The continued operations of the Presidential Task force on Traffic control on Port access roads despite the expiration of their tenure and subsequent disbandment by the federal Government has continued to attract the irk of Truckers and Freight Agents in the Maritime Sector.
They are of the opinion that the Presidential Task Force chaired by the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osibanjo which started on a very good note, has failed woefully in the discharge of its responsibility as traffic situation on port access roads keeps getting worse by day.
Western Zonal Coordinator, Association of Registered Freight Forwarders, Nigeria,(AREFFN) Vincent Okechukwu Ajanonwu while giving insight on the activities of the Task Force during a Press briefing in Lagos under the aegis of Committee of Freight Forwarders and Truck Owners(COFFAMAT) said their findings were more terrifying and more astonishing than any human can imagine.
He disclosed that the cost of moving 1/40ft container from Apapa to Ikeja rose astronomically to about N1.2million as result of the inability of ”those who were sent to sanitise the Industry.”
Vincent lamented that they have suffered huge financial loss because of these, stressing that their trucks cued on port access roads and bridges for days and weeks before accessing the ports, while their drivers who refused to give them (Task Force) bribes were manhandled, intimidated and harassed.
“We interviewed about 23 drivers and more than 50 freight forwarders and their annihilations about extortions, intimidations and harassments is not what a decent society should condone.”
“The money they pay to this people made the prices of goods and services in the market to skyrocket. At a stage, you couldn’t believe that to move 1/40ft container to Ikeja was about N1.2m as at October, 2019. We traced all those cost to the emergence of that Force.”
Continuing he said, “We drew the attention of the Shippers’ Council and they found out that the Presidential Task Force on Apapa gridlock was formally disbanded by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo. LASTMA and the Nigerian Police were mandated to control the traffic along the roads. But I don’t know they were still there and we made the Shippers’ Council to know that the daily continued stay of this force is an illegality,”
It would be recalled that COFFAMAT earlier in November threatened to withdraw their services if at the expiration of the 48hours ultimatum given to the Task Force failed to vacate the corridors of the ports.
However, the group withdrew their threat based on intelligence reports of the planned hijack of their move by hoodlums to cause mayhem in the Industry.
Meanwhile, in view of the lingering traffic situation within the port access road, freight forwarders and licensed Customs Agents have not only lamented over the delay in cargoes movement at Tin Can Island Port Complex(TICPC) Lagos, but took control of traffic management along the port axis.
They complained that cargoes trapped at the port for weeks resulted to over 200% hike in haulage charges, stressing that the situation had worsened to an unbearable level. and called on the relevant government agencies, Nigerian Ports Authority and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to address the issues squarely.