Story By Roland Ekama.
A group of transporters under the aegis of Joint Operations On Seaport Trucking Activities has decried the incessant intimidation, extortion and harassment of its members by the Lagos State task force especially along the Marine Beach bridge interchange in Ijora, Lagos.
The group comprising the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) heavy duty section, said the movement of cargoes in and out of the seaport has suffered setbacks as a result of multiple extortion and turning back of trucks by the state taskforce stationed at Marine Beach interchange.
In a March 6 document signed by representatives of the groups - Stephen Okafor (NARTO), Alhaji Usman Ibrahim Bayi (NURTW) and Comrade Agboola Bolaji (MWUN) - and sent to the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, the transporters alleged that their trucks are forced by the Nigerian Navy to take other directions against the normal routes to the port.
The group lamented that the multiplier effect of the nefarious activities of the taskforce has rendered operations of dockworkers at the port ineffective. The situation is the same for those at the terminals as they can no longer offload trucks expected to leave the terminals at agreed time schedules.
The victims of these activities are trucks that are detailed on "call up" authority to carry fertilizer, soya beans and general cargoes either from ENL, APTL or Greenview terminals. These trucks are illegally denied access to the port by the so-called taskforce.
"In most cases, the trucks are usually forced to take other directions against the normal routes to the port.
"The road transport sector accounts for about 70 percent of the Nigeria economy and is next to government in employment of labour. It is also a major means of distribution of goods and services across the country.
The group stated that the brutality of the taskforce has further extended to shattering of windscreens, breaking side mirrors and headlamps of those trucks that refuse to pay.
"The whole practice is causing untold hardship to transporters as in most cases, trucks stay close to five days before accessing the port. Lots of revenue is lost, manpower wasted and there is short supply of trucks to the importers, which invariably leads to demurrage on the vessels."
Corroborating this development, Alhaji Yinusa Raji, prominent NARTO member and Managing Director, Raymo Awa Nigeria Limited, alleged that operatives of the Nigerian Navy stationed on the Marine Beach Bridge, Ijora collect between N10,000 and N16,000 before sided body trucks are allowed to park.
Raji stated that the situation has in recent time taken a turn for the worse as other security operatives like the Police, Civil Defence and LASTMA officers have also joined in perpetrating the act along the same route.
He called on executives of NARTO to further engage the federal government on the possibility of fixing the roads immediately because their dilapidated state gave rise to the extortion by the Navy and other security agencies deployed on the corridor.