PSTT, And The Quest For Corruption Free Port Corridors

By Frank Odinukaeze

PSTT, And The Quest For Corruption Free Port Corridors

Taking up the job to create order in disorder is a herculean task that is sometimes even beyond the gods, moreso when Nigeria and Nigerians are concerned.

What may be impossible for the gods are very possible for Nigerians.This is because Nigerians have antidote to the most lethal of harms, or rules.

It is therefore no surprising that the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT),would encounter ‘Berlin walls’ in their quest to make the port corridors corruption free.

The Ports Standing Task Team (PSTT) was established by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), in conjunction with the Directorate of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC), and Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) to entrench accountability and transparency, boost enforcement activities, as well as promote integrity in Nigerian ports.

Ironically and paradoxically ,Nigeria is a country that avere truth ,orderliness and honesty. it is a country that upholds a simulacrum of truth and quickly embraces falsehood and barbarity.

This is the situation the PSTT has found itself presently,where the president of COMTUA has accused the PSTT of aiding corruption.

Speaking to MMSPLUS, president of COMTUA,Mr AdeyinkaTaofeek Aroyewun said the allegation was triggered by massive corruption and extortion going on along the port corridors ,and the PSTT turning blind eye to the situation.

“Well, the accusation is that PSTT should not reduce itself to traffic management alone. PSTT is about anti-corruption practices around the port and we are complaining that there is this extortion around the port corridor by the state and non state actors, PSTT has not addressed that in any way. Nobody has been arrested and nothing was done done to them”he said .

Irked by this scenario, the COMTUA president that the impunity going on at the port corridors has not been addressed by the PSTT,he wonders why trucks buying gas and trucks delayed by call up system is been impounded by the PSTT.

” Trucks buying gas for their vehicle. Trucks that are delayed maybe by call up practices or for irregularities within the call up are now being impounded by PSTT. PSTT claims that they don’t penalaize anybody, they will only refer you to relevant agencies such as Road Safety etc. to make sure that your vehicle is in order and if it’s not in order, they will ensure you perfect your documents before they will release you. However the vehicles are detained in private facilities that charges between 5000- 10000 per day. So we complained that” he lamented.

He affirmed that ,PSTT may not be collecting money but they ( Truckers) are meant to pay for facilities that collect 5000-10000 per day as a result of arrest by the PSTT,and coupled with the fact that PSTT took them to those facilities, which further gives them the wrong impression that the PSTT is using that means to extort them.

” if we are meant to pay for facilities that collect 5000-10000 per day, we didn’t go there on our own, we didn’t have any business with those facilities, they took us there. And if you took us there, we need to know what the terms of agreement between you and that facilities that charge 5000-10000 per day are” he argued . Adding that “We are not convinced that we are not getting feed back from those facilities.That is our position” he said.

He complained further the activities of Maritime Workers Inion ( MWUN), whose responsibility it is to load Cargoes in the Ports ,but mounted illegal check points along the Port corridors extorting drivers between N1000-N5000 per point.

He note that they have more than 10 points in the Port corridor,and have blamed the PST for not doing anything about it.” We wrote officially to notify them on this. Between Mile 2 and Tin Can and between Mile 2 and Apapa axis, you will still find extortionist there, both state and non-state actors such as Police men, LASTMA,etc all of them are on the road extorting money. Even if you are entering the Port or coming out of the Port, the Customs men are still at the gate collecting illegal money from our members. And the PSTT has not seen anything wrong in this area of our contention” he argued..

Adeyinka noted that it is all these that have made them to conclude that the PSTT is aiding corruption

” Suffices to say that because we have mentioned to the PSTT open extortion and corrupt practices ,and they haven’t addressed that, and if so, and your target are Trucks that want to buy fuel, Trucks that have been delayed in call up, Trucks that have official business on the road are parts of traffic offenses?You have emphasized this and you have been showcasing it as part of your successes. We don’t see any sense in this, we came out of the PSTT, we were members of the Port standing task enlightenment team, We came out because we cannot be one sided. Corruption can not be one sided. Your corruption is targeted at traffic offenders. Whereas the major corrupt practices that crippled the economy are not being addressed by the PSTT.” he said .Adding that ,”This , is our grouse. Outside that, we don’t have any problem with them. We have promised to cooperate with them, we have started educating our members and we are not against punishing anybody that violates rules. But let there be a level playing field and let everything be transparent”

He said instead of PSTT finding ways to resolve these issues,” PSST has resulted to blackmail by saying that we are trying to paint all agencies of government bad and term them as being corrupt. And in view of that, they reported to DSS, they have reported to ICPC, they have reported to ABC, we don’t have problem with that. These agencies of government are meant to investigate and prosecute . So, in the course of this investigation a whole lot of things will be revealed. And that is what we have been saying and we stand by that” he submitted

Responding to these allegations the chairman and National Coordinator,Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) Mt Moses Fadipe,debunked all the allegations, stressing that they are calculated attempts to smear the image of the PSTT and to bing the Team to disrepute and ridicule.

Fadipe noted that this same group had made this statement

about a month ago.

” I think they made it about a month ago, immediately they made this publication we saw it in one of the dailies., When we saw the publication ,we called them ,that is COMTUA to immediately, retract the publication , giving them three days to restract the story or prove the allegation of extortion.

