Seaports: Truckers may down-tool over alleged extortion in Eto call-up

Seaport truckers have threatened to withdraw their services over unchecked corrupt practices and abuse of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) e-call-up system popularly referred to as Eto.

In an exclusive chat with the Nigerian Tribune, Chairman of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi warned that if the trend persists, and fees collected for Eto services keeps going up, truckers might be left with no other choice than to withdraw their services in protest.

According to Chief Remi Ogungbemi, “When Eto wanted to start, we were told that we will be paying N10,000 as service charge. As I speak to you, we pay between N30,000 and N35,000 for these same services. We have complained repeatedly, but it seems our complaint is falling on deaf ears. If this trend persists, we might be left with no other choice than to withdraw our services”.

Recall that major truck owners operating in Lagos ports over the weekend had opened up a can of worms in the e-call-up system recently introduced by the NPA in February of 2021, stating that in three weeks, payment of N10,000 to access Eto services skyrocketed to N31,500.

The truck owners who spoke as members of the Council of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA), and concerned stakeholders said that implementation of the e-call up system is fraudulent and open to sabotage.

COMTUA is made up of truck owning associations in the Nigerian maritime sector, which includes: Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and Corporate Fleet Owners (CFO).

In addition, they said the system has been so compromised that, trucks that had genuine electronic call up into the ports are not allowed in, even as they stated that the trucks that are currently in the terminal found their ways in fraudulently.

They also alleged that there is a high level of collusion between officials of the Lagos State Government that were drafted into the special task force, and officials of NPA, and Messrs Truck Transit Park (TTP), who are the operators of the truck parks and the Police.

A top member of COMTUA, Mr. Leye Thompson, who spoke, said the group had given its support to the e-call up system, but lamented that the operators of the e-call up, TTP, reneged on the promises they made.

According to Mr LeyeThompson, “When they came in, they said they will be charging us N10,000, that is you pay your N10,000, meet all the requirements, and under 24 hours you will be in the port. We looked at it as a fantastic one. They did it the first week, it worked and we praised them, not knowing that it was the effect of the work of the (disbanded) presidential task team that we saw in the first and second week.

“By the third week, the electronic call-up system had collapsed and everyone thought it was a teething problem that would soon stop.

“From N10,000, it went to N21,250. Within the space of one week, it became N31,250.”

Giving a breakdown of the payments, Mr. Thompson said: “If you went to the Eto platform now, you will first pay N500 to register on their platform. Then if you have any job in the port, you will pay N10,750 to register your presence; that is, booking. After that one you will pay N6,000 for verification, then you pay N10,000 for merging, then you pay another N10,000 for exit.

“So, if you are coming from pre-gate, you pay N15,000 plus another N16,000, that will make it N31,000. But, if you are coming from a terminal that is just to move out from there to Lillypond, it will cost you N26,000. This is different from what we agreed initially. What we agreed was N10,000 when Eto started.”

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