The Presidential Task Team on Apapa Gridlock has accused terminal operators of fuelling gridlock in Apapa, saying that the terminal operators, especially APMT Terminals have refused to dispose the overtime cargoes inside their facilities.
The team set up by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is headed by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.
Speaking with the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in Lagos yesterday, Executive Vice Chairman of the team, Comrade Kayode Opeifa said terminal operators are currently taking containers more than they have capacity to handle.
According to him, it has been recommended for Nigeria Customs Service to auction containers directly inside the port based on the overtime cargo list submitted by the terminal operators.
He however lamented that since the instruction was passed, only PTML Terminal has complied with the directive, but other terminals have refused to submit the list of overtime cargoes in their possession.
According to Opeifa, “All terminal operators have been directed to give their overtime cargoes to the Customs, only PTML submitted and immediately the Customs published it for auction, they made a public announcement for the process”
“All overtime cargoes which is the interpretation of congestion should be resolved. The cargoes in the port should be sold. Customs should improve their efficiency”
“The problem is fault of Customs and terminal operators, the Customs cannot act without terminal operators providing the data, it is when they have provided data and customs did not act that we can now hold Customs”
“But Customs can be held responsible because they are supposed to push the terminal operators to provide the data.It pays the terminal operators that the cargoes remain in the port so that you can pay demurrage”
“What the port needs is efficiency with the terminal operators, AP Mollar can take 600 trucks but it is handling 1000, trucks, can he handle them? No, the remaining 400 has no business in the port, you cannot go beyond your capacity”
“Trucks are coming to the port because there is no transit parks, empty containers are supposed to go to the holding bays, but the holding bays are not working, they exist but it has all been loaded with empty containers”
He lamented that Nigeria should not be a dumping ground for empty containers.
Opeifa also took a swipe at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for failing to assist the Presidential Task Team with publication of traffic advisories, the routes and movement of trucks in and out of the ports.
“We need to publish it that trucks going to Tin Can Island Port do not come through Funso Williams, while trucks coming to Apapa port should stop coming through Tin Can Port. We have asked NPA to publish this information on our procedures and ways we work but for two months now, they have not published”
He insisted that the issues inside the port is not about congestion, but that it is about efficiency, he added that every area of the port should be made efficient.
Part of the issues that could make the port efficient according to him is implementation of the call up system, empty containers return policy should be put in place, there should be no preferential treatment for any terminal operator while the prospects for extortion should be removed.
On allegations of corruption levelled against police officers attached to the Presidential Task Team, Opeifa debunked the allegations, describing the allegations against the team as “corruption fighting back”
He pointedly accused the Chairman of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMARTO) Chief Remi Ogungbemi of being one of the cabals frustrating efforts of the task team because of alleged racketeering and profiteering from the gridlock.
According to him, “Remi Ogungbemi does not have a single truck, he started fighting the committee because we cleared under the Lillypond Bridge, he said he is the one collecting money under the bridge, so he started fighting us” he said