Despite the effort of the Presidential Task Force on restoring sanity in Apapa, the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) has raised the alarm over the rising cost of haulage in the country.
Speaking to newsmen in Lagos, the Chairman of the association, Chief Remi Ogungbemi alleged that truck drivers pay between N100, 000 to N150, 000 gratifications to the operatives of the various taskforces before they are allowed access into the ports to pick or drop consignments.
Ogungbemi was reacting to claims by importers, who lamented the increasing cost of haulage in the country. They had claimed that it costs more to move a container from Apapa Port to the Trade Fair Complex than to ship the same consignment from China to Nigeria.
For instance, the importers said that it now costs between N250, 000 and N350, 000 to move a 40-foot container of cargo from Apapa Port to Trade Fair Complex, located along the Badagry road, Lagos while it takes about N350, 000 to ship the same size of container from the Shangai Port in China to Apapa Port in Lagos at the current exchange rate of about N360 to the dollar.
Recently, the Ladipo Market Traders Association had raised similar concerns, especially at the over 200 per cent hike in haulage cost, resulting from the persistent gridlock experienced on most port access roads including the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and other access routes linking the seaports in Lagos.
The traders lamented that the increase in haulage cost was also responsible for the hike in price of goods in the market.
Ogungbemi, while admitting that members of the association and other truckers made financial inducements to the operatives of the taskforces, however, told reporters that the truckers started it by offering of bribes to the operatives out of frustration.
“We pay as much as N100, 000-N150, 000 depending on your bargaining power, when you are on the long queue due the huge traffic in Apapa for one or two weeks and suddenly you see your colleague drives out of the queue and move straight to the port gate, you will be forced to ask questions about what happened since all of you have been on the queue together.
“Our people started it all by offering gratifications to the taskforce operatives, since they do not deep hands into our pockets to collect the money. But they have tested the ‘sweetness’ and now they have raised the bar and so we pay out of frustration. Normally such additional cost is added to the haulage cost, which led to the hike the importers are complaining of.”
He also listed other causes of the hike in haulage cost to include the increasing price of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), also called diesel, which he said, sells for as much as N250 and N270 per litre as against the former price of between N160 and N200 per litre and other high maintenance cost.
Ogungbemi also lamented the negative effects of the activities of some people on the roads, which he described as ‘parasites and devourers,’ adding that some of them deliberately destroy their trucks when the drivers refuse to part with money.
This development, he said, eats deep into the revenue of the truckers, thus making it almost impossible for them to breakeven.
Speaking on calls for merger among the various itinerant haulage firms to form a bigger one with more capital to operate fleets in order to eliminate obsolete and rickety trucks, he foreclosed the possibility, insisting that such things were possible overseas and might not likely work in Nigeria because of the peculiar nature of Nigerians.
He insisted that there was need for the government to support them in one way or the other since the government once in a while extends such helping hands to other sectors of the economy including the agricultural sector and the aviation industry.