Interviews

INTERVIEW: Despite Cleared Tin Can Port Road, Truckers Still Face Extortion- Ogungbemi


Chief Remi Ogungbemi, Chairman of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMATO told Ismail Aniemu in this interview that truckers problems are yet to be fully solved despite the cleared road leading into Nigeria’s second largest port- Tin Can Island Port.

While commending the Eto Programme which is an automated call up system for trucks wanting to enter the ports, Ogungbemi posited that there is need for improvement to attain the full benefits of the scheme.

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Excerpt

The recently cleared Tin Can Port access road has made it easier for port users who use it on daily basis. How is it affecting you in the haulage sub sector?

It is a good development but I want to say that for we the truckers, we are paying for accessing the road.The extortionists are still around.I am looking forward to a measure that will be fully in place to sustain the achievement.


From our own part as truckers, we have suggested measures and forwarded to stakeholders especially the management of Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) for consideration.

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I believe that if our suggestions are adopted for implementation ,it will help to sustain the achivement. sustainance is the ultimate because if there is no measure in place to sustain this gain, automatically, the gridlock will come back again. This is because some people see the gridlock as their own point of sale.They don’t want anything that will remove the gridlock. In fact they are feeding fat from it

How has that also affected your tariff.Has it reduced your charges since you no longer pay to extortionists and time is saved?

The extortionists are still there but there is just a slight reduction.It is not as pronounced as it was, however, they are using another method and strategy for extortion.I know that anything that has beginning must have an end.We are not relenting, we will continue to do everything within our power to support the authority in ensuring that we sustain this achivement that has been recorded so far.

That is why on our own, we have proposed and made a presentation on how that achievement can be sustained.Coming back to the rate, the rate is nothing to write home about.The rate at which we are charging here does not correspond with the rate of the cost of operating at the port.

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Most of the truckers are running at loss.When we talk of rate, it is demand that determines the increase. When demand is very low, it will be extremely difficult to make an increase but when the demand is high, that is when we can make an increase.The volume of import has reduced drastically and it is very difficult to make any increment as at now.

Is the ETO platform used by the NPA, in your opinion a success?

Yes, it is. The volume of goods coming into the country from 10 years to this time has reduced.Other business activities have increased.The infrastructure that we are using still remains stagnant.Because of that, these infrastructures cannot be put into place overnight.

That is why we must use technology to address the problem. Eto is a good step in the right direction but requires upgrading . There is room for improvement, that is what we are hopeful about.

When the ETO came up , the automation system of admitting trucks into the port was not exceeding certain areas. There are areas,where I am looking forward for them to improve upon because there are people that are working round the clock to see how they can sabotage the exercise.

In as much as we are still having this loop hole that people are using to cut corners which means the system has not gotten to expected state.We should work towards how to improve the service in a way by which it is only trucks that are duly released by the system that the barrier at the port will open for. This may require additional automation like taking drivers biometrics for purpose of accessing the port gate.

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In a situation whereby some people are still cutting corners and finding their way to enter the port without passing through the system, it means the system needs to improve.

It is the way to go, there is no other way around it.We cannot construct another road overnight and we cannot provide a truck park because many truck parks have been taken away.That is why we see many of the trucks that are parking on access roads leading to the port.

On our own, we have identified a place close to Mile 2 that can accommodate about 6000 trucks and we are also working on other options.We have identified and negotiation is ongoing with the owners of a property at Lekki so that the traffic gridlock we have in Apapa will not extend to Lekki area, for the Lekki Deep-sea port

It is a capital intensive project that we cannot achieve on our own without the support of the authority.We have written to the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy so that he can lend his voice into how we can achieve that.That is the only way by which the gridlock can become a thing of the past.

The argument from other quarters is that you own your truck and you should look for where to park your truck and I am making them know that the trucks are coming to the park from different parts of Nigeria.When they are coming to Lagos, it is not possible for them to bring their truck park from where they are coming into Lagos.

There is need to provide a place that would serve as a marshalling yard where trucks that are coming to do business in the port will park before they are being called to load .If they are still holding on, it cannot work because even the eateries make provision for where their customer will park before patronizing them.

Will the eatery tell the owner of the truck or the car to come to the eatery with their park? It is not done.It is an aberration on the side of the authority.We have written to the authority to lend their voice so that they can help us to acquire a space.

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We are not asking for too much. If they give us money we will take.We are letting them know the process and the modalities on how we can raise money to acquire this properties and start trading it on our own.We cannot achieve it without the support of the authority. Anything that has to do with the land , it is the state authority that has power over the land.

Looking at Lilypond , it used to be like a parking bay for trucks. What have you made of it?

It is a transit park for trucks that are supposed to go into the port . People have been misusing it.Some trucks are being accumulated in the park.You can see some truck that don’t go through the transit park.They are moving freely into the port .This is causing a lot of discomfort and unfair to those abiding by the rules.

Are you saying Lilypond is underutilized?

I will not say it is underutilized.They give preference to some individuals that are free to go into the port directly without coming into the transit park.That is why we are still having some challenges.

Can we now say that the problem of free access into the port has been solved?

It has not been solved completely because no matter how good any system, policy or arrangement is, there will always be room for improvement.I am looking forward to how the system can improve to the extent that the barrier will not allow any one that cuts corners to enter the port or terminal.

There are some offices that have programmed the fingerprints of every staff member to the door of office.If a stranger wants to enter that office, no matter how the ten fingerprints is put the door will not open until when the fingers that are programmed get placed on the system.I am looking forward to how the system of ETO can be programmed to be barrier to people trying to outsmart the automation process.



Joshua Okoria

Joshua Okoria is a Lagos based multi-skilled journalist covering the maritime industry. His ICT and graphic design skills makes him a resourceful person in any modern newsroom. He read mass communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University and has sharpened his knowledge in media practice from several other short courses. 07030562600, hubitokoria@gmail.com

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