Com. Adeyinka Aroyewun is the President, Council of Maritime Transport Unions and Associations (COMTUA), in this interview with BUSINESSinsiderng, he spoke about unbundling of the e-call up system, rickety trucks that have taken over the nation’s seaports, activities of LASTMA among other issues.
It’s One Year Since The Federal Government Introduced Electronic Call-Up System To Apapa Seaport, How Can You Access The System So Far?
Before the introduction of Eto by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the problem of the road was purely road construction and mismanagement of empty boxes by the shipping companies and the terminal operators. The terminal operators were holding containers for shipping company and in doing this, they don’t have spaces to keep these boxes because the containers were much.
Also, export are coming into the terminal at that time and some of these termimal operators bite more than they can chew because majority don’t have equipment as it is the same equipment they used to load import on trucks they suspend for sometime and use to offload empty. They also use the same equipment to load export containers.l so, that created chaos on the port access road.
However, none of these above mentioned problems were addressed by eto and the only thing eto did was to determine which truck goes into the seaport and at what rate. The management of eto are confused. For instance, they don’t have timing on the ticket for truck drivers to know when to move in to the port to evacuate boxes.
Eto Designates Garages For Trucks To Park, What Is Your Assessment Of The Designated Garages?
Truckers expected that after booking a ticket, they should be given accurate time to be on the road but nothing like that as all the garages meant to hold the vehicles before they are released don’t have barriers and they have paid eto for these barriers but have not been installed so, all the garages they mentioned, let’s go round to see how many of them are functioning.
One of the registered garages at Ojota, inward Ketu is not functioning, Four point at Ikeja, only few trucks are their, come out of their and we go to export garages, its not functioning. I stand to be corrected, invite their representatives with our own, let’s see which garages are functioning. In the first place, approval of garages by eto were fraudulent as we have garages under the bridge without fence, gate and they are approved, we also have garages with fence, security houses that are not approved.
“LASTMA officials perpetuating irregularities are still allowed to remain in Apapa. These officers kept corrupting every new persons brought into the system so, every extortion, irregularities that you see on this road, relating to traffic should be traced to LASTMA and to the task force of Lagos State government on abandoned vehicles headed by the Special Adviser to the governor on transportation, Toyin Fayinka.”
Do You Support Unbundling Of The E-Call Up System?
Yes, because eto hasn’t addressed anything since they came onboard and is anything wrong with competition? Must it be TTP alone? Truckers already have a platform of its own developed by an expert that claims we can do this e-callup for just N5,000 and one can get to the port in quality time so, must it be eto only?why not unbundled the system so that while eto is doing one part, another company is doing another part to achieve efficiency. We have, however, decided that if eto is not unbundled, we are not interested in patronising them anymore because they have not delivered and to who is eto a contractor? If eto is a contractor to NPA then they should be the one paying them and if they are a contractor to us, we should tell them what we want and they do it conveniently.
We are the one paying so, we need to have a say in what they are doing. We don’t know how they formulate their policies so, if they are contractors to NPA, they should work directly with NPA to regulate the terminal inside the port.
NPA is saddled with the responsibility of handling cargoes within the seaport does this extend to approving garages for our vehicles to stay? It has now become a norm that I have to leave my own garage that I have paid for to move into someone else’s garages before going to the seaports so, all these things are laced with fraud and irregularities.
For instance, at the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, they were collecting money by hand and POS and when we got to a meeting with NPA MD, he said he isn’t aware and that the place hasn’t been approved for collection but they have collected huge amount from our members so, for how long will we continue with this?
The racket must be investigated, the system must be unbundled and we need an enabling business environment to operate. Look at the road now, every 200m we see hoodlums crying stick extorting money, vandalising trucks and causing bodily injury to drivers and nothing is being done about it.
The level of insecurity around the port corridor is unprecedented, we haven’t seen it before. We are appealing to the FG, IGP, DIG of Police to come to our aid.
You Threatened Court Action Against NPA MD Recently, What Are The Issues?
The issue about court case against NPA is about our fundamental right given to us by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to do business in Nigeria without any hindrances. We pay our taxes, we paid all registration fee to government, all our vehicles are registered, all these give us the right to do business within Nigeria so, why do we have to be limited by a policy of NPA to the extent that we are being charged so much to gain access into the port.
We want to know who is getting what and where the policy is coming from. We want to know the jurisdiction of NPA, we want to know the jurisdiction of Shippers Council, we also want all money collected illegally from our members recovered.
Stakeholders Have Complained That Trucks Plying Apapa Are Rickety And Cause Accidents On The Road. How True Is This?
To start with, every truck on the road has road worthiness certificate, even the rickety ones. How can a vehicle that is rickety move from Apapa to Ikeja, when there are road safety on the road who refused to impounded them, why should they put such blame on the union?
The blame should be on the law enforcement agencies because these rickety vehicles are unknown to us but, they have godfather in government if not, why will these vehicles move around the state without LASTMA, FRSC, Police impounding them or checking their documents.
I will not rule out that some of these vehicles have issues, accident is inevitable its not something deliberate but, we as a union we ensure that our members vehicles meet minimum safety standard of doing trucking business and this we have been looking into.
I can tell you that vehicles that we sanctioned not to do business are still licensed by the government, offcourse, NPA has a minimum safety standard and they charge us N10,000 per year with inspection to ensure it meets standards to be in the port but these rickety vehicles still end in the port which means it is either NPA isn’t checking or they are after the revenue.
Funding is a problem but, we are trying to alleviate suffering of our members, assist in generating revenue and some of these vehicles without headlamp have them broken at the port gate.
A vehicle comes out of the port and because someone want to extort money and he didn’t give them, they break the glass, break the headlamp and vandalised the trucks. Everything you see is about inaction of the government.
What Is The Role Of LASTMA In Apapa Traffic?
During the days of the Presidential Task Team, LASTMA was their, they were incharged of the traffic. LASTMA has always been in charge even during the days of Naval task force that was disbanded and investigated.
Recall that naval officers that were investigated and found wanting were sanctioned but, unfortunately, while all this teams were disbanded, LASTMA officials perpetuating irregularities are still allowed to remain in Apapa and they kept corrupting every new persons brought into the system so, every extortion, irregularities that you see on this road, relating to traffic should be traced to LASTMA and to the task force of Lagos State government on abandoned vehicles headed by the Special Adviser to the governor on transportation, Toyin Fayinka.
Has The Task Force Team Not Been Disbanded?
They have been restored, they will come with hoodlums and dangerous weapons to remove drivers from the vehicle. They take vehicles away and call it abandoned. All these we have written to the governor of Lagos State, Gov. Olusola Sanwo-olu and the attorney general of the state but, no response from them.
What Is The Way Forward To All The Myraid Of Challenges Reeled Out So Far?
The way forward is, we are the operator, we know the intricacies of the industry hence, if the government want to formulate policies, we should be included in the commitee because many of the government advisers know next to nothing about maritime operations as it is evident in their unworkable policies. Government should stop formulating policies without the operators.
Also, i believe they are not sincere in solving the problem as they have the ulterior agenda of enriching themselves and they lack the political will to do the right thing. We want then to take touts out of the port. What we want is a digitalised port and a properly managed electronic regime.
They should stop doing same thing over and over and expect to get different result but, if anyone tells you that the cost of moving cargoes is cheaper, tell the person to come and let’s see because no one is using the road anymore but badges to move their cargoes from the seaport to barge terminals and from the barge terminal to the warehouse where they still use trucks to deliver their cargoes to the owners warehouse.