By Isaac Anumihe
Freight forwarders and truck owners on Monday, May 15, 2017, embarked on strike to protest the deplorable condition of Apapa and Tin Can ports roads, having claimed several lives and damaged several vehicles and cargoes.
Last week’s strike was not the only protest taken by the road users. Even the residents and corporate bodies in Apapa, led by the Bible Society of Nigeria (BSN), have also demonstrated their grievances on the condition of the roads.
General Secretary of BSN, Dare Ajiboye, who spoke on behalf of the residents also expressed fear over what will become of them during this year’s rainy season as the roads leading to the Apapa Wharf are likely to worsen.
According to him, because of the condition of the roads, trucks laden with containers fall on the residents and many of the residents fall ill because of long stay on endless traffic.
Also, motorists have been attacked by hoodlums on the long traffic and the government loses money because some containers cannot come into Apapa. When containers cannot come in, he said, the government equally loses taxes.
He said the two major roads into Apapa, namely Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and Ijora-Apapa Road are in decrepit situation and replete with deep gullies at various sections of the road from West Minster up to First Gate Bus Stop.
“The road from Coconut Bus Stop is permanently blocked daily by trucks and fuel tankers making it impossible for Apapa-bound vehicles to move. The gridlock is compounded by gullies on both the Oshodi and Apapa-bound carriageways between the Tin Can First Gate and Second Gate Bus Stops. Most people have for a long time abandoned this road because of its terrible state and this has increased the pressure on the Ijora/Apapa Road, which is the second road into Apapa,” he said.
The General Secretary noted that last year, the Apapa Customs declared more than N229.9 billion revenue, adding that the revenue would have increased if the roads were fixed.
“Foreigners who come into the country through the ports will not see these roads and give us the respect we deserve as a nation,” he noted. Both the workers and residents have at one time or the other carried placards along the streets to show their grievances. But the Federal Government has turned deaf ears to all the protests.
As a result, some of the blue chip companies operating in the area have laid off their staff and closed shop because their businesses cannot be accessed.
To this effect, over 5,000 workers have lost their jobs in Apapa in the last one year. This followed the closure of over 50 companies including banks and entertainment outlets which depended on the activities from the wharf.
On Wharf Road alone, Daily Sun counted over 10 banks and two eateries that have closed their branches because of the lull in business. Unity Bank, which used to have four branches, now has two branches and Ecobank with eight branches had to reduce to four. Similarly, Access Bank with seven branches also cut down to four.
Eateries like Tetrazini have been shut down, while the popular Kingston Joe that had two outlets at Warehouse Road and Wharf Road are closed down. Tantalizer with three outlets has reduced to one while the only Mr. Biggs eatery in Apapa on Creek Road closed down.
Major hotels like Rockview, Excelsior and many others are groaning for lack of patronage as most of their rooms are now empty. Chains of events that require renting their halls no longer come. A room rate, which used to be between N25,000 and N30,000 can now be negotiated for between N8,000 and N10,000.
Other businesses that collapsed on Burma Road include grocery shops, shipping companies, haulage outfits, freight forwarding firms, clubs and other recreational outlets. It was learnt that each of the outfits has between 20 and 50 staff while one of the biggest brothels, which harbours over 200 inmates in the area has equally closed shop and the inmates relocated to other parts of Lagos where they can get customers.
Beside the bank and entertainment workers that lost their jobs, those along the chain of business like the provision stores and food vendors that supply the low-end workers also ceased to be active.
The popular Eleganza complex that used to house over 1,000 offices is virtually empty because the tenants have relocated or are out of business. The complex, which used to be the centre of activities is now a ghost of itself – empty, deserted and dilapidated. The same with Nnewi Building where over 800 offices were located. The edifice is now empty.
Beside the businesses, many lives have been lost. This year alone, over three journalists have died on that road through okada accident. This is because the only viable means of transportation is through motor bikes, which most times drown their passengers in the several gullies on the roads or throw them off to be crushed by trailers.
The Chairman of Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Musa Mohammed, said that,more than 400 trucks have left Apapa and Tin Can Port areas in the past one year due to the dilapidated roads.
He said that a majority of RTEAN members had left the truck business and veered into other ventures because they could no longer cope with the bad roads.
According to Musa, the problem on the port roads is affecting his members as containers keep falling daily. He said that RTEAN had written several letters to the National Assembly, Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) but there was no response.
“Two years ago, FERMA came, surveyed the area and took some palliative measures. But shortly after, the materials were washed off by the rains. The road requires a standard re-construction that will last long,” Musa said.
Also, Chairman, RTEAN, Tin Can chapter, Isiaka Olalere, complained of how the dilapidated roads have affected their trucks, a situation, he said, is making members sell off their trucks as scraps.
