Truckers want Navy off port access roads
By Kenneth Jukpor
Following the crisis which ensued after a fracas between truckers and the Nigerian Navy at the Apapa port earlier today, truckers have called on the Federal Government to evict the Nigerian Navy from the Lagos port access roads.
Apapa port area was thrown into confusion this morning between 10.30am and 12noon as gunshots were fired by personnel of the Nigerian Navy in a clash with truck drivers over alleged extortion of the drivers by the Navy.
Our correspondent gathered that, at the entrance of the Apapa port, port users scampered for safety during the chaos while commercial activities around the port were disrupted.
The crisis was dissipated by a combined team of OP MESA which was drafted to the gate of Lagos port complex Apapa where the battle was intense.
According to an eye-witness account, “truck drivers are agitating that Navy should go back to their barracks, they don’t need them to load cargoes from the port. One person was shot during the fracas”, she said.
Speaking with MMS Plus on this development, the Chairman, Dry Cargo Section of Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Inuwa Mohammed stressed that truckers had been holding their peace in anticipation of a better business environment since NPA’s introduction of Lilypond and Tin Can Second Gate as temporary Truck parks for call-ups at the ports.
However, he lamented that the situation had worsened as the Navy have refused those with NPA truck call-up from accessing the ports as well as trucks heading to Lilypond.
“As truck owners we have been pleading with our drivers informing them that we have written to the Presidency and held talks with NPA on this matter. They have been calm all this while, because we begged them. It is true that the money extorted from them by the Navy comes from us, but these drivers are at the receiving end of the cruel molestation, beating and intimidation by armed officers” he said.
He revealed that the executives of the Council of Maritime Transport Union and Association (COMTUA) had urged all trucking groups to contact their members at Apapa as soon as the riot began, in a bid to resolve the crisis.
Inuwa urged the government to look into the chaos caused by the Navy at the ports, noting that Naval officers are better placed to combat the pirate attacks on the nation’s waterways, while the Police, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) are better trained for traffic management.
Similarly, the Chairman of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi reiterated the position of the aggrieved truckers as he told our correspondent that the Navy had become a nuisance on the port access roads.
Ogungbemi lamented that the Naval officers have become hell-bent on extortion, noting that even NPA have been unable to control the unruly officers.
“It is highly undemocratic to have armed personnel on the port access roads controlling traffic. We want them to go back to their barracks. The Nigerian Police, FRSC and LASTMA can handle the traffic on the port access roads. We want the Federal Government to get the Navy off the roads” he said.
Recall that NARTO had criticized the Nigerian Navy for registering over two-hundred (200) fake truck parks where call-ups could be generated; a decision which saw trucks troop back to the ports without call-up and fueled the extortion by security operatives on the port access roads.
The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) also recently accused the Nigerian Navy of complicity in the traffic situation in and around the Lagos ports thereby adding to the cost taking out cargo from the ports and returning of empty containers back to the ports.
The association accused the Nigerian Navy officers who head the taskforce teams on traffic decongestion of extorting as much as N150,000 from the truckers and later reducing the amount to N80,000. The leadership of the association also wrote to the Commander of the NNS Beecroft requesting for a meeting between the association and the Nigerian Navy.
In April, the Navy allegedly found over N100million in the bank account of an officer (name and position withheld) who amassed the colossal sum from bribes collected at Apapa port environs as a security personnel responsible for the truck call-up management.
While the Navy National Spokesman, Commodore Suleman Dahun told MMS Plus that he wasn’t aware of the incident as at press time, all efforts to reach the spokesperson of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT, Mr. Charles Brinemigha were futile.