From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
The Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) has warned that the recent guidelines by the Presidential Task Team on Apapa gridlock, which restricted truck movement to certain hours of the day, would worsen the gridlock on the port access roads and exacerbate port congestion.
STOAN further expressed concern that the Vice Chairman of the task team, Kayode Opeifa, drew up the guidelines without inputs from critical stakeholders, especially truck operators, terminal operators and shipping companies, and without regards for prevailing cargo backlog at the seaports.
“It is clear that this task team has outlived its relevance, and its operations are not in tandem with the realities on ground in Apapa,” STOAN said in a statement.
“The Federal Government deliberately left the ports open so as to keep the flow of essential supplies to Nigerians at this difficult times going, but the task team has come up with guidelines that suppress the timely evacuation of cargo at the port.”
Wondering the motive for the guidelines, STOAN asked, “Is the task team aware that Apapa is a port city? Why then is Mr. Opeifa creating guidelines that restrict the movement of trucks evacuating cargoes at the port?
“Is this not contrary to the position of the Federal Government that the logistics and supply chain should not be interrupted?”
Against the foregoing, and given that the ports operate round the clock, the body said it totally rejected the guidelines, as “cargo evacuation must be done round the clock” to avoid congestion.
It also described as “ill-advised” and unfortunate the restriction of access by trucks heading to the Lagos Port Complex Apapa to only via the Wharf Road while trucks for other purposes have access to all other roads.
Calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to call Opeifa and his team to order, STOAN insisted that “these guidelines stand logic on its head. How do you ask the port trucks not to work at certain times and not use certain roads? The roads are for port operations.”
It also asked the Federal Government to mandate the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to take over traffic management on the port access roads “so as to clear the chaos created by the task team.
“NPA has a robust security department that had done a good job of managing traffic on the port access roads in the past and it is the consensus of stakeholders that they should return to that role.”
Meanwhile, it urged the Federal Government to investigate the alleged extortion of truck drivers by the task team, and its alleged preferential treatment of petrol tankers and some truckers, especially some union officials, as “the truckers and stakeholders have complained severally about this injustice.”