How extortion at port worsened Apapa gridlock

IMPORTERS, clearing agents and truck owners have expressed concerns over worsening gridlock along the port access road at the Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC), Lagos, accusing officials of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), security department, police and the presidential task team on Apapa gridlock of massive extortion. 

The stakeholders said in addition to the poor condition of the port access roads, extortion by security and traffic control officials remains the major cause of the unending gridlock on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway.

Recent reports have exposed a racket of security officials at the Tin Can Island port complex, which extorts between N70,000 and N200,000 per truck before such trucks are allowed into the port.

Some truck drivers who expressed frustration over the development specifically accused the officials of demanding huge sums of money from them before their trucks were granted access into the port.

The situation, it was gathered, has affected port operation as cargo delivery has been considerably slowed down, with a sudden rise in haulage and shipping cost, fuelling inflation as a result.

A truck owner and an executive member of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Sanni Bala, said security agents, including the presidential task team on Apapa gridlock, demand huge sums of money, depending on the “bargaining power” of the truck driver in order to be allowed into the port.

He said: “The issue of unlawful extortion by NPA security officials, police and the presidential taskforce team along Apapa and Tin Can port road axis has become a daily occurrence and an institutionalised phenomenon that is taking a serious toll on the income of truck owners and exacerbating the plight of motorists on that axis.

“The issue of traffic on the access road is artificial and caused by human factor because, without the traffic, there is no how they can extort people. So they have to create the traffic by delaying truckers.

“They collect from N70,000 to N200,000 and, as a result, many truckers have been left with nothing to take home and maintain their trucks.”

Also speaking, chairman of AMATO, Chief Remi Ogungbemi, corroborated the position of Bala, saying that: “What is happening at Tin Can is a situation of the more you look, the less you see. Business is still going on as usual and the task team has refused to leave because they are benefiting from the chaos. They have formed a cartel and if you are not in that group, they will not pass your truck, no matter who you are.”

A clearing agent operating at the Tin Can Island Port, Ojo Akintoye, said there were more than four roadblocks between the first and second gates of Tin Can Island Port, set up by the presidential task team, police and NPA officials, where each truck is expected to part with money before being allowed passage into the port.

“From first gate to second gate, we have about four roadblocks mounted by the security agents and the trucks must part with money before they can move. As we speak, we pay between N1.1 million and N1.2 million per truck as against N100,000 to move our containers out of the port. The cheapest truck you can get to hire is N1 million. We have never experienced it this way before,” he said.

National Vice President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto, called for the disbandment of the presidential task team, which he said has become “a money-making machine.”

According to him, clearing agents lose an average of N300 million weekly to illegal collection by NPA security officials, police and members of the presidential task team, adding that to enter the port, truck operators pay as high as N280,000 to security operatives on the road.

Farinto also lamented the absence of an electronic call-up system, saying that the manual call-up system being used by the NPA is fuelling corruption. When contacted on the issue, spokesman of the NPA, Adams Jatto, urged victims of extortion to report to the agency.

“We hear of extortion at the ports, but nobody has come forward to report that he has been extorted. We have a head of security at the Tin-Can port. If victims of extortion cannot approach the head of security, they should write to the NPA headquarters about their ordeal. If we don’t get report of extortion at our complaint boxes, it is assumed that nothing happened,” he said. Efforts to get the operational head of the presidential Task Force team, Mr Kayode Opeifa, failed, as calls made to his mobile phones were not responded at the time of filing in this report.

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