By Godwin Obi
This is not the best of times for the United Berger Motor Dealers Association, UBMDA, described as one of the biggest car mart in the African Continent. The one- time bubbling auto market , housing hundreds of car dealers, selling different brands of fairly used vehicles imported through the nation’s seaports , according to Metche Nnadiekwe, President General of the Association, has suddenly become a shadow of its own due to lack of patronage..
According Nnadiekwe, buyers are finding it difficult to visit the Berger Auto car market because of the dilapidated road of the Apapa road, thus causing gridlock. An angry Nnadiekwe, who has lost most of his loyal Customers, who come from different parts of the country to buy cars from his car mart, lamented. ‘’The Apapa roads are bad’’ but the ‘’ trucks laden Containers and petrol tankers plying the road had made the situation worse’’.
Given an instance, he noted that a trip from Berger to Kikiri, another sprawling car market within the vicinity, takes close to four hours, blaming it on the truck owners who park on both sides of the road without caution. ‘’We don’t know who are the owners of these ‘’20’’ or ‘’40’ trucks. : whether they are owned by top government functionaries or their cronies’’, he queried.
Many believe that the situation may not have not gotten that worse at the UBMDA, if the Presidential Task Team, on the clearing of the Apapa gridlock, placed under the supervision of the office Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President has been alive to their duties. Osinbajo may have left the day to day activities of the team to Kayode Oopeifa, the Executive Vice Chairman, to enable him attend to other state matters, that may be assigned to him from time to time.
Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, may have given the team, which drawn from the various security agencies , including the police a soft-landing to them to do their job by allegedly picking some of their bills including Hotel Accommodation, an indication that the Katsina state born Nigerian President may have set up the team without financial provision to do their work. This may have exposed the the team to the manipulations of the truck laden Containers and tanker owners who prepared to spend any amount to bribe their way to jump the queue to put their heavy duty vehicles on the road without proper clearance and get away with it.
Insiders told the Value News that the Presidential Task Team may have found it difficult to clear the Apapa gridlock in the recent time to clear the Apapa gridlock to ease traffic along the Apapa Express road because of the decision of the NPA, Management to relocate the team members from the luxurious Rockview Hotel to a lower Hotel within Apapa to reduce its expenses because of the directive by Rotimi Amaechi , a former governor of Rivers state and now minister of Transportation to stop accommodating unnecessary expenses but improve on its revenue generation to be paid into the Federation Account. This may have may have thrown the Opeifa led team into confusion to do their work at Apapa and its adverse effect on the UBMDA market.
Babatunde Fashola , a former governor of Lagos state and minister of Works and Housing who is fully abreast with the state of the Oshodi Apapa Express road may have taken advantage of it to push for the award and approval of the multi-million the Contract for the rehabilitation of the road by the Federal Executive COUNCIL, FEC. The government may have known the importance of the Oshodi – Apapa road , which handles over 80% of the volume of the cargo traffic in the country that it was said to have awarded the contract to different Contractors to facilitate the its completion in order to ease traffic on the road. The worry of the UBMDA, may not be as much as that of the Lagos state government which is raking billions of naira annually as revenue from the Association and nation’s maritime sector in general.
Speaking as a businessman, Nnadiekwe, the UBMDA, President General, who may have spoken the mind of other members of the Association accommodated at the famous area has appealed to the government to ‘’fast rack the project to save their Auto business for imminent collapse.
In a related development, the President General, may have taken advantage of the low patronage of their vehicles on display for sales at their various car marts at the Berger axis to dismiss the claim making the rounds that the recent Customs clamp down on cart marts across the country affected the facility.
Note that the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving Team, Headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, and his boys , at the instance of Mohammed , the Area , Comptroller, who was said to be acting on the instruction of Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and the Customs Comptroller General, had swooped on the car marts in Lagos and other major cities in the south west for owning the government billions of naira , over sales of smuggled vehicles. The Riks led team, were said to have sealed about 80 car marts still awaiting to be re-opened for business.
According to him, no car mart was sealed at Berger, noting that it may appear as if most of them are out of business because of the Apapa gridlock. Giving an insider information, he noted that members of the Association, know the implications of selling smuggled vehicles from Republic of Benin to Customers because of the chances of refunding the money to the buyer if intercepted by Aliyu’s men or Yahaya Usman, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs, led CGC Strike Force, Zone A, Command, and who incidentally was formerly in-charge of Enforcement at FOU, Zone A. ‘’No car dealer, would want to lose his car and money to Customs’’, he had said.
Perhaps to ensure that smuggled vehicles are not sold at the Berger under Bridge various Car marts , the leadership of the Association, according to sources, carry out routine checks on the vehicles in the market to avoid exposing the vehicle dealers to FOU , Zone A or the CGC Strike Force personnel raids or unnecessary weekly extortion by Customs patrol teams and other Lagos government agencies.
Recall, that the Magazine in one of its reports had exposed how some of the car mart owners make a weekly payment of about N25,000.00 to some Customs patrol teams to avoid harassment. Note that the government had stopped the importation of vehicles through the country’s land borders on January 1, 2017.
Nnnadiekwe, who could not hide his feelings. Stressed that since the government gave the order for vehicles to come into the country through the land border, they have sensitized the members of the UBMDA, of the dangers of flouting the government order. ‘’No genuine car dealer worth his salt would still want to caught corners to clone Tin-can Island or Port Multi-services Terminal document to sell smuggled vehicles.
He told the Magazine, if we happen to find any of such dealers. ‘’ you will be encouraged to do more because you are the one losing out to Custom’’. A reasonable car dealer who wants to remain in business will stop it, he insists.
It is not surprising why some members of UBMDA, who are not Auto importers, prefer to deal directly with Auto importers who get their vehicles delivery through Five Stars, Tin can Island , port or PTML with complete documents of transactions.
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