By DAPO OLAWUNI
Barely three days after the Lagos State Government and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) concluded the joint sanitation of the Lagos Port environment by destroying shanties and extortion points on port access, the Council of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA) has raised an alarm that the extortionists have returned.
COMTUA also said it had lost 10 members in seven months to extortion and attacks along the port corridors.
Mr Adeyinka Aroyewun, the President of COMTUA, disclosed this during an interactive session with the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) on Wednesday in Lagos.
Aroyewun who pleaded with the Lagos State Government to ensure that the dead members get justice added that 20 members sustained various injuries during the period.
He urged government to evict hoodlums on the road as most of the destruction on members trucks were as a result attacks by the hoodlums.
Aroyewun noted that the association had made a lot of submissions on the issue with over 50 letters appealing to the government to weed these vandals off the road.
According to him, the level of damage on their trucks cannot be estimated because presently, they still vandalise trucks given that extortion points and places where the vandalism takes place have not been removed by government.
“We heard on the news and saw when the Nigerian Ports Authority in conjunction with the Lagos State Government claimed they had removed shanties in the guise of removing hoodlums and extortionists on the way.
“They concluded this on July 23, but as at today July 26, everything that they did had returned back, so we cannot estimate how much we have lost to vandalisation of our trucks.
“We can only say that we have lost 10 of our members to the cold hands of death this year and lot of our members numbering 20 had been seriously injured by these hoodlums,” he said.
On the crisis rocking the association, Aroyewun said that the association had not been dissolved as being speculated.
“New members are coming in, so if some people feel that they don’t need to remain in the collaboration, some who see reasons to remain are there.
“We are reviewing our Memorandum of Understanding from time to time and so it’s not about the dissolving of COMTUA, the council has not been dissolved.
“To improve on this, we are forming new alliance with the Lagos State government, so there is freedom of association for everyone,” he said.
He added that the reason why the collaboration with COMTUA was created was not limited to traffic gridlock but for welfare of members and other unfolding issues in the industry.
“The word that it appears that the idea behind COMTUA is defeated is not correct, as it stands now, we are still faced with the difficulties of getting to the port at the appropriate time, it is still congested.
“The extortion that is still taking place online which is the electronic call-ups at the Truck Transit Park regime is still there.
“However, the beneficiaries of this failed policy are the ones we are seeing opting out of COMTUA. As much as some people are opting out of COMTUA, other members are coming in,” he said.