Udora Orizu in Abuja
The House of Representatives has commenced investigations into the activities going on at the Apapa Ports in Lagos on alleged unlawful and unwarranted extortions of port users by law enforcement agents.
The House directed its Committee on Works and Housing to investigate the matter with a view to finding a lasting solution to the suffering of the truck operators at the port and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.
This resolution was sequel to the adoption of a motion titled: ‘Urgent Need to Investigate the Unwarranted Extortion of Truck Operators and other Port Users by Law Enforcement Agents at Apapa Ports’, which was moved by Hon. Olusola Steve Fatoba at the plenary yesterday.
Fatoba, while presenting his motion, said the House is aware that the federal government has been making frantic efforts to facilitate ease of doing business at the port, “but that it appears there is a deliberate effort by some people to frustrate the efforts of the government because of their selfish interests.”
He noted that the Apapa Ports has been enmeshed in crisis and traffic gridlock over a long time which led to the establishment of a Presidential Task Team to restore law and order on the roads leading to the country’s seaports.
The lawmaker explained that the team of law enforcement agents comprising the Nigeria Police Force, Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) and others are at the port to maintain law and order and control vehicular movement in and out of the port, particularly the movement of trucks going in to load and unload containers at the port.
He expressed dismay however that the agents that are supposed to maintain law and order at the port have now formed a ‘cartel’ in collaboration with ‘unscrupulous staff’ of APM Terminals Apapa/Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), extorting money from each truck operator.
According to Fatoba, “The amount ranges from N200, 000 to N300,000 to gain entrance into the port to load or offload containers, and this ugly trend has been going on unabated for many years but became worse after the Nigerian naval officers were removed from the operations as the sum of N60, 000 to N100, 000 was allegedly extorted when the naval officers were in charge of the operation.
“As a result of the activities of the law enforcement agents, a truck may spend up to two months before gaining access into the terminal which is causing a lot of hardships and huge increase in the cost of doing business which may inevitably lead to unrest and break down of law and order by the frustrated and oppressed truck operators.”
He expressed concerns about the general perception, especially by importers, exporters and truck operators, adding that they probably think the problems are lingering because the leadership of the law enforcement agencies concerned were benefiting directly or indirectly from the crises, hence there is no incentive for them to proffer enduring solution.