked port access roads.
Speaking recently at a Summit on the Apapa perennial traffic gridlock organized by The Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN), the Registrar, Nagaff Academy, Mr Francis Omotosho described the Apapa perennial traffic gridlock as a Hydra headed monster buoyed by wrong planning and approaches.
According to him, the collapse and the disabling of of the the underground petroleum products pipe line system across Nigeria was the beginning of this nightmare, with that also came the licensing of tank farms around the Apapa/ Tincan ports axis with a lot environmental issues.
” The convergence of tanker trucks coming in to lift petroleum products and container laden trucks compounded the traffic bedlam, coupled with the failed access roads occasioned by combined weight of containerised cargoes and weight cargoes.
Omotosho is of the view that the tank farm licenses be revoked or owners made to relocate to some more remote areas far from residential areas because of the high risk it posses. He also stated that the port master plan
Is not good and as such should be reviewed. A provision of a proper and adequate transport system with a dedicated combi road for gridlock the way to go.
He called on the FG to look at our traffic management system” which at best, obsolete and should be reviewed in line with with .modern technology along the line of the Nigeria Ports Authorities Electronic Call – up system ” he stated.
Also speaking, the erudite MAJAN President and Editor-In – Chief of the Powerful Pen newspaper, Comrade Ray Ugochukwu spoke extensively on the rushed planning of the concession in 2006, this according to him, did not factor in the rail system and holding bays for trucks
According to him,”in the 1980s and 90s, only about 10per cent of cargoes was lifted from the port by road, with the rest 90 per cent done through the rail system. Nigeria as an import dependent country, with increase in population and the consequent high cargo throughput , port reform planners of the 21st Century never factored in rail system talk less of other multi modal transport initiatives. Rather,the rail lines at the Lagos port complex were even dismantled during the post concession terminal reconstruction. ”
Continuing, he said ” the effect of the traffic gridlock on on cargo delivery has resulted in high inflation in the country, as we speak, no importer or hi Agent can can say with certainty the cost of delivering a consignment to owner’s warehouse because of the traffic melee.
The hike on daily basis ranges from 200 to 400:per cent even as much as 1000 per cent.”
Describing the debilitating effect of the traffic bedlam on the people, Ugochukwu lamented that, ” as okada remains of transacting business in Apapa, many people have either been maimed or killed on daily basis ,as the hazard associated with this mode of transportation far out weighs the benefits.
Quoting the Organized Private Sector( OPS), he says, stemming the stifling traffic would remove an estimated N140billion weekly economic loss and another $10billion products wasted annually.
Also speaking at the Summit at the Rock view hotel, the Managing Director/ CEO Bontex Nigeria Ltd. Chief Boniface Okoye berated the Multi national Shipping companies, the Terminal operators and traffic managers as according to him, they all collude to ensure the traffic madness continues.
The shipping companies he says have found a gold mine in container deposit, they collect deposits which are not refunded, knowing full well that you will spend eternity trying to navigate through the gridlock. They do not also have holding bays for their empties, so eventually you must forfeit your deposit to them and they smile to the banks, unchecked by the authorities, ” he laments.
On the part of the terminal operators, especially the APMT, ” they will position your container for examination at their convince and you are made to pay demurrage for their inefficiency, they are also fund of transferring to any of their off dock terminals without the consent of the importer or the Agent and you are forced to pay the charges. These people have always circumvented and twisted the rules of engagement, the gridlock is a their harvest time and they will not allow it to stop.”
Also speaking, the Chairman Nigeria Union of Journalists NUJ) Lagos Council, Mr Adeleye Ajayi called on the shipping companies not to further reject empty containers under the guise of lack of storage space in the ports. According to him, ” even importers incur huge costs dally on their containerized goods. Some people should not smile to the banks while others are lamenting .
The Nigeria Customs service, Tincan Island Command also graced the novel Summit . Musa MBA ably represented by DC Charlse Orbih who said the Perennial gridlock has continued to militate against lofty programmes of the NCS and the Command in particular, he commended MAJAN for this noble idea and hopes that solution would be found.
The Maritime Summit with the theme ” Apapa perennial traffic gridlock has it defied all solutions ” was the the first in the Maritime sector and was well attended.