By Eromosele Abiodun
Truck owners in Apapa have weighed in on the allegation of corruption and gratification leveled against the Presidential Task Team on Apapa Gridlock and the team’s head of enforcement, Hakeem Odumosu, a Commissioner of Police.
In an interview with journalists, the truck owners and members of some truck owners’ associations debunked the allegations.
Their defence also coincided with the reactions of the Chairman of the Presidential Task Team on Apapa Gridlock, Mr Kayode Opeifa.
The Vice President of Corporate Fleet Truck Owners Association, Mr. Leye Thompson described the allegation as emanating from those who were behind the old system of colluding with bodies that were previously in charge of traffic control into and out of Apapa, and who were befitting from the old practice and the abuses.
He said: “The Presidential Task Team has put them out of business and that is why they are fighting back. The task team does or its personnel does not demand or accept bribe from any one. I am speaking to you as an owner of fleet of trucks and the Vice President of Corporate Fleet Owners Association.
“The people making the allegation are like agents and ‘boys’ who worked for officers who were involved in the old system when truck owners had to settle to get their trucks into the port. They are like brokers to the naval personnel who were in charge of traffic control at that time. Believe me, this is a clear case of corruption fighting back.
“In all honesty, the Presidential Task Team has stopped all those practices, which is why they are peddling the unfounded rumour, which is meant to discredit the Presidential Task Team, ”he stated.
According to him, the allegations are not from stakeholders and the various unions and associations in the trucking business.
Similarly, Secretary of Corporate Fleet Owners Association, Mr. Gbade Amodu, said no member of any of the recognised trucking associations could come out to openly allege that the task team was collecting bribe from truckers before allowing them access to the port.
Amodu, also said one of those behind the allegation had once been arrested by the task team for trying to facilitate undue passage for trucks.
He also affirmed that the unfounded allegations were meant to discredit the Presidential task team, even as he confirmed that the body had done very well in the short time.
“Let me tell you, what the task team has done is very obvious to anyone who has to navigate through Apapa, or those who work there. As truck owners, we are in Apapa on daily basis, so we can confirm that they have done well. We were all here, even when the navy was in charge, they only compounded our woes and enriched themselves, ”he said.
He listed the achievements of the task team to include free flow of traffic into and out of Apapa. He also said, “no one collects money from any truck owner or driver to access the port; once NPA gives you your call up, you are free. Truckers now wait for their turn; there is normalcy in Apapa now.”
Speaking in similar vein, Head of Operations, Council of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA), Abdullahi Inuwa also debunked the allegation of extortion levied against the new task team by some truckers.
He said that despite the fact that his associated controls over 70 per cent of the trucks in the maritime industry, he has not heard about extortion by the task team member before now, and that .those who made the allegation cooked up the story.
“I know the strength of my organisation (COMTUA) if you come to trucking sector my association control about 70 per cent of the trucks that are operating in the maritime sector. And I have never heard any allegation of extortion by the new task team from any of my member, “he said.
Explaining further he said the people accusing the new task team of extorting are the people who were angry because of the destruction of some illegal parks.
“I know some people have their grievances over some operations that have taken place by the new task team in the area of the clean-up of some illegal parks under the bridges and all that,” he told said..
Meanwhile, Opeifa has accused the Chairman of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMARTO), Remi Ogungbemi of being one of the cabals frustrating efforts of the task team because of alleged racketeering and profiteering from the gridlock.
According to him, “Ogungbemi does not have a single truck, he started fighting the committee because we cleared under the Lillypond Bridge, he said he is the one collecting money under the bridge, so he started fighting us.”