The Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi in this interview called for the removal of human interference in truck admissions in Nigerian ports to reduce instances of corruption. Excerpts
What Is Your Assessment Of The Performance Of NPA Under Bello-Koko?
Well, by my assessment, I would say that NPA, has tried, especially in the automation system, the way of admitting trucks into the port. Though it’s not 100% okay, I would say that it is better than where we were coming from.
The automated system of admitting trucks into the Transit Park and Terminal is better than where we were coming from. But you see, I mean, we need to do more, because I believe that no system is perfect as it goes. But I hope by now, it ought to have improved more than that.
So, I’m still looking forward to this year 2023, for them to improve more than ever before, because the biggest and the largest room in the whole world is the room for improvement.
Anything can be better, no matter how good, there will always be a need for us to improve. So, I’m looking forward to seeing the situation whereby every truck will know when it is their turn to come when they are ready for them. And I’m looking forward to the system being able to regulate the movement of these trucks to the extent that even though they bribe their way, the barriers will not open for them.
So, I’m looking forward to a system like that. You cannot bribe the automation system, because it’s an engine. But the system by which some people are still bribing their way in, despite all the checking, despite all the automation system, means that the system is not perfect as it’s supposed to be.
For example, in some offices, when you enter there, they have programmed the staff of the offices with their finger-print. They have programmed the door to the entrance of the office. If you are coming to the office, just raise your finger, and the door will open for you. So, I’m looking forward to a system like that, whereby every truck in the program can gain access by the code.
Even though you bribe your way, through to get to the barrier, the barrier will not be able to open for you, because it’s not a human being.
So, I’m looking at that soon. We still have problems with the issue of human interference here and there, and anything that has human interference, is vulnerable to manipulation..
So, this year I’m looking for how human interference can be totally removed from the admissions of the truck, though it may be the people in the system. May be they are the people that allow compromise in the system. However, I’m still looking forward to how there can be more improvement in the infrastructure, especially the road infrastructure.
If you look at between Tincan and Mile 2, the development of work has been on that road for, I would say, almost 10 years. I don’t know why it takes us a longer time for them to put that road in order.
But, to my own understanding, the ports are the gateway to the economy. And the gateway to the economy is supposed to have one of the best roads in the country.
So, I wonder why the authority decides to just abandon the road up till now. But I want to appreciate the recent palliative which they did between Ijora and Costain because that place was another terrible place where containers and trucks normally fall on a daily basis.
But the palliative that was done recently has helped to support the fallings of the trucks and containers in that axis.
And again, let me also mention the contributing factors to the falling of containers within the Lagos Metropolis, especially. It is due to the activities of the street urchins, that is, those boys that are forcing drivers to give them money. They are contributing seriously to the falling of containers, because in most cases, they will waylay the trucks and lay stones on the traffic. You will see the street urchins on the both sides of the vehicle, terrorizing the driver, beating the driver, forcing the driver to give them money, when they refuse they will turn the two slots of the container and the driver will not know.
And sometimes it happens like that. So we are using this medium to appeal to the Lagos State government to outlaw, criminalize the activities of these street urchins. They have become a problem to the smooth running of trucks within the Lagos Metropolis.
So it is one of the major challenges confronting truckers. Also,I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the state government on outrageous bill being imposed for the removal of broken-down trucks from the roads. It is making it extremely difficult for trucks to maintain the standard as required by law.
Because the money they are supposed to use to maintain the trucks are being taken from the road with the excuse that they want to remove the broken-down trucks. So, we have written several letters of complaint to the state government to let us be removing our trucks by ourselves.
But it’s like there is a kind of conspiracy, I would say, between the operators of these vehicles that remove the broken down trucks and the ministry of transport. It’s like the letters end up on the tables of those that are benefiting from the rot of these outrageous bills that are been imposed on us.
So, I am using this medium to appeal to the state government, let them look at how they can remove the street urchins from the roads. I know it will help reduce the rate at which trucks are falling here and there.
It is not in our interest. It gives us a huge concern. Though we have embarked on a serious and vigorous campaign on safety precautions so that owners of the trucks can ensure that they put their vehicles in order.
In a situation where mirrors are fixed, glasses are fixed, headlights are fixed, traffic lights are fixed, and the hooligans are there breaking them, what do we do?.
I don’t know whether it is an arrangement so that they can be using it as a source of revenue. There are so many challenges that are mitigating against the stability and success of certain operational needs of truckers in the state.
However, I want to also say that the government has tried its best, but they have to try more to make sure that they remove all these encumbrances.
The Minimum Safety Standards By NPA, Are You People Paying Anything?
Yes, but the minimum safety standards, to my understanding, is a good development, but human factors are still there.
You see, people that are in charge, they are trying to, they are trying their best, but I want to say that there are compromises, compromise in the sense that it is you that pays the money that needs the minimum safety standards. No matter how good your truck is, no matter how standard your truck is, if you are not paying that money, I don’t think your truck will be allowed into the ports.
Cuts In…..How Much Is It?
Well, officially they will tell you it is about N15,000, but before you can get it, you can spend above 20,000 Naira and up to N22,000 when it is officially supposed to be N15, 000. So, initially, it was N10, 000 but there is no way you can pay exactly N10, 000. By the time they start the processing, there are areas you pay 2, 3, and 4, and at other times N5000.
There Are Reports That When Your Plate Numbers Are Removed, You Can Get A Import New Plate Numbers And Access The Ports. How True Is this?
Well, on the removal of the plate number, I am even complaining about it because it is against the traffic regulations for a vehicle to be moving without fixing plate numbers. But it is unfortunate that some of the security operatives are fond of removing plate numbers.
It is wrong for anybody to be removing plate numbers for whatever reason. Though recently when ETO started, they said they were requesting plate numbers before they can give them the ticket.