* As Presidency Issues 2 Weeks Ultimatum To Eliminate Gridlock
By Kenneth Jukpor
As the Presidency issued a directive demanding immediate eradication of the Apapa gridlock and the restoration of law and order in Apapa and its environs within two weeks, truckers have highlighted the lack of holding bays by shipping companies as the bane of Lagos port crisis.
The directive was contained in a document signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, yesterday.
As part of efforts to facilitate this important assignment, operators of trucks and tankers have also been directed to vacate the port access roads within the next 72 hours.
This directive is a as a result of an emergency meeting convened by President Muhammadu Buhari and chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, on the 25th of April, 2019.
The meeting was convened to proffer lasting solutions to the gridlock around the Lagos Ports, as the traffic congestion has continued to restrict all operations and livelihood in the area.
At the meeting, key heads and representatives of relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, including the Honourable Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola; Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu; representative of the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral B.E.E Ibe-Enwo; Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Salaam Taiwo Olufemi; and the Executive Director, Marine and Operations, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Dr. Sokonte Davies, among others were present.
Consequently, a Presidential Taskforce, chaired by Vice President Osinbajo was established to restore law and order to the area within two weeks.
The Taskforce, which will report directly to the President, has included on its Terms of Reference the development of an efficient and effective management plan for the entire port area traffic, including the cargo, fuel distribution and business district traffic; enforcing the permanent removal of all stationary trucks on the highway, and the development of an effective manual truck call-up system, pending the introduction of the electronic truck call-up system. It also includes the implementation of a workable Empty Container Return and Export Container Truck Handling Policy, amongst others.
Members of the taskforce include Mr. Kayode Opeifa, former Commissioner of Transport in Lagos State, as the Executive Vice Chairman; a representative of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC); the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC).
Other members include a special unit of the Nigeria Police Force led by a Commissioner of Police, representatives of the Truck Transport Union, the Lagos State Government through the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), and other relevant MDAs.
The Nigerian Navy and all other military formations have also been mandated to withdraw from traffic management duties in and around the Apapa axis, while military and paramilitary checkpoints in front of the ports and environs are to be dismantled.
In addition, LASTMA has been authorized to move into Apapa as the lead traffic management agency, while the NPA is to commence the immediate use of the Lilypond Terminal and Trailer Park A as a truck transit park. The directive further mandates compliance by all security personnel and MDAs, while heads of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, and all other security operatives are to ensure their officers’ adherence to the new directives.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) has admonished the Federal Government to ensure shipping companies provide empty container holding bays for their containers.
The Executive Secretary of NARTO, Mr. Aloga Ogbogo who was speaking with MMS Plus yesterday, maintained that most of the trucks found around the port access roads were carrying empty containers heading to the ports as a result of absence of container holding bays.
“The problem of the Lagos port access roads wouldn’t be solved until the government is able to find out those shipping companies who have forced truckers to return to the ports with empty containers. Most of the trucks on the port access roads are carrying empty containers back to the port as a result of the inability of shipping companies to provide holding bays. This problem must be addressed and an effective truck call-up system would also be needed to regulate the movement of trucks on the port access roads”, he said.
The NARTO boss also commended the government for kicking-out the Navy from the port access roads, noting that newly constituted taskforce would fare better in traffic management at the ports.
However, Ogbogo admonished the government to utilize other private truck parks as Lilypond and Tin Can 2nd Gate parks wouldn’t sufficiently absorb the over 5000 trucks which ply the Apapa and Tin Can port environs on daily basis.