•No more traffic jam in Apapa, says Opeifa
A stakeholders’ meeting called by the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) to find solution to the intractable Apapa gridlock became rowdy yesterday when major stakeholders took exception to the comment by the Executive Vice Chairman of the Presidential Task Team, Mr. Kayode Opeifa that there was no longer gridlock in Apapa.
Opeifa had in his opening remarks stated that there was no longer gridlock in Apapa, stressing that gridlock was in the imagination of the media.
He said his team had on several occasions cleared the port access roads of trucks, and accused the media of inventing gridlock because they are not on ground to see what has been achieved.
But the stakeholders, which included the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Apapa residents and the Publisher of Business Day Newspaper, Mr. Frank Aigbogun took their turn to denounce Opeifa’s claim, stressing that entrenched interest has turned the unfortunate crisis into a corrupt enterprise.
They described the Apapa situation as a shame to Nigeria, adding that the ongoing port access roads not withstanding deep rooted corruption and operational deficiencies on the part of terminal operators must be addressed by the federal government as a long terms solution to the crisis.
Specifically, the stakeholders also accused APM Terminals and other container terminals of deliberately instigating the crisis for their economic gain.
In her speech, Apapa Port Manager, NPA, Mrs Funmi Olotu said the claim that there was no longer gridlock in Apapa cannot be correct as she has personally found it difficult to drive to her office via the port access road.
“We are talking about why the trucks should not be staying on the road, why are they there? Because there are armed security men on bridges passing, controlling, saying you can go; you cannot go. Can we have the armed men off the bridges so that the trucks can be moving? We know points where we can stop the trucks. What we have said is that transit Truck Park are no garages, we are not inviting trucks to stay at the transit parks.
“One of the things we have noticed is that some of the illegal trucks approaching the port either have uniformed men driving them or escorting. What we have also discovered is that during the day when all eyes are open everybody want to comply with the call up system, then we now say 12 am to 5 am manufacturers trucks can move but their drivers have also turned the opportunity into a business by allowing other trucks and collecting N20, 000 per container, “she said.
Also speaking, Publisher of BusinessDay, Aigbogun who chided Opeifa for his comment, said every Nigerian should be desperate for the shame at Apapa.
“I appeal to the NPA, presidential task force, terminal operators; there should be unity of purpose; there has to be an alignment in terms of what we should do to solve the problem. I don’t think it serves anyone well if there is no unity among all these key people. There should also be unity among all the armed forces. The truth of the matter is there is still gridlock in Apapa. Kayode said it is the media’s imagination; that is not correct. There is gridlock in Apapa and we all know it.
“The NPA just acknowledged it. We have seen pictures of what happened in September last year in Apapa. When happened between then and now? Why is it that it is now taking people one and half hours, two hours, sometimes then call me from office in Apapa, “Oga don’t come today at all and you say there is no gridlock in Apapa. My church is in Apapa, on Sunday I was trying to come to church from Ikoyi I couldn’t come to church. I signed a cheque last week to take three containers of newsprint from Apapa; each of them was N690, 000. When we started in Apapa we were paying N25,000 and N40,000 to bring a container; it rose to N100,000 and now it is N690,000. Who is sharing the money here?”
Representative of the President of NACCIMA, Mrs Magret Orakwusi who also spoke in the same vein however commended the task force for their effort at resolving the crisis.
“We know that a lot of people are responsible for the gridlock, we know that our roads are bad, we know that corruption has a major role to play Alao do know that the task force is willing and able to review all these and we encourage all of us, if you know where you are part of the problem, have a rethink and think more of the economy of this country,”she said.
On his part, President of MAN Apapa Branch, Mr. Frank Onyeagwu said he was in support of what other speakers have said and called for urgent action to end the crisis.
He said, “When Opeifa was showing videos of what has happened in the past I kept asking myself, “why can’t they do it now? Why is it not been done now to ensure that this problem gets eradicated once and for all? Please let all stakeholders work together and see what we can do so that there is sanity along this axis because it is actually costing business quite a lot.”