…Freight Forwarders Take Over Traffic Control
…Allegation of Extortion Trails NPA, Police
By DAPO OLAWUNI
Even as the festive seasons draws near, there is palpable anxiety at the Tin Can Island Port in Lagos State as not less than 2,000 imported cargoes are currently trapped at the port without any access road for them to exit, while trucks coming to lift cargoes cannot gain access into the port.
Findings by DAILY TREND NEWS showed that since the ongoing construction of the Apapa Oshodi expressway began, six terminals clustered around the Tin Can Port have been forced to make use of a single lane both for import and export.
Two freight forwarding associations operating at the port; Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) on Monday took destinies in their hands, even as their chairmen brought out members to start controlling the traffic themselves.
The two associations also accused the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) security officials of taking advantage of the situation and extorting truck drivers before they can be passed into the port.
Speaking with journalists during a Joint Operation carried out on Monday to decongest the access road, Chairman of Tin Can Chapter of ANLCA, Prince Segun Oduntan lampoon the NPA and the Shippers Council for doing nothing to ease the suffering of port users.
He however said that after speaking with with chairman of the Presidential Task Force, Comrade Kayode Opeifa, he has given his words that he would create a particular exit for the trapped cargoes to leave the port.
“We are the drivers of the economy, we generate revenue for the government, the only thing they can do for us is to provide an enabling environment for us to work, even during the pandemic, we risked our lives and came out to work”
“Our coming out today is to identify the problems and we have told the terminal operators and the Presidential Task Team”
“Today is the first time I would see Shippers Council staff at the terminal, they do not have a desk inside the terminal, they only stroll in and out whenever they like, yet they came and lock TICT when they said the terminal aired, are they not supposed to be monitoring vessels coming in and out of the port?
“Vessels come into the port with 1,000 containers and they leave with 200, this is why MSC Shipping can afford to turn trucks into their holding bay, is Shippers Council bigger than the federal government that created it and appointed somebody to head it? ” he queried
Oduntan urge the Federal government to scrap container deposit, saying that once this is done, 50% of the gridlock problems would be gone.
He said that the freight forwarders coming out to control traffic is an ad hoc arrangement and that it cannot be sustained.
“We cannot continue to sustain the traffic because all our members you see on the road controlling traffic are all Chief Executive Officer of their various companies, this is just an ad hoc arrangement, there are people that are being paid to do this job, but they have failed and that is why we had to intervene because we know the traffic is man-made” he said
Also speaking, Chairman of NAGAFF at Tin Can Port, Chief Azubuike Ekweozor lamented that NPA officials now collect money from trucks before allowing them into the port.
According to him, the NPA and Shippers Council knows what to do to address the situation, but they are now taking advantage of it.
“This situation is man-made, we took our members and task force to carry out this task because a lot of revenue is being lost, we are losing our clients, many of them have diverted their cargoes to Apapa port, while we that are meant to operate at Tin Can Island Port are just seating down and looking at the traffic gridlock”
“We discovered that NPA is extorting money from the truck owners before they can pass them into the port, they are here for their own personal interest and not for the interest of the freight forwarders or the federal government” he said
Public Relations Officer of ANLCA at Tin Can, Emmanuel Onyeme said that, for the past three weeks, the cost of transportation has gone very high due to lack of access road
“For you to move a forty foot container from here to Ikeja, you would pay N1.5million, for you to move a forty foot containers within Tin Can Island first gate to the second gate, you pay N700,000. This is exactly the cost of freighting from Europe to Nigeria”
“There is only one exit for all the port terminals located around the Tin Can Port because of the ongoing construction of the access roads”
“We have held several meetings with the management of HITEC, the construction company, demanding that they should create another avenue for us to move out import and export consignments, but they kept promising us”
“This is a peak period, we are fast approaching festive season, most consignments coming in now, people would want to have them at home”
“The port is choked up right now, this was why we were charged to take care of the traffic, because we believe that the NPA, the security agencies are part of our problem”
Onyeme said the shipping companies and terminal operators, especially MSC Shipping Company, do not have any holding bay, the only place they use as holding bay is Port and Cargo Terminal, and the terminal does not have that capacity to take the empty containers.
According to him, when an MSC vessel discharges containers at TICT Terminal, clearing agents taking delivery are asked to drop the empty container at Ports and Cargo Terminal.
“We are begging the federal government, it is time to open other avenues for us, right now, all cargoes coming to Tin Can Island Port are going through a single entrance”
“The situation has made us enemies to our customers and the transporters, meanwhile the shipping companies and terminal operators are benefitting, they are not waving demurrage” he said
On his part, the NAGAFF spokesman, Stanley Ejiogu said the Presidential Task Force have not been able to address the gridlock in Apapa. He said that freight forwarders are now overwhelmed with the traffic gridlock as nothing is moving in and out of the port.
“Its like the river has gotten to our neck and that is why we are here today, we came out since 5am to control traffic, the Shippers Council are the regulators of the port, but they are not doing anything”
“We have complained to NPA and Shippers Council, most times, they would promise to manage the situation but they don’t do it” he said