Truck and tanker drivers in Apapa, Lagos, have pleaded with the federal government to immediately extend the tenureof the Presidential Task Team set up two weeks ago to remove trucks from port access roads and restore sanity, warning that not doing so would worsen the situation.
General Coordinator, Council of Maritime Truck Unions Association (COMTUA), and General Manager Operations, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Steven Okafor made the call on behalf of his colleagues at a joint press conference with the Task Team and other stakeholders at the port.
He said, “I want to use this opportunity to thank the federal government and the Task Team for the wonderful job they have done so far. We are not on the payroll of any government; we are private sector operators, so we say things the way they are. If they are not telling the press the truth, then we will tell you the truth. “We were the ones who petitioned the former task force because of the huge extortion. Our happiness today is that the government has involved the unions in the task team, which never happened before; we are glad and will continue to give the government kudos.
“We cannot compare what the task team achieved in two weeks to any effort put in place in the last few years. We are requesting that the task team’s tenure be extended so that they can completely sanitise the system. Without that, we will go back to where we were or even worse, we need to stabilise what we have now and sustain what they have achieved. Government should please help us and make sure that they extend their tenure.”
Speaking earlier, Chairman of the Presidential Task Team and former Commissioner of Transport in Lagos State, Mr. Kayode Opeifa stated that the team had achieve the goals set out in its terms of reference outlined by the government when it was set up two weeks ago.
While praising members of the team for their effort at restoring sanity to Apapa, he stated that he was sure that if ongoing works on truck parks and other truck parks were concluded and fully operational, the gridlock would be history.
He said, “We believe you have visited Ikorodu road, Funsho Williams Avenue, Apongbo bridge, Eko bridge, we have been able to completely take away trailer and trucks. From Ijora Olopa to Point road, we have been able to successfully remove trailers, tankers and containerised trucks stationary from that point up to the top of Marine Beach at about the road to Lilypond Terminal. From our calculation, that is about a kilometre from the port entrance.
“Our assignment is predicated upon the fact that Truck Park A will be available, Trailer Part B, C and D would have been cleared by the Lagos State Government for us but they are still not available. It is work in progress because it takes a lot of stakeholder engagement for us to clean it. We don’t want to displace anybody from his normal means of livelihood. Our two weeks will end tomorrow (today), we have cleared 100 per cent Eric More, Funsho Williams down to Eko bridge, up to Ijora Olokpa and Ijora 7up.
“In terms of putting an end to extortion, truck removal from the bridge, deploying effective traffic management plan, deployment of appropriate call up system, it is predicated upon the availability and full operation of Lilypond Truck Terminal, which is available for us now, courtesy of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and it is going to be the point from where we will have the call up implementation. “From the top of Marine Beach to Lilypond is truck route, but empty containers can now pass through to go down and enter Lilypond from where they come out.”
On his part, General Manager Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Wale Musa said his men had so far impounded 120 vehicles, warning that they were ready to fully enforce the law.
Musa said, “I want to appreciate the truckers union for their cooperation. We were able to restore sanity because the unions were with us; we had a lot of voluntary compliance. “That said, we have apprehended more than 120 vehicles who did not comply with our directive and that is because we have not fully enforced the law. We urged the union leaders who are here to tell their members, they should not test our will. We are ready, we are on ground, you might not see us during the day, but we are there at night when people don’t get to see us. We are ready for the challenge and our men are on ground to do the job,“ he said.