Alhaji Mohammed Jibrin, the Group managing Director of MIGFO Group, Nigeria limited bares his mind on the true state of terminal operations in the port; he disagrees with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on the compliance of trucks to the new minimum standard of trucks in the port. He states the anomalies that security operatives perpetrate at port gates before they can allow your trucks to go inside the port among other important issues. Read on
Sir, what is the true state of truck compliance to the new minimum standard of trucks introduced recently by the Nigerian Ports Authority to ensure smooth operations in the port?
Actually they are not complying; that minimum standard by NPA, some are not complying. If they are complying, then the NPA won’t have allowed the rickety ones to go in. You can see every truck go in, every truck including those that have no rear lights. There is nothing to indicate that the trailers going in are actually trailers but they are still entering port. You will see some without head lights yet they are still entering the port. Some of them have no spare tyre; they can take a wrong tyre just to demonstrate that they have spare tyres. All these things coupled with corruption out there; all those people at the gate, you must see them before they will allow you your trucks in.
But NPA has said that the trucks are complying with the minimum standard but you are saying a different thing entirely now.
They are still applying the same standard we have in the 1980s till tomorrow and the trucks still go inside and come out.
What do you understand the minimum standard to mean?
The standard means that the trucks have to be very standard; to have complete tyre, fire extinguisher, the driver must put on the helmet, put on your reflective jacket, there must be trafficators round the truck. In fact, the truck does not need to go inside the terminal with motor boy or any other person because you are going to face the computer and as soon as you go in, you will see the computer bring out your truck number and it will open the gate for you to go in, that is when you can say a truck is standard but till today, we have not met that standard in Nigerian ports.
What do you think is responsible for that?
Well, I can every into importing business in Nigeria wants his or her trucks to work and there is no way when you get to the entry point, you just make sure that the truck goes in no matter what it will take, that is the problem. If NPA strictly doesn’t want all these rickety trucks to enter the port, by now we would have met that standard of truck they are looking for. We have new trucks with the standard that NPA is asking for but they are still dragging the road with the ones that do not meet the standard on their way to the port.
Are you saying the officers that are supposed to be responsible for the administration of the minimum standard at the port are not performing their duties as expected?
They don’t. If high ranking officers of NPA should come out and see what is obtainable at the gate, they will know the reason. Sometimes I don’t want to mention anybody but something terrible is happening at the port gate there.
As a truck owner, what have you done to forestall this ugly trend?
What will you do? They will see you coming, the next thing, they don’t even ask you what you are there for; they will just tell you to turn your truck and go back. If you meet their requirements, they allow your truck in but if not, they will turn your truck back.
What requirement? Are they different from the minimum standards?
Yes. They have their requirements at the gate; they know them.
Can you mention some of the requirements?
Everybody is seeing what is happening there. I don’t want to be seen as if I am talking too much; some trucks will be on queue while some will enter through one way. Are the security people not there? They are making the port environment complicated; anyone that is ready to part with something is allowed into the port while those who are not ready to meet their requirement there will remain on the queue.
Recently, freight forwarders, Customs brokers and truckers embarked on withdrawal of service from the Lagos Port. What prompted it?
I don’t want to talk about this issue because the people they concessioned the port to are playing on our intelligence. They don’t have maximum equipment in the port; there is always a long queue once people go inside the port to take delivery of their consignment as a result of inefficient handling equipments. Sometimes, it may only one machine or two that are working moving from one point to the other while people are waiting and the more you are waiting, the more your TDO will expire, the more they will ask you to go and revalidate. That is what is causing the problems and it’s not your fault because you could not go in. And when you eventually go in, they will not attend to you when they are supposed to attend to you. For instance, I still some containers in the port which are supposed to be transferred to this terminal. The problem is that it takes many days to evacuate your consignments from the port because of that kind of arrangement.
The strike has been called off and the freight forwarders and truckers have come out to say that their demands have been met. Is it that they have upgraded their equipment or on what ground was it called off?
All these things you heard are just ordinary promises; nothing is on ground. Agents entering the port are still complaining that they don’t have toilets; they don’t even have where to stay. When did they put those things in place? Was it yesterday or today they brought in the equipment? All what the agreement they said that they have agreed on is just because they made some promises.
Sir, truck business in Nigeria; how lucrative is it?
It is hell especially in Lagos State because we pass through many problems. You can see part of the road within this side is okay but getting closer to the port itself, you see how the road is with two containers trucks on one side. If care is not taken, it will fall on another vehicle.
Don’t you think the roads are getting better since they are under repair now?
You should know that the port is the gate way to the nation’s economy; they should have the best road but that is Nigeria for you.
What is the state of truck business today?
Generally, the whole issue is bad. I wish you travel from here to Ibadan, you will see a lot of trucks that enter pot holes and some tumble with their tyres up due to bad road. The little you generate from the truck, the same thing goes back on to the truck for maintenance.
What is your truck association doing to salvage the members from all these anomalies that you have outlined?
We have been talking and talking, holding series of meetings with the authorities in charge but they keep promising. They will promise that they are going to do this or that. But up till now, what have they done? No change has taken place.
It is getting towards the end of the year, what do you expect business in the port to be like?
Between now and December, there are going to be a lot of businesses but you will see how people will sleep in the port because the equipment they have are not efficient for them to transact business and get out in good time.
What measures are you putting on ground to make sure your trucks beat the end of the year rush in the port?
In fact, on my own part, I will make sure I have good tyres, maximum services of the vehicles and caution the drivers not to constitute nuisance on the road and to behave well and manage the road as it is till when things improve; that’s all. The problems in the port still remain as they have always been. This is November, no change and that is how it will continue to be till next year.