The controversies trailing Federal Government’s decision to repair the access roads linking Apapa ports, Lagos, may not end soon, as maritime operators and other stakeholders continue to indulge in war of words, reminiscent of the unbearable traffic logjam and blockade of the routes motorists have been experiencing for years.
The latest being the buck-passing among various interest groups on who is responsible for compounding the harrowing experience by motorists plying the routes.
This comes as the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN), accused the APM Terminals of blockading the roads with empty containers in the quest for cargo delivery at its terminal, while the Association of Nigerian Customs Licensed Agents (ANCLA), accused the CMA-CGM Shipping Company of being responsible for the gridlock.
Furthermore stakeholders in the Apapa Local Government Area believe the truck drivers are responsible due to the indiscriminate parking of their vehicles on the roads. They have therefore resolved to arrest and prosecute erring drivers in a bid to restore sanity on the route.
But the Truck Owners Association of Nigeria (TOAN), described the verdict as inhuman, and a plot to impoverish the truck owners. They also pointed an accusing finger at the government that refused to provide parking lots for port users.
Recall that last month; attempts by security operatives to bring about some orderliness among the truck drivers saw the torching of two banks and destruction of private vehicles and properties by irate drivers.
MWUN in a letter to the Managing Director of APM Terminals has given a 14-day ultimatum to rid the port access road of trucks bearing empty containers.The letter signed by the Dep. Secretary General (Admin), MWUN, Edwin Sambo, read in part: “We are deeply concerned and seriously disturbed by the blockage of the Apapa Port access road with empty containers in the quest for delivery at your terminal.
“Consequently, your management is hereby given a 14-day notice of ultimatum from the date of this letter to put all necessary arrangements in motion to ensure that the blockage caused by the empty containers are totally cleared at the end of this notice, for business and other port related activities to resume at the ports.”
Reacting to the allegation, the company, in a statement by the General Manager, Communications, APM Terminals, Augustine Fischer, said it is not responsible for controlling traffic in Apapa, and hence cannot be held liable for the gridlock in the area.
“APM Terminals Apapa is as much of a victim of the traffic gridlock as everyone else. Our employees, service providers, contractors and customers have to go through the harrowing traffic experience every day.
“These employees are the ones that operate the equipment that service the trucks and would not by any means delay or stop servicing trucks unnecessarily as it would equate to ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’,” he stated.
The National Publicity Secretary, ANLCA, Farinto Kayode said: “CMA-CGM Shipping Company is the cause of the gridlock presently being experienced at the Apapa seaport axis and its environs. The reason being that CMA-CGM Shipping Company does not have a terminal of their own to receive empty containers, and as such, it has resulted in high transportation cost, for example a destination that goes for N30,000 is now N170,000.”
Meanwhile, the Apapa Local Government Council, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), and other stakeholders have agreed that owners of articulated vehicles that violate Lagos Road Traffic Law should be prosecuted.
The Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owner (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi, argued that such resolution should not have come from the local government, because the Nigerian Constitution makes it the responsibility of the Local Council to provide Truck Parks, and they are not doing that at the moment.
He said: “Did you provide any truck park and we refused to park there? Anybody that comes up with that resolution is just out to compound the problems, and to impoverish the truck owners.
“Already, we have sighted a place that can accommodate about 1,500 trucks around Orile, but the owner wants outright payment and we cannot afford the money, which runs into billions of Naira. We are appealing to Lagos State Government, NPA, and the Federal Government to come to our aid.
“For proximity, it is in a strategic location that can serve both TinCan Port and Apapa Port. How can a port exist without modern truck terminal, and you want the owners of the trucks that are coming from the North, East, and South to come to Lagos without a designated truck park. The permanent solution is for the authorities to establish a truck terminal for us. We have seen a place with concrete floor. The place is readily available; if they pay for us, we can move in within 12 hours. They can even pay on our behalf so that we will remit it back on instalment,” he said.