By DAPO OLAWUNI
Freight forwarders at Nigerian ports have exonerated the Presidential Task Team on Law and Order in Apapa from being the cause of the traffic gridlock being experienced at Lagos Ports, saying that the gridlock has defiled all solutions because shipping companies fail to aquire holding bays.
Recall that the Committee of Freight Forwarders and Maritime Truck Owners (COFFAMAT) recently issued a 48-hour ultimatum for the Presidential Task Force to vacate port access roads.
National Coordinator of NAGAFF 100% Compliance Team, Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko who spoke for the Committee members, alleged that the Task Team has failed in its duties and this has caused congestion in Apapa.
Speaking with DAILY TREND NEWS in Lagos last week, Chairman of Tin Can Island Port Chapter of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Prince Segun Oduntan argued that the Presidential Task Team was not the problem of the gridlock.
He described the Team as the highest intervention the federal government can make on the gridlock at the port. He said the gridlock has defiled all solutions.
“We have to change our attitudes before we can move forward, the Presidential Task Team is not the problem, the man in charge of that team has done a tremendous work when he was commissioner of Transportation in Lagos state, the records are there, he was successful and that was why the presidency gave him this assignment.
But coming to Apapa, he is meeting with people who have ulterior motive in their mind” Oduntan stated.
The ANLCA Chairman observed that despite the construction of the Apapa access roads, and the provision of trailer parks at Tin Can, Lillypond, and the movement of cargoes by barges, the gridlock refused to dissappear.
Oduntan recommended that the only way out, is for shipping companies to acquire holding bays for receiving their empty containers.
“We are just merry-go-rounding, in as much as the shipping companies are still taking empty containers back into the ports, the problem of gridlock will continue, even if you build a ten lane road, the empty container trucks would come and take over the road”
“Even though we have been using barges to evacuate cargoes from the port, the problem has not subsided.
Before now, at Tin Can Island Port, we dont have a trailer park, now we have a trailer park that is taking almost one thousand trucks, yet the problem is still persisting”
“If you look at trucks queuing up on the access roads, you see many of them carrying empty containers and they want to go into the port, are they supposed to be there?
The extortion going on at the port is present continous, the security agents are extorting the truckers, so the truckers are also extorting the agents to get the money” he said.
Also speaking on the Presidential Task Team, National President of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Chief Increase Uche told journalists in Apapa last week that the planned demonstration by the COFFAMAT against the Task Team was stopped by NAGAFF.
Increase said Nigerian ports cannot afford anymore disruption, adding that any form of dispute or misunderstanding is best handled by dialogue on the roundtable.
He said the 48hours ultimatum issued by the COFFAMAT was a misplaced priority and an afterthought of some of the rabble rousers in the industry.
“We blocked them and called them to order, there was no need to start pounding the system anymore, the effect of lockdown has resulted in delays and cargoes overstaying in different terminal, people losing their investments, nobody is happy about it, but we don’t want any withdrawal of service at this time, NAGAFF would never support that anymore”
“The best thing for us is to go to the roundtable and talk about issues, if we are having issues with terminal operators, shipping companies or whosoever in the system, we have the government agencies that are in charge of addressing any shortcoming that has to do with any issues, we have advised our people to remain professional” he said