By Oyeniyi Iwakun
In this exclusive interview with MMS Plus, Mr. Victor Onyiriuka, a stakeholder in the industry, he highlighted some key challenges confronting the nation’s ports which have been exerting adverse effects on the nation’s economy. He believes the Tincan Island, Apapa and other ports access roads in Nigeria including the Airports should be given a national priority while urging NPA to liaise with the federal government to fashion a way forward..
You were raising some issues during the NPA’s stakeholders’ meeting on ports access roads, can you please recap?
Yes! Like I said, the most important roads in any country are the roads leading to the international airports and seaports in that country. Even those that we call small countries, like Togo, Benin Republic and the rest of them, have very good access roads to their airports. But in our own case, our ports roads have been like that for many years. It takes two weeks for truck drivers to be able to access the ports when they want to drop containers. Within those two weeks, they stay on the roads without water houses and toilets and it is on the same roads that they take their bath. That is why you see them defecating all over the places in Apapa. If you look at the whole of Olodi Apapa and Ajegunle, they have littered the entire place and made it hazardous to residents and other commuters. The environmental sanitation in that area leaves more to be desired. Such situation is ugly and it is a social aberration. So, the management of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) should go and meet with the federal government and let them know that the ports roads are very important. It should be given a national priority by getting it repaired.
Over time NPA and other ports stakeholders have been holding meetings while people have been calling for action oriented approach to solve the problems but it has always been more of talks. What do you think could be responsible?
Well, I think it has something to do with the reasoning. When you talk about leadership, there is what is called individual’s cognitive repertoiredevelopment which has to do with individual’s thinking skills. So, if we know that federal government is responsible for something, they should be made to do the needful. The ports roads are federal roads, we don’t need to start talking about calling on Dangote or other stakeholders to come and repair the roads. Stakeholders have tried their best. They contributed N10 million or so just to put an end to this problem but as they are doing the rehabilitation, it is getting worse every time. The best thing is for the federal government to take up their full responsibilities and give the roads the desired attention once and for all. We pay a lot of taxes in this country. I know how much I pay as tax, even to Lagos state government. So, they should give that road the desired priority. Again, one of the problems that I have observed is policies inconsistency and indiscriminate change of leadership in the industry’s regulatory agencies. Today you bring in a new Managing Director, the next day you remove him and bring in another person. This has created more problems in the system. How many people can go to Abuja and talk to the National Assembly? I am aware that there is a committee saddled with handling issues related to federal roads. The truth is that you have to convince them that ports roads is a national priority because the nation’s economy is tied to the ports. But the challenge is that those entrusted with leadership in the industry are always careful when addressing this issue, they often do not want to talk, and probably because they can be removed by the authorities and replaced anytime they do so. That is why they are finding it difficult to achieve a lot of these things. So, a lot of courage and focus is required here.
You just mentioned that some stakeholders contributed certain amount of money for the road construction.
Yes, the stakeholders paid N10 million each for the construction of the palliatives between Sunrise, under the bridge to Trinity bus stop. The most awful part of the story is that many companies have retrenched their staff because it has become very difficult for oil firms to bring petroleum products out of the tank farms. If you receive a vessel in, you cannot truck out easily; because of bad roads it will take you at least two weeks to do so. Cargoes are diverted to satellite towns. In trade fair, they receive above 34 vessels in a month while in Apapa jetty they receive less than 10 in month.
In any organization, we have what is called latent and manifest functions. The manifest functions are those works you are doing solely because you exist while the latent functions are those functions that other people benefit indirectly from your activities. People would sell foods, recharge cards and others because you are doing the business and making proceeds. Also, Banks will collect money because you are loading or because there is product. Assuming a bank was receiving N50 Million in a week when the road was good, they will be receiving less than 5% of it in a week now because there are less loading activities now due to the bad roads. The situation is a total economic quagmire. In fact, salaries are not being paid early now in most depots because there is no business. You will now discover that one singular act of neglect can lead to a lot of things. It has so many reactions because if the roads are not repaired, trucks cannot move easily and cargoes may not come to discharge products and even if they do, they cannot be loaded out of the ports easily and because they are not coming in, there is no business. And you know that when there is no business there will be resentment and people cannot sell. That is what I am talking about. It is a very clear thing that even someone insane would see.
Still on the contributions you talked about, can you shed more light? Is it NPA that sourced for it or what?
No, it is the stakeholders that initiated the idea. The Stakeholders are all the owners of the Tanks farms and companies in the Ibru Jetty. They even extended it to Banks because when business thrives, Banks would benefit. So, I believe that some Banks also paid. You can get details from the Ibru seafood’s management. I am sure they can speak on it authoritatively.
Not too long ago, we learnt that the Dangote Group wanted to construct the Tincan Island road.
Yes, I also learnt that Dangote was interested in doing it but the fact is that, we shouldn’t always be relying on an individual who is also a tax payer. Dangote is a large employer of labour and you don’t expect him to continue to repair roads for you when there is a body who should take responsibility. NPA needs to wake up and be courageous to take drastic steps. There are two roads in a country where you can see the foreigners moving around: The road to international airport, and the road to the seaport.
What would you briefly suggest as the next line of action, with the above analysis?
The suggestion is what I have just said now. I emphasized on national priority that the NPA’s Managing Director and her team should go to Abuja liaise with the necessary authorities and explain to them that these roads should be given a national priority. Funds should be made available to work on those routes as a matter of expediency. Even if it is not included in the budget now, it should be part of the supplementary budget. You see this issue has nothing to do with politics. It is a national reality. It is something that everybody should benefit from. Do you know that many people have died on these roads? Trailers are falling and crushing people and so many criminal activities are going on there every day.