The Apapa port gate was shut down last week following a disagreement between truck drivers and security operatives over what the truckers referred to as excessive extortion by the security officers leading to a long queue which made road impassable for road users.
The development is coming up barely 24 hours after the Managing Director of the Nigerian Port Authority; Mallam Habib Abdullahi had said that the port was devoid of corruption tendencies.
However, the disagreement ensued because the truckers said they could no longer endure the spate of extortion being meted out to them by the joint security personnel in the port environment.
Trouble, according to eye witnesses began, after a trucker who had allegedly paid varying sums of money before arriving at the Port’s Main Gate was asked to further pay another N500 and he refused, resulting in his colleagues backing him up, even as the ports security officers, backed by men of the police, on ground also refused to open the gate or allow entrance.
Consequently, tension soared, as parked trucks ignited a traffic gridlock which stretched from Apapa Wharf to neighbouring Ijora, creating a “mother of all gridlock”, which took severe toll on easy movements at Ojuelegba and Igaanmu, at Orile,.
The truck drivers, who were under the auspices of Association of Maritime Truck Owners Operators(AMARTO) operating within the nation’s premier ports in Apapa, subsequently down tools, with many of them calling for total strike, just as some of them who had jobs on hand tried to build bridges of understanding.
The eye witnesses who spoke on conditions of anonymity also said the sporadic gun shootings came to be after an OP MESSA Unit got tired of talking to beligerent truck drivers who appeared to be more interested in escalating the crisis.
An agent who spoke in the same said when they started, it cost about N5,000 to get a truck inside the Apapa Port, until the demand for settlements gradually grew to become N20,000.
“The collection of fees at the Lagos port gate has become a regular occurrence at the gate of entry”, he stated, stressing that successive NPA Managements had kept a blond eye, while the decay festered.
However, when the Lagos Ports Manager, Mallam Nasir Mohammed was notified, he denied being aware of any allegation of fee collection by his men.
“I am not aware of any fee collection by my officers, although there has been complains of delays from the AP Moller Terminals”, he posited, cautioning against listening to drivers and their assistants who were mostly unread.
“You should also know that many of these people are touts and motor boys who capitalize on any little thing to cause chaos but we have been able to put all situation under control”, he said..
Similarly, the leadership of the two truck drivers’ association resident in the port also denied knowledge of the protest.
The Chairman Apapa chapter of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners, (AMATO), Onyeka Emechebe, said he was not aware of the protest; just as the National president and the General Secretary of the association were equally not aware, because they were all “outside the state”.
“I don’t know what is happening and I don’t think the National President, Chief Remi Ogungbemi is aware because we are all outside the state.”