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Business News of Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Source: punchng.com

Apapa gridlock persists, Lagos blames NPA, MAN laments losses

Traffic bottleneck at Apapa, Lagos Traffic bottleneck at Apapa, Lagos

The Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Transportation, and Head of the Traffic Management and Enforcement Compliance Team Apapa, Toyin Fayinka, has blamed the Nigerian Ports Authority for the renewed congestion at the Lagos ports and the consequent upsurge in traffic gridlock along the Apapa area.

In February, the NPA introduced the electronic truck call-up system also known as ‘Eto’ designed to address gridlock on roads leading to the ports.

However, there has been an upsurge in traffic congestion raising concerns among various stakeholders.

Fayinka said, “The problem we are having today is a sudden closure of the gates by the NPA. It was not expected.

“NPA has an arrangement that for trucks to come into Apapa port, they will validate their papers. They call it ‘Eto’. That one is being anchored by Truck Transit Park and the NPA who are working together.

“Our own as the Lagos State Government is to ensure the free flow of traffic. We don’t benefit from the ticket or issue it.

“They were coming to the ports and all of a sudden were told that the NPA through the Chief Security Officer of Tin Can Port said they should close the gates. When I found out, I had two options. Either to turn these vehicles back to their garages or allow for a single lane.

“The best thing for me to do is to order that the vehicles should be turned back to their different private garages until NPA decides to open their gates.”

When pressed for the reason why the NPA ordered for the gates to be shut, Fayinka said, “I don’t know. They’ve not been able to give me any reason and that is not too good enough.”

Speaking with our correspondent, the President of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners, Chief Remi Ogungbemi, attributed the inefficiency of the truck call-up system to human interference.

Ogungbemi said, “Congestion is back on the roads because the automation system which one expects to operate optimally is not doing so.

“My understanding of automation is to remove or drastically reduce human interference regarding the movement of trucks into loading points and the terminals.

“Unfortunately, we are still expecting human interference and for anything that has human interference, definitely, manipulation will be there with people looking for ways to circumvent the system for their selfish interests.

“Even the release of the trucks is not centralised; they have many places where trucks are released. They call it ‘pre-gate’. Even if there are 20 or more pre-gates, there is supposed to be a central point controlling the release of trucks.

“If you allow all the pre-gates to be released, automatically there is going to be chaos; trucks will clog the roads.

“Anytime we are ready to allow the system to operate without putting in our own personal interest, the system will work optimally.”

The National Coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Dr Osita Chukwu, also lamented about the congestion.

He said, “When they built the ports, the roads that were meant for this port; they never knew that the volume of cargo would be up to this extent.

“The roads are less than the cargo going through it. That is one. Two, the truck may have everything needed to go through but security and port agencies will not allow them to go through like the police and Customs. They will withhold the truck and that will cause problems leading to gridlock.”

Chukwu also decried the problem of truckers who are in a haste to offload cargo which he said contributed to the chaos at the ports and increased the traffic build-up.

On how to mitigate the gridlock, Chukwu said, “Government must look holistically to build fine routes to the already existing routes or design the roads in and out of the ports that are marked with red lines, yellow lines, green lines and white lines.

“Trucks that enter the wrong lanes can then be sanctioned. That way, those who are going to work can go on one lane while truckers can be on another.”

However, the Public Relations Officer of the Tin-Can Island Command of the Nigerian Customs Service, Mr Uche Ejieseme, said the NCS had no hand in the congestion while attributing the gridlock to ongoing construction.

Ejieseme said, “If the issue is about the gridlock on the Tin-Can corridor, it is actually beyond Nigeria Customs because our statutory roles are well-defined.

“I want to believe that the congestion is as a result of the construction going on along the corridor.

“The activities of Customs are not posing any constraint in whatever way. We are very particular about trade facilitation and will do everything possible to ensure that.

“I believe that once the construction works are done, the present challenge will be a thing of the past.”

The General Manager, Corporate & Strategic Communications at the NPA, Olaseni Alakija, however, said that contrary to reports, the truck call-up system had improved.

Alakija said, “Different associations have come to the NPA, even as at last week, begging for the call-up system to be maintained. It is obvious that things have really improved.”

Responding to reports about gridlock being back on the roads as well as the NPA shutting down gates, Alakija said, “Let us go to the ports physically so we can do an on-the-spot assessment. If you’re saying, we have not reached the desired level, maybe I will agree with you. However, we usually review our statistics and when we review for this week, we will get back to you.”

The Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mr Segun Ajayi-Kadir, spoke on how the congestion was impacting on the manufacturing sector while calling on the government to develop other ports to reduce the burden on the Lagos ports.

He said, “Eighty-one per cent of manufacturers agreed that inefficiency at the national ports negatively affects productivity in the manufacturing sector.

“The challenges at the national port are hydra-headed; from the gridlock on the access road, delay in clearance of cargoes, high and undue demurrage, poor port equipment among others.

“Unfortunately, notwithstanding the various port reforms by the government, not much improvement has been achieved.

“To address this unfriendly situation, the government needs to review the current status of the ports and address all port-related challenges.

“More so, it is important to consider developing other ports outside Lagos State so as to decongest the Apapa and Tin-Can ports.”

Businesses losing billions of naira to ports congestion – LCCI
The Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr Chinyere Almona, said the persistent gridlock was caused by operational bottlenecks.

Almona said, “The Chamber believes that the major challenges we have with clearing goods from the ports and delivering to warehouses in Lagos are more of operational bottlenecks caused by excessive procedures, duplication of functions and weak infrastructural support.

“Businesses in the country are losing huge human and financial resources through loss of goods through spoilage, demurrage and extortions along the procedural chain of clearing their goods from the ports.”

She added that Customs operations needed to be reformed with reduced human interface and full automation of port operations.