By Steve Agbota [email protected] 08033302331
For many years, importers, exporters, truckers and port users have borne the brunt of structural failure and inefficiency of the government to decongest and eliminate the gridlock on the Apapa access port road.
Due to the challenges, many businesses have either relocated or shut down along the port corridors, while the chunk of the nation’s bound cargoes were diverted to neigbouring ports like Togo, Benin Republic, Ghana and Cameroun.
As the problem lingers, many had canvassed for the use of an electronic platform as the decisive solution in solving the hydra-headed Apapa ports access roads gridlock.
This confidence on an electronic system cannot be said to be misplaced, considering the role which information and communication technology play in solving human problems and modern day challenges.
This is why the management of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) finally launched the electronic call-up system (Eto App) on February 27, 2021.
Few days after its launch, Apapa roads were incredibly free of traffic. It was, indeed, a historic day for the port industry.
The Eto App is responsible for the scheduling, entry and exit of all trucks doing business at the ports. The trucks are required to park at the approved truck parks until they are called up into the port. The scheme, which was financed by a private company, Trucks Transit Parks Limited under a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement with the NPA was said to have cost about N7 billion.
The system was projected to save Nigeria of a whopping N140 billion weekly economic loss and another $10 billion yearly loss of agro products. This projection has yet to be materialised as different factors have militated against the efficiency of the system since it was launched.
for instance, barely two weeks after NPA commenced the implementation of the electronic call-up system, fraudsters cloned the system by printing counterfeit call-up slips for truck drivers. This is one of the major setbacks the system encountered.
Meanwhile, extortion and bribery have been the two-fold evils bedeviling the e-call up system, while the system is bogged down by many challenges as the gridlock still persists.
Investigation revealed that the taskforce team set up by Lagos State government, comprising Lagos State Traffic Management (LASTMA) officials and other security operatives to work with NPA, are the neck-deep in the affairs of the gridlock.
On several occasions, truckers have decried high level of extortion by security personnel of NPA, LASTMA and port police officers, which made life hell for them. In order to make the system work, the Advocacy For Maritime Development Association of Nigeria (AMDAN) has harped on the need for information sharing with management of NPA as part of measures to address issues bordering on extortion and the electronic call-up system.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to management of the NPA, the President of AMDAN, Segun Alabi, stated that the call-up system could only succeed if NPA management is fully informed about the operational activities on the movement of cargoes in and out of the two seaports in Lagos.
According to him, the e-call up system has recorded some level of stability in the cost of transportation from the ports to importers’ destination since its introduction last year. He, however, stressed the need to resolve the bottlenecks affecting the process through information from stakeholders operating around the seaports.
He said extortion at the ports have continued to be on the increase, adding that vital information sharing would assist management to progress in its service deliveries.
Highlighting some of the challenges in the cargo clearance at the ports, he maintained that, despite the extortion by security personnel of NPA and port police officers, there is need to checkmate the illegalities, saying that genuine information from stakeholders to management would serve as a positive step in tackling some of the setbacks.
On his part, Public Relations Officers of the Advocacy group, Mr. Onyeme Emmanuel, called on management of NPA to give exportation of Nigerian commodities priority in accessing the seaports.
Onyeme added that stripping activities within Tin Can Island Ports Complex persists, adding that the activities, if not nipped in the bud, could lead to return of congestion at the port premises.
He also expressed worries over the shortage of security and traffic personnel of the NPA at Tin Can Island Port, calling on management to recruit workers to fill in the existing vacuum.
The spokesman affirmed that the Lagos Ports Complex (LPC) has maintained a standard that should be emulated by TCIPC against the backdrop of human traffic and extortion.
While responding, Acting Managing Director of NPA, Mohammed Bello Koko, debunked allegations of scrapping the e-call up system, saying that rather than scrapping it, management would improve on the system by reviewing, fortifying and modifying the process.
According to him, the visit by members of Advocacy group would assist management of NPA in areas that requires improvement.
Bello Koko also noted that information sharing is key for port efficiency, adding that management is working closely with others security agencies to address issues of extortion along the port corridors and other challenges confronting movement of cargoes along the port corridors.