Barr. Emmanuel Gowon, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) in this interview with Segun Oladipupo explained how the traffic gridlock on the Apapa and Tin Can ports roads are caused by government negligence, terminal operators’ inability to meet up with the required standard of operations; he was quick to mention the contribution of the association to national development and how the association could single-handedly establish a holding bay if the government supports their vision among other pressing issues in the industry. Excerpts
As a substantial association that NARTO claims to be, what are you doing to put government on its toes to fix the decayed infrastructure within the port environment ?
Luckily enough, we are members of FERMA, where our National president is representing us, we are equally members of SURE –P, if you observe, most of the bad spots have been attended to but not completely though because when this thing was becoming too much lately, we took the Federal Government up and National president took it up by himself with the MD of FERMA and said it was on emergency particularly the Coconut and Western Avenue sides.
They called a stakeholders’ meeting involving NARTO PTD branch, NUPENG, Federal Ministry of Works, Julius Berger, Lagos State government and a committee was set up comprising all the stakeholders and took a tour of the places. The Commissioner of Transport and LASTMA operatives were there and they saw what we have been talking about. So, that pressure on government by us made them took some palliative measures in the sense that some spots have been done to allow movement of vehicles before the more permanent work will be done.
We have also impressed on government that we have something to offer to help in doing things and our task force is working with government in that area. They have accepted our task force members to work together with them to control traffic. So, these are some of the preserve we to put on them and we will continue to do that. Don’t forget that 80% of NARTO members come from outside Lagos so, we have told the government that if continued, it has the capacity of discouraging our drivers from coming into this place. In fact, not only taking about the dry cargo, in clouding net cargos, they are already on our neck that they cannot be undertaking risky journey anymore and coming here to suffer beyond necessity. So, the trend is there and we have told government that if they allow it to manifest into realty, it will not be good for the county and that is why they called for the meeting and the palliative measures have been taken.
Are you satisfied with the palliative measures?
They say half a loaf is better than none. At least, it has effected a change in traffic situation Apapa now; I believe people no longer have the kind of experience they used to have before now.
There have been complaints by truck drivers and some owners (not NARTO) that security operatives extort money from drivers before they could be allowed into the port arena and if you fail to give them the money, you may not find it easy entering into the port. Are you aware of this development?
Thank God you said not NARTO because our task force men are there and the reason for positioning the task force in strategic area at the entrance is to checkmate the activities of officers that will have the temptation to be unscrupulous, that might be tempted to do things that they are not supposed to do and drivers are being encouraged to liaise or report things to the task force members from the NARTO point of view and in fact our task force do not limit their operations to NARTO member trucks alone, but extend their services to AMATO who avail themselves for their services and they sometimes report some cases to the task force and they will take up such issues. No such case that has been brought to me that has not been hard led as far as Iam concerned so, I will not be in a position to say whether such problems are still existing or not but like I said, the task force is there. If other associations like AMATO and RTEAN have such problems, they can approach our task force and if it is beyond them, they can approach us here.
Does NARTO have any plan now or in future to establish a holding bay?
Yes. Infact, we have been trying to meet the government with series of letters. We had a discussion with the governor. The reason is that each time the Governor of Lagos State is to make any announcement regarding issue as this; he will say Lagos State has provided and NARTO’s response has always been that is what we need because there are no parking terminals. Government should partner with us, all we need is land, we can finance the development of parking terminal.
We need land and government is the only one that can give us land. We use contacts that can get across to the government but may be the government does not believe that we are serious about it because they did not give us attention. Infact, more of the senior officers of Lagos state government has ever taking us serous. We have always said that among all the transport associations, NARTO is the only one that has the capacity to establish a parking terminal because of our spread and caliber of membership and the number of vehicles we control in this country and the goodwill we enjoy with financial institutions within and outside the country. We are the only one that can finance the development of a parking terminal; I say that without any fear of contradiction.
What does NARTO have in the pipeline in the remaining half of the year?
You will continue to see improvement in the services NARTO renders to this country. At least we enjoy fuel everywhere in the country now. Without any problems, it is NARTO. Rice is everywhere in the country, fertilizers are been delivered to farmers in the country as at when due, all these are carried out by NARTO. So. It will continue and you further improvement in our services.