“We are going out of business gradually, because if you go to trailer parks, you will see truck owners cutting their trucks into parts and selling them. A truck owner with seven trucks cannot boast of two today due to the bad and dilapidated roads. It is affecting our business seriously.
“Immediately a truck falls on the road, it becomes a scrap as it will no longer be balanced. Today, most truck owners are cutting their trucks and selling them as scraps as the dilapidated roads are affecting their businesses. Anyone that invests in truck business now will soon run out of business. The people you see buy new trucks are those that don’t know much about the road,” he lamented.
Despite all these lamentations by residents and workers, the Federal Government has remained mum. Apart from oil, the ports are the second major revenue-yielding sector to the economy. So, it is unimaginable why the government has neglected the roads for this long.
Why NASS amendment of CRFFN Act may fail –Shittu
The ongoing moves by National Assembly to amend the Act establishing the Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) will fail without inputs from critical stakeholders like licensed Customs agents and freight forwarders.
This was the view of National President of Association of Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, at an award night for freight forwarders in Lagos.
Shittu said the Act will be dead on arrival if the lawmakers decide to go ahead without consulting widely with operators whose jobs will be impacted by the amended law.
He said options are open to freight forwarders to continue in their business under another guise without being regulated or stopped by the CRFFN, if the lawmakers ignore calls for consultations.
He said the CRFFN is far from achieving the reasons why it was established while expressing optimism that ANLCA’s synergy with National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) will make the council work better.
He opined that freight forwarding practice in Nigeria should be focused on exports and take a cue from countries like India, Singapore and Malaysia.
Chief Executive Officer of Maritime Media Limited, Elder Asu Beks, had also in his remarks described freight forwarders as critical components of the total logistics chain WHO add value to the good and growth of the economy.
He described them as people whose business activities are catalysts to other sectors ranging from manufacturing, importation, exportation and increased professionalism.
The Federal Government was also recently alleged to have inserted amendments that require the President to appoint a Chairman of CRFFN contrary to the expectations of the council to be a private sector-driven organisation.
STOAN hails FG for concessioning terminal operations
The Federal Government has been commended for its foresight in concessioning terminal operations at the nation’s seaports.
Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, who gave the commendation, said the success of the ports’ concession programme, which was implemented in 2006, has made it a model for the consideration of other governments across the world to concession public infrastructure and also for Nigeria to extend the model to other sectors of the economy.
According to Haastrup, what concessioning does is free government resources for the provision of other social services to the people. Government remains the ultimate owner of the concessioned facilities but the private sector is mandated to develop and operate those facilities under agreed terms over a certain period.
“This is a worthy model, which has not only improved operations at our ports, but has also attracted commendation from within and outside the country.
“After Nigeria’s port concession, we now have countries like Ivory Coast, Liberia, Ghana and even Greece adopt our model. The Liberians and Ghanaians sent delegations to understudy our port concession model to develop theirs.
“Also recently, the Greek government concessioned the Thessaloniki Port, which is one of its most important public infrastructure. This is a clear indication of our success as a nation in building models worthy of emulation by others,” she said.
She also said that the Federal Government’s consideration for adopting the concession model for the railway and aviation sectors derive from the success of port concession.
“I have implicit confidence in the present government’s ability and commitment to the improvement of public infrastructure in the country and one is delighted to note that concessioning has become the model being adopted for both the railway and aviation sector reforms,” the Chairman noted.
The STOAN Chairman also commended the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for launching a Safety, Information, Operation and Communication Centre to enhance 24-hour operation at the port.
“The commissioning of this centre and the recent launch of four new tugboats by NPA will deepen reforms at the port. It will complement the efforts of terminal operators to make our ports competitive,” she said.
Recall that before terminal operations were concessioned in 2006, Nigerian ports faced major challenges which placed them among the most inefficient in the world.
Before concession, the average waiting time for ships before berthing was 21 days, vessel turnaround time was seven days while dwell time for cargo was as high as 45 days. Virtually all the major seaports across the country were heavily congested leading to insecurity and pilferage, delays in cargo clearance and inefficiencies in cargo handling largely due to manual processes. As a result of the challenges, the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2006, concessioned cargo handling operations at the ports to 25 terminals operators under various lease agreements raging from 15 to 25 years.
The private terminal operators have since invested about $2billion in modernizing and upgrading their various terminals as well as in manpower development.
As a result of the huge investment, ship waiting time has ben eliminated to zero days while vessel turnaround time has also improved significantly based on cargo type.
Congestion at the various ports have also been eliminated resulting in a huge cost saving running into about N30 billion annually.