Port users, commuters and other motorists are currently groaning over the worsening gridlock on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and along the Marine Bridge, Ijora, as trailers and tanker drivers have taken over these routes despite the implementation of the electronic call-up system by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Lagos State Government.
The e-call up system, which is being driven by an app known as eto, was designed by NPA to control the movement of trucks to and from the port as part of efforts to address the Apapa gridlock. Under the system, all trucks are expected to vacate the roads and wait at designated parks until they are called into the ports when needed.
However, two months into the implementation of the new system, there seems to be no end in sight to the intractable gridlock with NPA and Lagos State Government appearing helpless as truck drivers continue to park indiscriminately on the roads.
It was gathered that some truck drivers, due to the alleged slow process in booking of trucks by the Truck Transit Park (TTP), the company managing the eto application, have abandoned the designated parks to remain on the roads and bridges where they bribe their way into the port with fake e-call up slip in connivance with security personnel deployed to manage the gridlock.
The action by these truck drivers, coupled with the poor access roads and ongoing construction along the Mile Two-Tin Can Island Port road, has compounded the gridlock as motorists spent several hours trying to get into Apapa yesterday.
All the major roads into Apapa were completely taken over by trucks and petroleum tankers yesterday. The traffic stretched to other major highways including Eko Bridge and Ikorodu Road.
Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS, National Publicity Secretary, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Stanley Ezenga, said there has not been any respite on the road despite the e-call up system, which he said has become a money-making venture for some people benefiting from the situation.
He said the traffic situation persists due to poor access roads and the failure of the government to prevail on the contractor handling the construction of the Apapa-Oshodi expressway to expedite action.
He said, “Why won’t there be gridlock when the NPA electronic call up is just a nomenclature. The e call-up system is a money-making venture for NPA and some people are benefiting from it. For each call-up, trucks pay N10,000 but this is just the official money. They still part with other money being given to security operatives before they get to the port.
“So who is fooling who? From the onset, I know there will be issues with the e-call up because the main issue that has to do with the gridlock coupled with the state of the road has not been addressed. You can only come into Apapa through Wharf Road because the other road from Berger to Trinity is impassable.
“They invited the Navy, created a task force but the gridlock has negated all of them. The e-call up is not working. That is why the gridlock is still there. It is the same road the trucks will pass when they are called and when they are not called upon and yet the issues that made them be on the road have not been addressed.”
The National Coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Importers and Exporters Coalition (SNIFFIEC) Osita Chukwu, who lamented the pain and frustration clearing agents go through to access the port, described the traffic situation as terrible, with armed robbers seizing the opportunity to rob motorists and commuters of their valuables day and night.
“Look at Mile Two road, the government knows quite well the importance of the port so why break all the roads just to show you are working while people are being stuck in traffic? On a daily basis, hoodlums and arm robbers attack people at Mile 2. These are things that the government should look into if we really want the e-call up to succeed because there are vested interests sabotaging the system,” he said.
Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi, said the e-call up system is fraught with several irregularities including corruption in the system; hence it has failed to address the gridlock.
Ogungbemi accused NPA, Police and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) officials of extortion at various checkpoints.
He said any truck driver that refuses to part with money ends up not being able to access the port even if he has an eto ticket.
Ogungbemi noted that trucks without eto tickets gain access into the port easier than those with genuine tickets, especially at night.
Lagos govt admits shortcomings in Apapa traffic management
Meanwhile, Lagos State Government has expressed dissatisfaction over the current traffic congestion in Apapa and environs despite the introduction of the electronic call-up system, saying more work needs to be done for sanity to be restored in the area.
Commissioner for Transportation, Frederic Oladeinde, made the remark on Tuesday, during the year 2021 ministerial press briefing as part of activities marking the second anniversary of Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu in office, held in Alausa, Ikeja.
Oladeinde said the only permanent solution to congestion in Apapa is to have other functional alternative ports in other parts of the state, which the state government is already constructing in Lekki and Badagry.
However, as part of efforts to reduce traffic gridlock in the area caused by activities of the truck drivers, the state government said it has commenced talks with the leadership of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) on modalities to absorb oil tanker drivers into e-call up system.
He said the state government has increased the hectares of land at Bola Ahmed Tinubu Truck Park in the Orile from 12 to 21 hectares in order to accommodate and keep off more trucks from the road.