By Simeon Mpamugoh and Tony Udemba
The leader of the Concern Truck owners in Apapa, Lagos Chief Anthony Agbanusi has called on President Muhammad Buhari to disband the presidential task force on the decongestion of the gridlock in Apapa, over what he described as unbearable attitude of members of the team.
In a protest by the group on Wednesday to register its displeasure on the way and manner members of the task force allegedly extort, intimidate and harass truck owners and drivers on the route, Agbanusi said: “We have more than 400 trucks locked up at Ibru Jetty by the task force.
“We believe that the task force was created to actually help in the task of decongesting the gridlock in Apapa to ensure that trailers move freely on this corridor of Lagos roads but they have abandoned their responsibility for antagonism and and wanton extortion, intimidation and harassment of truck owners and their drivers.
“They told us that we must cough out a whooping sum of N10m before they can opened the jetty for us. They antagonize us because we patronize ferry owners to convey our containers to the port in batches. We are not the owners of the ferry. they are private companies licensed by Lagos State Ferry Authority. We only own the trucks and use them in line with government’s plan to decongest the road. As we speak, importers at Tin Can, Apapa are groaning because of demurrage they incur everyday. Ther5e are no trucks to lift their containers from the port, a situation caused by the Engr Kayode Opeifa led presidential task force, and the shipping companies on the other hand,” he said.
He disclosed that a batch carries 8 trailers while some others has 6, “And we pay N150,000 to them and in three hours we are at the port.
Our concern is mostly on how to quicken the journey. But because we didn’t pass through the corridors of the task force：Oshodi, Mile 2, Costain and Liverpool, they label ferry route illegal, even when it is not part of their job to determine it. They want us to follow Mile 2, or Costain and spend six weeks on the road and pay N170,000 but we prefer services of the ferry authority from Mile 2 which attracts N150,000 payment. And it is not only cost effective, but also saves us weeks on the road. It takes just three hours with Ferry while we spend six week on the road,” he explained.
He claimed that it was on the debt of this forte for ferry that the task force sealed up Ibru jetty “where we parked our trucks. They blocked the entrance with iron caste slab from the construction
company and we cannot move our trucks,” he said, while calling for compensation from the federal government for man hours lost and the disbandment of the team because they were not helping the sustainability of their business.
According to him, “They have locked us out since December, claiming that they have the backing of the Nigeria Port Authority and the federal government. We know, it is not true. The Federal government should allow Ferry Authority to work and help decongest the port because the road is under construction and we must bear with the contractors until they complete the road. The federal government locked down some buses from interstate movement, and we are happy it has been relaxed. Our drivers who had been crying their vehicles were depreciating can now heave a sign of relive.
On efforts made to reach the authorities, Agbanusi said, “We have written to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police. We are not the only group that uses ferry services, Dangote and other private companies are using ferry to move their containers and they are Licensed by the
Lagos State. Foreign companies equally use ferry but the task force cannot confront them.
“It is the federal government says we should occupy one line from Oshodi, Mile 2 down to the port but when the task force came, they began to collect money. Before you enter second rainbow bus stop, you have to pay N170,000 to the task force, they will pass 150 truck on Monday, the next one would be on Wednesday when they would pass another batch of 150 trucks from Kiri-Kiri also collecting N170,000.
Then on Thursday and Friday, they would pass another 150 trucks from Fatgbem fuel station/Second Rainbow collecting same amount. If you are coming through Costain corridor, you will also pay the same amount and when you get to Liverpool, you pay another N70,000 before you get to Tin Can. But if you are coming from Mile 2, you also pay another N70,000 before you get to the second gate totaling N240,000. The routine is done twice weekly and in every trip. When you add what we
spend on task force three times a week from Mile 2, and Costain corridors which has three times a week, it totals N25.5 million,” Agbanusi sums up
When the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer Mr Bala Elkana was contacted for reaction, his line could not be reach at the time of going to press.