*Describe gridlock as corrupt enterprise for terminal operators, truckers, security operatives
* It is a big shame for Nigeria – BusinessDay Publisher
Maritime industry stakeholders Tuesday disagreed with the Executive Vice Chairman of the Presidential Task Team, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, who claimed that the gridlock in Apapa has ended.
Opeifa who spoke at a stakeholders meeting organized by the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) on how to end the gridlock claimed the issue of gridlock was an imagination of the media.
Opeifa said even when the road blocks had been cleared by his Task Force, the media was always reporting about the gridlock because according to him, Correspondents were never on ground to witness the situation.
However, stakeholders, including residents who attended the programme disagreed with Opeifa insisting that nothing has really changed, proving the media right.
Speaking one after the other, the stakeholders including residents and representatives from the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) said what has come to play on the issue of Apapa gridlock was the creation of a corrupt enterprise among security operatives.
Among the stakeholders was the Publisher of Business Day Newspaper, Mr. Frank Aigbogun who gave account of the ordeal that residents go through as a result of the gridlock, insisting that nothing has changed as against the claim of Opeifa.
According to Aigbogun what is happening in Apapa was a big shame to Nigeria.
Aigbogun said, “I appeal to the NPA, presidential task force, terminal operators; there should be unity of purpose; there has to be an alignment in terms of what we should do to solve the problem. I don’t think it serves anyone well if there is no unity among all these key people. There should also be unity among all the armed forces. The truth of the matter is there is still gridlock in Apapa. Kayode said it is the media’s imagination; that is not correct. There is gridlock in Apapa and we all know it.
“The NPA just acknowledged it. We have seen pictures of what happened in September last year in Apapa. What happened between then and now? Why is it that it is now taking people one and half hours, two hours, sometimes they call me from office in Apapa, “Oga don’t come today at all and you say there is no gridlock in Apapa. My church is in Apapa, on Sunday I was trying to come to church from Ikoyi I couldn’t come to church. I signed a cheque last week to take three containers of newsprint from Apapa; each of them was N690, 000. When we started in Apapa we were paying N25,000 and N40,000 to bring a container; it rose to N100,000 and now it is N690,000. Who is sharing the money here?
NPA’s Apapa Port Manager, Mrs Funmi Olotu also said it was surprising for anybody to claim that the gridlock has ended when she finds it difficult on daily basis to drive to her office because of the crisis situation.
Olotu said, “We are talking about why the trucks should not be staying on the road, why are they there? Because there are armed security men on bridges passing, controlling, saying you can go; you cannot go. Can we have the armed men off the bridges so that the trucks can be moving? We know points where we can stop the trucks. What we have said is that transit Truck Park are no garages, we are not inviting trucks to stay at the transit parks.
“One of the things we have noticed is that some of the illegal trucks approaching the port either have uniformed men driving them or escorting. What we have also discovered is that during the day when all eyes are open everybody want to comply with the call up system, then we now say 12 am to 5 am manufacturers trucks can move but their drivers have also turned the opportunity into a business by allowing other trucks and collecting N20, 000 per container”.
The President of MAN, Apapa Branch, Mr. Frank Onyeagwu, also expressed surprise about the claim by Opeifa that the gridlock has been addressed.
He said, “ Please let all stakeholders work together and see what we can do so that there is sanity along this axis because it is actually costing business quite a lot.”
The terminal operators, particularly the APM Terminals were accused of deliberately causing the crisis for obvious economic gains.