By Steve Agbota
Two weeks ago, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) commenced the implementation of the electronic call-up system for all trucks calling at the nation’s ports. The decision was to find a permanent solution to the problem of truck congestion in Apapa and its environs.
The electronic system was designed for the management of truck movement and access to and from the Lagos Ports Complex and the Tin Can Island Ports, Apapa, Lagos, with the aim of putting an end to the perennial logjam caused by articulated trucks within the port corridor.
The truck electronic call-up system, which is being powered by a web application called “Eto”, would be responsible for the scheduling, entry and exit of all trucks in the ports.
However, non-compliance with Eto and its guidelines will result in denial of access into the ports, impounding of trucks and withdrawal of registration/operating license.
On February 27, 2021, when the electronic call-up system was formally deployed, the port community celebrated the takeoff of the system, as they said it would end the gridlock that has bedevilled the port access roads for many years. Residents of Apapa communities commended NPA for coming up with such an innovative approach towards tackling the trucks’ menace around the ports.
Within two days of deployment of the system, the roads from Ijora Bridge, Creek Road, Mr. Biggs, down to Apapa Port were cleared for free flow of traffic. In fact, residents of Apapa were overjoyed and celebrated the feat.
In the area of enforcement, NPA and Lagos State Government are working together to ensure sanity in traffic flow within the port city of Apapa.
However, Lagos State Special Traffic Management team impounded over 200 trucks within 48 hours in the Apapa area of Lagos over various offences, ranging from non-possession of electronic call-up slip and indiscriminate parking, among others. The impounded vehicles were towed to the Oshodi yard of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority.
Speaking during the facility assessment audit of the Truck Transit Park (TTP) at Lilypond, Ijora, Lagos, recently, the managing director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, assured port users that the irresponsible parking of trucks on the port access roads would soon be a thing of the past.
According to her, it was very important to put an end to the intractable Apapa traffic to restore sanity to cargo operations at the nation’s ports in Lagos.
Hadiza stated that the web application (Eto) would enthrone transparency, orderliness to truck movement as scheduling is done automatically on first-come-first-serve basis.
Already, the NPA has licensed some parks around Lagos where trucks coming into the state would park and from there move into Apapa upon receiving a signal through the Eto App, which all truck drivers would be expected to download.
Meanwhile, stakeholders who spoke with Daily Sun at the weekend supported NPA’s electronic call-up system to restore normalcy and sanity within the port corridor, even as they accused Area B Police division of being against the electronic call-up system (Eto App).
Speaking with Daily Sun, the vice-president of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto, said that NPA must improve on the system to make it impossible for fraudsters to hack, adding that the role of Nigerian Police, Area B, in Apapa needs to be reviewed.
“We have a situation where that particular police station is working anti-clockwise, that is, anti-NPA’s plans and anti-progressive. So, NPA needs to address that.
“I have also told them that, if you want this electric call-up system to work and be efficient, you must remove the hands of Area B Police because they are an impediment to free flow of traffic deliberately,” he added.
According to him, the Area B Police are frustrating any force brought by either the state government, Federal Government or any agency at the ports.
He, therefore, advised NPA that the Eto call-up system, which went down one or two days ago, needs to be robust enough to withstand interference and hacking.
“I’m hearing a lot of stories here and there concerning the system. As somebody who is on the ground, I want to advise that the Eto call-up system should be robust, protected and guarded against any hack so that the system will not be in jeopardy.
“Having said that, I want to implore every stakeholders to encourage the NPA to make sure this one (Eto) is a success, because we do not have any other option,” he said.
Meanwhile, the president of the Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, said, presently, e-call-up system of the NPA is the easiest solution to Apapa gridlock, but at the same time it cannot be the last solution because all other things have to be done.
With that, he said, a lot of things need to be put in place because it is not only call-up that causes the gridlock in Apapa, there are other factors that cause problems, he said, adding that one of the factors government should work on was infrastructure and creating a link-up of Apapa port and Tin Can Island port to railways.
“So, the call-up system should not be the only solution. However, NPA needs to continue to improve on the system and I’m suggesting that the application should not only be in English language. It should be in other languages because most of the truck drivers and even some of us who are frieght forwarders we are not too used to English.
“NPA should try to make it in other languages; it would be more easier for the truck drivers and others to access the system. Looking at the statistics of the number of drivers operating around the port, not everybody has been to school.
“I think it would be more easier if we can access it in different languages. However, they should continue to improve on the e-call-up system and monitor the system. Again, most importantly, NPA and Lagos State Government should embark on sensitisation and engagement of stakeholders through associations. This is what they should do to make it work,” he added.
Also the national coordinator of Save Nigeria Frieght Forwarders Importers and Exporters Coalitions (SNFFIEC), Chief Osita Chukwu, said the e-call-up system was a welcome development and everybody was happy about it.
He said people could now drive their cars to Apapa without traffic issues, adding that the e-call-up system was the best solution to the problem of gridlock in Apapa.
According to him, NPA has demonstrated the readiness to work towards taking the trucks off the roads. He added that the agency’s security department was up and doing by pursuing those constituting nuisance on the port access roads so that they do not continue to cause gridlock.
“I commend the MD of NPA, being a woman, doing well. NPA should keep the good work going because this is our nation, we have no other nation except this. If we continue to undermine the situation, we will continue to have issues,” he said.
He stressed that there was the need to remove the Area Commander of Area B Police Station. He claimed the area commander doesn’t know his duties, because other area commanders that have worked there removed their hands completely from anything port operations.
“They are causing these issues of free flow of traffic because of money. The moment they do the needful, anybody who’s not doing the right thing or trying to distrupt other people’s responsibility should be removed. You cannot continue to hold somebody to ransom because of your own selfish interest. All hands must be on deck for the e-call-up system to work.
“They should give the MD of NPA a chance, as she is coming to deliver us. If that woman is a minister of transport, we wouldn’t have any problem in the ports again. Thank God she is there as MD of NPA. That woman is another Dora Akunyili,” he said.