The corridors leading to the two major ports in Lagos have caused untold hardship and nightmare to every user: trucks, passenger buses, private cars, tricycles, motorbikes and even pedestrians are continually trapped on the gridlock for long hours and sometimes for days.
The experiences are quite harrowing, businesses in Apapa and its environs have had to relocate, residents are no longer able to leave their homes whenever they liked nor are able to find it easy to return back home. In all these and even more, the ports, shippers, shipping companies, freight forwarders, transporters, and everyone that have business to transact at the port are the worst victims, as they suffer heavy and varied losses due to the tight, wicked and unyielding traffic gridlocks on all the roads leading to Apapa and Tincan Island ports.
Apapa was known as the commercial and industrial nerve of Lagos, while at the same time serving as residential area for the elites has now turned almost a ghost city, courtesy of the unimaginable chaotic traffic situation.
Several efforts in the past to tackle the intractable perennial gridlock in and around the Apapa Port corridors had failed, but on the 28th February 2021, Nigerians woke up to the cheering news of sanity returning to Apapa axis of Lagos, following the take-off of the electronic call-up system (ETO) introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) as a way of solving the protracted gridlock. (ThisDay Newspaper of March 21, 2021)
It is on record that many people had canvassed for the use of an electronic system as the antidote to Apapa Port access roads gridlock. The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in 2009 at one of its Round Table Meetings, recommended the Call-Up System when the problems of traffic congestion was raring its ugly head around Apapa and its environs but that call was not heeded.
CILT also recommended that all the Terminal Operators should have a truck holding bay that can take at least 25 trucks while truck operators were urged to acquire parking lots outside the ports to serve as their waiting areas, etc.
It is generally accepted that since information and communication technology plays a vital role in solving human problems and modern-day business challenges, transport system being such that depend on intelligence for optimal efficiency require the use of technology.
The electronic call-up system, known as “ETO” appears to be a solution to the hard notch which have been difficult to crack.
The ETO if allowed to function, not only will it put an end to the perennial gridlock caused by freight and tanker trucks, it will also address the problems of too many human intervention in traffic management, unsafe practices, unholy alliances that lead to high breed extortions, institutional disagreements, name calling of all kinds, fighting between security forces and association/union members, and other vices associated with the unregulated system that allows truck drivers to bring into the ports trucks at their wimps and caprices.
As we all witnessed, a few days after the launch of the e-call up system, roads leading to Apapa were amazingly free of traffic gridlock that had hitherto caused all kinds of delays, nightmare, evil of unimaginable magnitudes, and other vices had disappeared. ETO just did the magic, and every port user and those living in Apapa heaved a sigh of relief.
Sad as it may seem as reported by SHIPS&PORTS (March 26, 2021) that the so-called electronic call-up system set up by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to manage the movement of trucks operating in Apapa has collapsed, while gridlock on the port access roads has fully returned. The paper also reported amongst others that “A visit to Apapa on March 25th 2021 revealed that there is a long line of trucks blocking the roads and bridge at Ijora and at Tin Can thereby hampering free movement into the Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port Complex. Similarly, trucks heading to Apapa port blocked the road from Eleganza Plaza on Wharf Road all the way to the National Arts Theatre at Iganmu, while the trucks heading to Tin Can port backed up from the Second Gate all the way to Mile Two.
The paper also asserted that it appears both NPA and the Lagos traffic management team are helpless and the port roads have once again, become free for all. Suggesting that the return of the gridlock raises questions on the competence of the traffic management team set up by Lagos State Government to work with NPA to free the port access roads”.
DAILY TREND NEWS, March 27, 2021 reported that truck drivers at the port alleged the ETO Call-Up system has fold up, they (drivers) have been unable to generate call up slips from the ETO application for several days, and that there are reported cases of ETO application being hacked by fraudsters to produce fake Call-Up slips, etc.
The news platform also quoted the President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju as acknowledging the fact that traffic gridlock on all access road to the port have become a re-occurring decimal, calling on government to find a permanent solution to the problems.
From the above canvassed positions, one may need to ask some pertinent questions on what exactly are the problems associated with the ETO Call-Up system.
1. Are there technical hitches with the ETO system that has exposed it to hacking?
2. Could it be that the team assembled to manage the system is unserious, incompetent or mismanaging the system by intension?
3. Are there preferential treatment to some favoured truck operators or those classified as highly placed operators that has put the system in disarray?
4. Could there be some conspiracies on the part of some operators doing all they can to sabotage the entire operating system of ETO?
5. What can be done by NPA and Lagos state government to ensure that this approach which have been applauded by people is not frustrated by agents of evil, who are bent on returning to the old order?
6. Should this good project be allowed to end like some abandoned projects in our land?
7. What sanctions should be put in place, and well publicized to ensure compliance?
These and more questions will continue to bug the mind until the system functions perfectly without stoppage.
In light of the above premise, the Centre for Logistics and Transport Education (CELOTE) uses this medium to applaud this initiative of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Lagos state government and all others that have contributed to the initiative and the commencement of ETO system.
Despite the current challenges, it is our belief that ETO will give a lasting solution to the protracted traffic gridlock situations on all the roads leading to Apapa. We also join well-meaning Nigerians and port users in particular to urge the Hadiza Bala Usman led management team and Lagos State government not to succumb to the antics of distractors, who do not want the initiative to achieve any success.
CELOTE is very concerned with matters relating to efficient supply chain flows to and from ports in Nigeria and Lagos area in particular.
In light of the foregoing, we use this medium to recommend the following measures with the hope that they will help the new scheme to achieve the expected results.
a. Nigeria Ports Authority and Lagos State government should ensure a high reduction, if possible, a total elimination of human interferences with the electronic call-up system;
b. Prevent all scrupulous activities such as extortion, favouritism, corruption and bribery, etc which had sustained the intractable Apapa gridlock;
c. Peradventure there are preferential practices in place, such should be discouraged or removed;
d. All shades of security personnel, who are working to maintain law and order should be motivated to contribute to the process of ETO system.
e. Truck owners, operators, unions, security/traffic management agencies and other stakeholders are called upon to support any system put in place that will make the electronic call-up system work. This must be demonstrated in action and not in mere lip service.
While we commend the Lagos State Government and NPA for the latest efforts to end the notorious Apapa gridlock, we urge them to leave no stone unturned to ensure the success of this new initiative.
Mr Francis Ehiguese is the Chairman/CEO of Centre for Logistics and Transport Education (CELOTE) a consulting and training outfit in the logistics and transport.
He is also the International Vice President of Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).
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