Transporters at the Apapa seaports in Lagos have called on the Federal Government to disband the Presidential Task Force (PTF) set up by President Muhammadu Buhari over a year ago to curtail the perennial gridlocks, alleging extortion.
However, the executive vice chairman of the PTF, Kayode Opeifa, has said the allegations were false.
The transporters, under the umbrella of Logistics Practitioners Association of Nigeria (LPAN), appealed to government to look into the plight of transporters and truck owners on the Tin Can Island route to the Lagos seaport, stating that the traffic congestion to the port was not better than what it used to be before the coming of the PTF.
The LPAN public relations officer, Tunde Oyebola, said the task force was initially set up for a two-week operation to clear the gridlock, which he said was extended to four weeks in 2019 when it could not accomplish its mandate.
He said the tenure of the task force has since elapsed, arguing that, since there was no further extension of time, their continous operation was illegal.
Oyebola accused the task force of allegedly creating road blocks to promote extortion, adding that the operatives purportedly keep trucks on long queues and give preference to their priority trucks.
According to Oyebola transport operators part with huge sums to be allowed access to the ports without issuance of receipts for the payments.
He said, “We are not sure the money the task force collects from our members and other stakeholders, which amount to millions of naira, is remitted to the Federal Government or the Lagos State government.
“We request that every officer on the team be investigated. We have already submitted petitions against them to the EFCC and the IGP for thorough investigation.”
He said transporters decided to move containers in badges through the waterways from Mile 2 to the ports to save time as against the long time it takes to reach the ports, but the initiative was blocked by the task force who seized trucks going to the water terminal.
“While we commend President Muhammadu Buhari on the initiative to restore order at the Lagos ports to improve the ease of doing business in the country, we are alerting the President that corruption has overtaken the purpose for which he appointed the PTF,” Oyebola said.
Opeifa debunking the allegations, saying those making the claims were corrupt agents fighting back after seeing the achievements of the task force in clearing the Apapa gridlock to a reasonable level.
Opeifa stated that genuine truck owners had no problem passing to the port, noting that truck pushers who owned no trucks were the ones extorting money from real truck owners. He said some intermediaries who were collecting dues from truck owners under the guise of unions but resisted by PTF, in accordance with its mandate, were the ones blackmailing the body.
Opeifa further explained that most transporters who did not have callups to the port resorted to sharp practices through the waterways to illegally move consignments.
He also said trucks arrested for illegal parking or obstructing traffic that were towed to Transit Park only paid a token of N3,000 to the towing company and about N2,000 fine or land use charge to Lagos State government.