By DAPO OLAWUNI
Since the ban on motorbikes commonly called “Okada” and tricycles known as “keke” by the Lagos State Government took effect on 1st of February, activities at the Lagos ports have continued to suffer.
Staffs of shipping companies, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) terminal operators, Customs officers and even maritime journalist amongst other stakeholders have continued to lament how the policy is taking negative toll on them.
This is even as Governor of Lagos State who instituted the ban, Babajide Sanwolu has insisted that the ban would not be reversed for safety reasons.
Checks by our correspondent at some agencies and parastatals in Apapa revealed that government officials since Monday have been resuming late for work and this has reduced productivity drastically.
Apart from these, importers, clearing agents can no longer come to the port as they should, some of them complained of being exhausted from long distance trekking. Where an agent or stakeholder is expected to carry out five transactions in a day, they end up making just one effort because of their inability to navigate freely within the commercial city of Apapa.
This would further compound the already existing cargo congestion inside the ports as unfinished documentation of cargoes would hinder the owners to take delivery of them.
A reliable source at Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) told our correspondent that “Since this ban on okada and keke started, you go to most offices you cannot find people on their desk, many of us come to Apapa with bike because the roads are not accessible with cars”
” It only few staff that you see driving to Apapa and that is from level of top management. Even for you to rush out to the bank or a place within Apapa, you have to walk and sweat it out ” he lamented.
On the part of cargo clearance, licensed customs agents since Monday were seen trekking down to shipping company offices in order to pay and transact on their cargoes.
A clearing agent, Ayokunle Sulaiman said, “When you come to PTML Terminal, you would see gross of people trekking, and demurrage is almost per seconds, at least you would take minimum of forty five minutes to trek to the shipping company, by the time you get there, you are already exhausted, and when you see bill laden number 1234 you call it 4312 because you are exhausted”
“And when you make any error, they don’t call it genuine error, you have to pay for it, the more you delay, the better for the shipping companies and terminals”
The Vice President of Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Farinto Kayode who addressed members of Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in Lagos on Monday said the Federal government has failed totally in its responsibility to provide good roads, in the last two years.
According to him, 99% of the transactions around the port in Lagos is done using bike.
He said “As I speak with you now, it is exodus on the road, if you have a job at Tin Can port, you either trek down or take your car, but then there is no road”
“It is an insensitivity on the part of Lagos State Government, this is going to shut down the economy of this country because it would have adverse effect. This is not what the Governor Sanwolu promised us during his election campaign”
“Clearing agents would suffer most because they cannot access the port”
Farinto who has been a port activist for three decades said it is high time the government declare force majure at the port because ANLCA members would not continue to pay demurrages on consignment due to their inability to access the port on time.
“Logos should be sensitive to the plight of masses, placing ban on okada should not be on a commercial area like Apapa” he maintained
Cutting away the head is not the solution to a headache, you will agree with me now that we have okada riders that are well organized like Opay, and three others, at the comfort of your office you can call them and they would come, why should government now place a blanket ban on all okada riders, this is no longer a regulation, it is punishment
If the government is talking about the roadside okada riders and the fact that they use it to commit crime, that is understandable, but somebody has failed abinitio by allowing these people gain access into the state in the first place.
Meanwhile, Gov Sanwolu has said the Lagos State Government will sustain the ban on okadas and tricycles, mainly because of security and safety reasons.
“We will continue to ensure the safety of our people on all fronts. There have been reports of serious security breaches and safety concerns in areas where these operators ply. We had to respond to these concerns because life and safety matters to this government.”
Also, in a demonstration of its concern for commuters, especially those affected by the recent restriction placed on motorcycles and tricycles in some parts of the state, the Lagos State government on Monday deployed a fleet of 65 buses for the use of Lagosians. The buses inaugurated by the Lagos Bus Services Limited were deployed to new routes including Ikeja-Ogba; Berger-Ogba; and Ikeja-CMS. Others were Oshodi-Ajah; Obalende-Ajah; CMS-Ajah and Inner Marina-Ajah.