By Steve Agbota, [email protected]
About a month 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 around Apapa and its environs.
The electronic system known as Eto 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.
However, the Eto which is supposed to offer solution as well as ease the burden of the truck drivers, truck owners and other port users is fast spinning into avenue for holding bay owners, security agents and shipping lines to milk the truckers dry, which, in turn, would add to the cost of doing business at the port and further worsen the hardship faced by Nigerians.
Investigation revealed that operators of designated holding bays charged the truckers as high as N180, 000 and N200,000 after 48 hours, even as the e-call up was not supposed to attract additional cost from the truck operators but the designated holding bay collecting additional money.
Truckers and truck owners under the association of Tincan Island Port Transport Operators (TIPTO) have recently embarked on protests to demand the attention of the authorities especially the NPA to look into and address their grievances in order to smoothen the rough edges of the electronic call-up system at the Lagos ports.
Some of the truck drivers who spoke with Daily Sun alleged that the process of the e-call up had become fraudulent, as the system was now fraught with many irregularities.
The truckers also alleged that owners of the various holding bays designated for trucks were allegedly extorting truck owners with unimaginable and arbitrary charges after the expiration of the e-call up system.
A truck driver, Abdul Kazeem, lamented multiple extortion by security agencies deployed to monitor the free flow vehicular movement along the port corridor.
“The way and manner the Eto is being handled, when the truckers pay money into their Eto wallet and before they would come back again, the owner of the garage will start withdrawing N16, 000 per day as demurrage and before you know it, they will siphon the account of the truckers just on a call-up. This MOB garage at the second gate is one of the places you can go to witness this anomalies,” he lamented.
Another truck driver, Hassan Biu, said they paid N10, 000 for the e-call up to enable them access the port. He explained that after payment, a slip or paper would be given to them as evidence of payment to show the security agents on the road in order to access the port.
He said: “Due to bad access roads to the port, your call up paper may expired before you even get to the port. And when the call up paper expires on the road, the security agents, NPA Security and others, when they see the paper, they will order the person to turn back except the person has to bribe them and some bribe with amount ranging from N20,000 to N50,000 before they can have their way or they will turn the truck back.
Speaking with Daily Sun, the Coordinator of the Tincan Island Ports Transport Operators (TIPTO), Mr. Sylvester Keshiro, called on the government to monitor activities at the Sunrise-Mile 2, adding that the combined operatives of LASTMA, police, NPA personnel were milking transporters out of their hard earned monies.
He challenged the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, to behave like a field man and visit the Lagos port to witness anomalies bedeviling the second largest revenue earner for the government.
“We have written to Nigerian Shippers Council and NPA and we had their acknowledgement letters. But up till now, they are yet to get back to us or do anything to address the challenges of fraud associating with call up system.
“The only person that called us for interview was DSS at Tin Can. The immediate challenge we thought he could handle has not been solved. That is towing out vehicles to one of the terminals at Tin Can where they used to do container tripping and collecting N20,000 per day and NPA will also collect its own, which we are saying it is part of the fraudulent activities. This is in the hands of port manager and CSO,” he lamented.
He said the towing of tuckers’ vehicles is not from the NPA head office at Marina, saying the head office will never ask any one to be toying vehicles and collecting almost N40,000 from truckers everyday.
He added that the NPA security would collect N20,000 for towing truckers’ vehicles while the owner of the warehouse were the vehicles are being towing to would also collect additional N20,000 as demurrage.
“I want the management of the NPA and the Ministry of Transportation to investigate the alleged extortion in order to ascertain the truth of the matter. The MD of NPA and her management team should visit all the designated holding bays to confirm if we are telling lies or the truth.
“They said shipping lines have their holding bays. Where are the holding bays? The shipping lines do not have functional holding bays. And the one like terminal they are managing now, they are collecting between N180, 000 and N200, 000 to drop empty containers from operators,” he added.
He lamented that the activities of shipping companies and security agents negate the Federal Government’s Ease of Doing Business at the ports, adding that there would be no ease of doing business at the ports when truckers are forced to pay bewteen N180, 000 and N200, 000 to drop empty containers at holding bay at Abule Osun.
He said to offload a 20feet container at SIFAX in Ijora, operators have to pay close to N70, 000 and to offload 40feet container is about N180, 000 to N200,000, saying that such place can no longer referred to as holding bay because holding bay is a place where to drop a container without paying a kobo.
Speaking at the recent protest at TCIPC, Comrade Francis Okechukwu lauded the innovation of the e-call up system introduced by the NPA but lamented that truckers were faced with multiple extortions by the government agencies deployed to the corridor.
The truck owner decried the arrangement put in place by the NPA saying that the 48 hrs expiration of the call up system must be reviewed.
“We want the government to make the e-call up system on a trip basis and not 48 hours basis. The 48 hours expiration of the call up system makes no meaning because the roads are not in good condition while returning empty containers to the port.”
Another transporter, Patrick Okonkwo, explained that the e-call up was not supposed to attract additional cost from the truck operators but added that the designated holding bay collect additional money after 48 hours.
Okonkwo stressed that an additional N16,000 were deducted as demurrage charges after 48 hours.