We equally wrote to the publisher of that story, that we are surprised that such story was published without even getting across to the PSTT.We equally demanded that the story be retracted within three days, neither of them did that in three days” he said

He said PSTT is a committee of many agencies, ,”So we indeed wrote to all agencies informing them of that story, equally informing them of the action the PSTT has taken and we were saying, who ever is held should be punished, and we are asking for an in-depth investigation for that allegation” he said

On the issue of the parks and allegations of connivance to extort the truckers , Fadipe had this to say:

” Now my reaction to the issue of the parks, PSTT is solely responsible in enssurring that there’s free passage on the road, so it is not meant to be a parking or a staking area. From Apapa gate up to Mile 2 some months back there was no passage. But now it is possible and that is the work of the PSTT to ensure that there’s free passage to Mile 2 ,because of the work going on at the bridge .Now when you park on that corridor and the PSTT meets you there they’ll ask you to move because it’s not a staking area

But most times you don’t see drivers inside, such trucks are towed, and when they are towed they tow them to the nearest park.Because in Apapa area, there are many parks, and these parks are being utilized by the LASMA people, Federal Road Safety( FRSC) or even the Lagos state task team some times, depending on where your truck is towed. They’ll be moved to the nearest park, no particular preference for any park and when you’re moved there, remember Federal Road Safety are part of the team, so when they move it to the park, the park owners know the FRSC, that they are agent of government that moves trucks there to avoid nuisance on the road and until such trucks are released by the road safety, they won’t leave you”

“So what do PSTT do when such things happens, the Road Safety will go through all the documents to ensure that everything is correct. When the documents are not up to date they’ll ask you to go and validate, whether you have an expired license or an expired insurance and when the documents are validated and brought back to the Road Safety, they’ll generate what they call remita, remita is validation of road obstruction and it’s a fine of N3,000, if there’s no driver licence, they’ll raise it and you’ll go to the bank to pay the remita with CSA, Central Bank Account of government .When paid ,you’ll come back with your evidence of payment, and everything to the Road Safety and the print out of the remita from the bank as an evidence to clarify yourself” he explained.Adding that” So based on that now, the truck will be ready for release but you must sign what they call an undertaking with the letter head of that company, if its an unusual truck the manager of the trucks must write an undertaking, because sometimes the association head or who ever is fighting for you must write an undertaking, that you will never constitute an impediment to the road. Again ,according to the law,there is a section that you should quote , that “if I ever do it again, I should be prosecuted ” and the truck will be released because there’s a document that will be issued for your truck to be released. you’ll now go back to the park where your truck was parked to to get it back he said.

Fadipe submitted that all these arrangements are none of PSTT”s problem, because according to him ,” PSTT does not run a park and PSTT does not collect money from any body physically , They don’t collect money or fine physically from anybody, nothing like that.

Anything from PSTT must be paid to the bank and that’s why we are are asking the proponent of that petition to please provide evidence which they haven’t done till now” he said.

Fadipe argued that corruption is fighting back and that is what has triggered all of these.”This is a fight for we all, but what baffles us as PSTT, let me be honest, some of this people making this allegation have been alleged of wrong things, which is evidenced, even after the petition they have been apprehended of wrong doings equally.

So that’s why we said, maybe it’s because they can not have their way that’s why they have to blackmail people” he said ,adding , “So that’s why we said obviously, this is corruption fighting back. Every day, every blessed day you’re stopping people from earning on that road “.

Speaking on the face off,the president of Association of Maritime Truck Operators (AMATO) chief Remi Ogungbemi, appealed for caution on both sides.

Ogungbemi noted that changes are going on here and there, as a result of the good works of the PSTT .

He said there’s nothing wrong if the COMTUA, had proof that PSTT is benefitting from anywhere,” Let them go and prove it and again that does not remove the fact that extortions are going on in the industry. Talking of extortion, is like sin of adultery, one person does not commit adultery cause it takes two to commit adultery.

Both the giver and the taker are both guilty according to the law, though there are certain situations which the giver is giving as a result of intimidation and harassment, if the intimidation and harassment are much, it can force one to steal, the only thing I know is that what I cannot defend, I will not say it.

If the COMTUA have proof of the alegation, well, let them go ahead to prove it” he said

He said he would however appreciate a situation where the matter is resolved amicably.

He noted that the issue is a very complex one that requires wisdom,as one has to be practical in handling it,

“I would have appreciated a situation where by they can just allow peace to reign.Yes extortions are going on and the authorities have set up a body like PSTT that comprises almost all the security agencies, in my opinion, i think we can as well team up in this because there ‘re some people that are so violent to the extend of carrying Cutlass and gun, and I don’t even have knife not to talk of Cutlass or gun, I think it would have been better we team up fully, with this Team constituted by the authorities to deal with the extortionists” he said Ogungbemi noted that this monster called extortion was the creation of some big shots in the industry who have benefitted from it and is now hurting the industry.

“Someone needs to be very careful because at a time, some of us are the architects of this extortions, some of us even collaborated, even train this people, taught them how to extort and they have known it more than people that taught them.So even people that brought, it has become difficult to tell those people to go.

Some of us have been benefitting from this , but I can confirm that many of us brought and invited them, collaborated with them. They fortified themselves and see how they can use them for personal interest and now they have become a monster, so I will also use this medium to appeal to truckers, for the fact that it takes two to tangle, let’s start planning on how to resist all these extortions, but how ever we can only do that if we agree to corporate with the authorities .By going about insulting and downgrading them or saying all sorts of unpalatable words against them is not encouraging, I’ll appeal, let’s see how we can corporate with them, so that they can assist us to fight this monster calledl Corruption along the port corridors”he concluded.

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