BY YUSUF BABALOLA, Lagos
Extortion has returned to the port access roads as the electronic call-up system, also known as ETO, introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to solve the perennial gridlock on the Apapa and Tin-Can Island port has collapsed.
LEADERSHIP Sunday’s investigation revealed that truck drivers now get to the NPA gate of Apapa and Tin-Can Island seaports without the ETO – by paying some bribes.
When our reporter visited Apapa port over the weekend, he discovered that several garages and parks approved by NPA for truck drivers to park their vehicles before accessing the port had since been abandoned as trucks were scattered all over Ijora bridge.
Fielding questions from LEADERSHIP Sunday, a truck owner, Yusuf Liadi said he pays N80,000 to get his truck to the NPA gate, while the ETO official collects N20,000 from truck owners just to get their truck into the seaport.
Yusuf said: “Last week, the platform stopped working and the barricade was left open. Truck owners were asked to pay N20,000 each after bribing officials of the Nigeria Police and Lagos State Traffic Maintenance Agency (LASTMA) with N80,000 to allow them get to the gate.”
Another truck driver, Jamiu Adetunji told LEADERSHIP Sunday that he had never used the ETO app since it was launched in February to access the port.
“What is ETO? ETO is not working at all. You can see everything for yourself. They just used it to collect our money. All the police and LASTMA people are everywhere only collecting money. Only drivers that pay them can pass into the port. Everything has failed.
“To enter the port is not about ETO, it’s about money. You pay police and LASTMA and you enter the port. They are just deceiving us,” Adetunji said.
The president, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi also confirmed the return of extortion, saying NPA should re-strategise before the system collapses finally.
According to him, there is divided interest among agencies responsible for controlling traffic on the port access road.
Ogungbemi, who has been calling for an automated traffic system over the years, said: “I want to agree that extortion has returned, rightly or wrongly, because trucks that have valid ETO documents find it difficult to access the seaports while trucks without documents are given access after under-the-table dealing. Also, there is divided interest between the NPA, Lagos State Government and the operator of the ETO.”
On the way out of the quagmire, Ogungbemi urged NPA to go back to the drawing board before the system gets worse.
“There is divided interest among NPA, LASTMA and the operator of ETO. But I will advise NPA to restrategise before the system gets beyond what it is. This is because I can confirm that bribery and corruption have returned and should be stopped,” he said.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had designated another 17 truck parks to complement its existing garages under its electronic call-up system, also known as ETO.
This new categorisation is designed to fine-tune the platform with a view to solving the teething challenges associated with ETO in the last two weeks.
According to a statement by the assistant general manager, corporate and strategic communications, NPA, Ibrahim Nasiru, the authority warned exporters to complete documentation to avoid been denied access into the seaport.
The new categorisation is in line with the desire of the management of the authority to deepen the electronic call-up system with a view to making movement of trucks seamless and, ultimately, eliminate traffic congestion on ports’ access roads in Apapa and environs.