By Stephen Ubanna
When Hassan Bello, a Lawyer and Executive Secretary, Nigerian shippers Council, NSC, gave his November 2020, promise, that the Apapa gridlock, which had defiled all known solutions would be removed btween January and March 2021, nobody took him serious.
This is because the Presidential Task Force Team on the decongestion of the Apapa gridlock, under the Vice Chairmanship of Kayode Opeifa, a one-time Commissioner of Transportation, in Lagos state, which had derived its powers from the highest level of government, the Presidency, with members drawn from the various security agencies had failed to do so.
The failure of the Opeifa ld Presidential Team to clear the Apapa gridlock may have informed why Babajide sanwo-Olu, the All Progressive governor of Lagos state, had used his contacts to penetrate the ranks of the Presidency in order to get the residential nod to allow the state take over control of the management of the AApapa traffic from the Opeifa Team. He had his way.
The governor may have given an insight of what the state government will do to clear the Apapa mess when he said that the Operational template for the Opeifa led Team would be further ‘’be enforced by a combined team of officers of the Lagos state Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, and the police’’. Recall that the Committee of Freight Forwarders and Maritime Truckers, COFFAMAT, had blamed the Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman , led Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, the Presidential Task Force on port decongestions and the Police for the Corruption that had allowed truck drivers to park indiscriminately on the road.
The Council of the Maritime Transport Union and Association, CMTUA, could not agree with the claims of COFFAMAT, that the NPA, Prresidential Task Force Team and the Police should be blamed for the Apapa gridlock. The group had accused COFFAMAT, Truck drivers and other industry stakeholders of not playing by the rules, thus leading to the Apapa gridlock.
In taking over the management of the Apap Traffic from the Opeifa Team, Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos state governor had vowed’’ to checkmate the activities of all the operators that had led to the gridlock being experienced at the apapa area’’. The governor who could not understand why trucks laden with Container load of gooods not yet called upon for loading at the ports were indiscriminately parked on the newly rehabilitated Tin-can Island road, instead of moving into the approved terminal provided by the government for it had promised to put it to a stop.
While the Lagos state government was making plans to restore sanity to the Apapa road, the officials of the NPA and NSC, were said to have set the necessary machineries in motion to put an end to the perennial Apapa gridlock before the end of the first quarter of 2021.
The NSC, Executive Secretary who may have gotten an insider information on the plans of the NPA, to clear the Apapa gridlock once and for all , had said that the port operations would no longer be the same again, stressing that ‘’it would be digitalised and contactless as importers with their agents would no longer be allowed to go into the port to make any payment or conduct other transactions, as all transactions would be conducted on line’’.
He was said to have told those that cares to listen that the NPA, which is under the close watch of Hajia Usman, had concluded plans to deploy electronic call-up system to manage the Apapa traffic, e- Customs, and provision of scanners. The Customs Authorities may have taken the issue of provision Scanners serious as Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, had confirmed the procurement of three scanners by the ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, stating that it would be deployed for operations to Apapa, Tin-can Island and PortHarcourt Area II, Onne, Rivers state to improve their works.
True to the NSC, Executive Secretary’s promise that NPA , is set deploy electronic call-up system for trucks as part of its efforts to clear the Apapa mess, it was said to have kept to it. As a prelude to the deployment of the electronic call-up system, the NPA, Managing Director was said to have reached out to Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos state governor to alert him of the arrangement in order to synergise their operations to ensure that trucks are not parked indiscriminately on the Apapa road again.
An eyewitness account confirmed The Value Nes that the day she went to Alausa , the Seat of the Lagos state government, to see the governor on the Apapa g inridlock, issue, she was said to have stood firm in her decision by calling for the governor’s support. The NPA ,Managing Director may have known that those who were benefitting from the Apapa gridlock, particular, the security Operatives, would fight back that she had decided to work closely with the Lagos state government to ensure that LASTMA personnel would be fully deployed o the trouble areas on the Apapa road in order to toe the trucks parked indiscriminately on the road.
She was said to have carried the Industry stakeholders along including the truck drivers in the deployment of the electronic call-up system for the trucks as part of the efforts aimed at easing the Apapa traffic. It was therefore not very surprising that when the agency announced the Commencement of the e-truck call-up at the Lagos port Complx, Apapa and Tin-can Island, last January, it did not take the importers with their agents and the truck drivers unaware. They were said to have fully embraced it except some pocket of opposition from the security circles and the Apapa local government, whose sources of illegal income had been caught off.
Ibrahim Nasiru, an Assistant General Manager and the NPA, Head of Corporate and Strategic Communications,, had said that with the deployment of the electronic call up system technology,’’all trucks doing business at the Lagos ports would be required to park at the approved parks until they are called up into the port through a new application called’’ eto’’ platform.
The Authority, according to informed sources had approved seven Satellite trucks park, shipping Companies empty Container holding bays and waterfront loading and Landing ports for ,Roll in and Roll out barge operations. The Authority was said to have also approved two pre-gate truck terminals including Truck Transit Park ltd at Lilypond, IAjora and MOB Truck Park at Tin-can Island port. The two Truck Parks have been opend to stake hlders for use. As at Friday, March 5, 2021, there were so many trucks laden with Containers at the Park but the patronage of the Lilypond park is still very low, an indications that NPA , still have more works to do.
Given an insider information of the workings of the‘’eto Platform, Nasiru, the NPA, spokesperson said ‘’itwould be responsible for the scheduling , entry and exit of all trucks into the ports’’. The project which took off taken -off on Saturday, February 27, 2021, with LASTMA, officials and security operatives patrolling the Apapa road with their heavy duty toe vehicles may have forced the truck owners to relocate from the road to the approved to parks in different parts of LAGOS. The most patrnised of the truck parts , going by the Magazine findings is that of Tincan Island , which is opposite the port second gate.
. The NPA, spokesperson was said to have advised the importers with their agents and the truck drivers to download the eto application from goggle play store or sign up at http://eto.ttp.com.ng to avoid playing into the hands of NPA, security operatives or Lagos state government LASTMAA officials to enable them to register accordingly.
The importers with their agents including the Truck owners may have known that they cannot afford to flout the NPA new order to restore sanity at the Apapa road which had become a nightmare with the involvement of the Lagos state government which is looking for money from different sources to execute its capital-intensive projects that they have to comply to take their trucks to the approved parks.
The Magazine was shocked to find out that there was no truck parked along the Oshodi –Apapa Express way on Friday, March 5, 2021, as all the truck laden Containers load ofcargoes have been cleared and transferred to the approved parks. In less than one hour the Magazine had gone round Apapa to things for himself. FROM Oshodi-Apapa Express Way to Ijora, the story was the same: no Truck laden Container was found on the road or any street at Apapa. Some of the esidents of Apapa, including workers who spoke to the Magazine , gave kudos to Hajia Usman and the Lagos state governor for the bold initiative that had had restored at Apapa port.
The good works of Hajia Usman, the NPA, Managing Director and the Lagos state government may have been appreciated in the Presidency that on Tuesday, March 2, 2021,Lauretta Onocie, a Media aide to the Nigeria born President who had announced that ‘’the long queue of parked trucks that were responsible for the Apapa gridlock which had been a nightmare for residents and motorists in Apapa axis of Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre have been removed.
With the removal of the parked Trucks on the road to Apapa by NPA, and the Lagos state government, Onochie had said that ‘’the development inspires hope in Nigeria that ‘’nothing is impossible to achieve if there is a political will to act and stand our grounds when the wailers mobilise hatred’’.