Prince Segun Oduntan is the Chairman of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) at Tin Can Island Port. In this interview with DAILY TREND NEWS correspondent, he disclosed efforts so far taken by ANLCA to ensure that the traffic gridlock in Apapa is resolved.
According to him, the major challenge at Nigerian port system today is the absence of holding bay for empty containers which shipping companies have failed to provide.
Tell us about the Ad-Hoc committee established by this chapter to ease operational challenges
The Ad hoc committee was necessitated by the perennial traffic gridlock at the port, the challenges got to a momentum that was unbearable to the extent that nobody could access Tin Can Island Port easily in terms of trucking, for you to load a container from Tin Can Island Port could take you up to one month.
We had to call a meeting of all former chairmen of this chapter, there is a gain in sharing experiences and thoughts together, this was where the idea of the ad hoc committee came from, one of them, Prince Ozo Chukwura is part of this committee, he is my vice chairman on the committee.
The committee was to address issues of terminal operators, shipping companies, arbitrary charges, customs and transportation challenges. The committee was inaugurated on the 19th of December when everything came to a standstill.
When we started, we visited some terminals including TICT, Port and Cargo, Five Star Terminal. When we visited them, we discovered that inside the terminals there were no issues, normal operations was going on, but outside the port is where is challenges lie. From our study, we found out that 80% cause of the traffic gridlock is human factor, people are racketeering, profiteering from the logjam that was artificially created.
You can see what we just saw at the port gate now, how can you be seating down there as NPA security manning the port gate and they park fifteen trailers at your gate? You can see that there is collusion everywhere, they only left one exit lane for trucks leaving the port.
What is really the cause of the congestion at the port?
The challenge is that you are holding meetings and consulting with different people but what is inside their heart is totally different, they are part of the problems.
When we invited the shipping companies, only two of them showed up, they cannot continue to operate in our environment and pretend that the challenges does not concern them, we have to address the challenges together.
People find it difficult to return their empty containers because the holding bays provided by the shipping companies were not enough.
In as much as we still have empty containers going back inside the port, the problems will continue.
Yet we have the Shippers Council as port regulator that is supposed to regulate the affairs of shipping companies, but what have they been able to do?
We are not supposed to be paying for container deposits in Nigeria for crying out loud, the deposits depletes and the shipping companies continues to charge you, when next you import through their line they would refuse to release your container until you clear the extra charges.
What has changed since your committee has swung into action?
After holding several meetings, we came out with the alternative of letting people pick their containers by barges, the customs were proactive enough to give is provisional approval, knowing that every house that has an entry must also have an emergency exit point.
People have now started using the barges, but some are still not happy, they don’t want to key into it, but we are not relenting
As I speak with you now, I have held several meetings with Uber on the need to establish a trucking system service, and they are ready to bring trucks into this system in order to assist the existing serious transporters whom at least have five fleet of trucks. The only thing you need to do is that once you have your TDO, go to the Uber platform just like you do when calling for vehicles, once its done, they come in and pick your cargo and notify you, with this, you would be able to track where the truck is until they deliver it to you.
What I am telling you now is almost about 80% completed.
In Lagos, it used to be yellow taxi, but when Uber came, the narrative changed, this is not about creating friction, it is a matter of choice.
For those who have small number of trucks in their fleet, they would provide a platform where you can borrow money and they would give you more trucks at a minimal interest rate.
Do you think this would provide lasting solution to the traffic gridlock in Apapa?
Even if Tin Can Island port road and Apapa is constructed to become twenty lanes, if empty containers are still being returned to the port, we would continue to have problems, so we have to think ahead.
Tell us about your visit to Tin Can 2nd gate for on-the-spot inspection of abandoned trucks at the gate
These containers you saw there are the ones that have exited customs are are supposed to be going to the warehouse, but they said it is because the agent have not paid the transporter or that the agent has not paid customs.
They now use the place as a garage, NPA is not supposed to allow this at the gate because that is their red point area.
They cannot tell me that they did not know when these trucks were parking there, there is a collusion somewhere, and I can tell you that from our investigation, we know that these drivers and truck owners were relating with NPA security and the police.
The customs has said that it is not their fault and we have seen it ourselves.
The one that is fault of customs which is the CIU alert, we would intervene, although CIU has powers to intervene any cargo at any point in time.
The containers we saw there are on transfer, this is why we have said the customs and the terminal operator should look at the container numbers and tell us what is wrong, we don’t have the container details.
Any container that got to that point must have gotten to OC Gate, NPA, and the terminal operator supposed to know.