Season of ports’ strike

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For three days last week, business activities at the nation’s sea ports were paralysed by strike. After the intervention of stakeholders in the maritime sector, the protesters issued a fresh 21-day ultimatum to the government to address the issues leading to the deplorable condition of the roads to the ports, Maritime Correspondent OLUWAKEMI DAUDA reports.

Business activities at the Lagos Port Complex (LPC) and the Tin-Can Island Port in Lagos were brought to a halt between last Monday and Wednesday, as clearing agents and truck drivers embarked on strike over the deplorable state of the roads leading to the ports.


Why the strike

The protesters said they were frustrated by the state of the major roads leading to the ports. For instance, the President of the Senior Staff Association of Communication, Transportation and Cooperation (SSACTAC) Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) branch, Comrade Benson Adegbeyeni, accused the Federal Government of paying lip service to port infrastructure. He wondered why the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, has chosen to neglect the seaports, which generate the highest revenue, next to the oil and gas sector.

Adegbeyeni lamented that the road leading to Apapa Port and Tin Can Island Port has been an eyesore for a sector that generates so much revenue for the government. He wondered why the goose that laid the golden egg had been left unattended to for several years.


Groups involved in the strike

The groups that participated in the protest include the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Corporate Fleet Owners and the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), among others.


Emergency visit of NPA  chief

to Apapa

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Managing Director, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, abandoned all other engagements to visit the Tin Can Island Port and the Lagos Port Complex to assess the deplorable condition of the roads leading to the Lagos ports and the impact the strike would have on the economy of the nation.

During the visit, the  NPA team  inspected the failed sections of the roads at Tin Can Island and Coconut axis of the Apapa/Oshodi Expressway and expressed serious concern.


NPA agrees to fix Apapa roads

with N4b

At an enlarged meeting, Ms Usman and the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Belli,  held  with the protesting stakeholders, Ms Usman said the NPA was ready to spend over N4 billion to fix Apapa roads and bring the situation under control.

She agreed that the deplorable state of Apapa roads was hampering access to the Lagos seaports and affecting businesses around the area. She lamented that the poor access roads to the seaports were adversely affecting the delivery of cargoes to importers, thus killing the trade facilitation programme of the government.

The NPA, she said, was not happy that several measures hitherto adopted had not translated into quick cargo movement in and out of the ports.

She assured the protesting agents and other stakeholders that the NPA would soon address the problem in the interest of all and the economy. Ms. Usman said the quick rehabilitation of the road remained a priority to her team to reposition the ports and salvage the economy.

She said the NPA is collaborating with Dangote Group and Flour Mills to reduce the gridlock in Apapa.

Her words: “The roads are under the purview of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. We have held several meetings with the ministry and we have come to an agreement that the NPA will jointly fund the reconstruction of these roads.

“The ministry will be submitting to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting to seek council’s approval to embark on the reconstruction of Wharf road.

“We believe that these roads are priority to us. So, we have identified budgetary heads for them and we are going to budget for them in spite of the fact that they are not under our purview. So, we are commencing with that. The NPA will provide funding for that road in conjunction with the two bodies.”

She assured that the reconstruction work would be carried out within 10 months.

According to her, the width of the roads would be 12 metres with full utilities deployed and will have a life span of 30 years when completed.

“It is going to be a concrete road that will have a lifespan of 30 years. The project will commence within this month. We are going to sign an agreement with the Federal Ministry of Works, Dangote and Flour mills on the implementation of the project and they have confirmed that the reconstruction will be embarked upon for 10 months period so we believe that this wharf road will be able to reach conclusion within this year,” Ms Usman said.


 Shippers Council reacts

Mr. Bello corroborated the NPA’s position and lent his voice to a trucking policy that would set standards and regulations.

According to him, between 5,000 and 7,000 trucks ply the Apapa corridor daily, when the roads could only support between 2,000 and 3,000 trucks. The remaining numbers, he said, constitute nuisance by causing the dilapidation and gridlock in the area.

The NSC boss called for the immediate repair of all the failed sections of the road, registration of trucks coming to Apapa under a company name, installation of electronic gate system and call-up cards and the need to institute a sound legal framework.


Loading bay

Another way out of the problem, according to stakeholders, is the construction of loading bay or parking lots for trucks coming into the ports to pick consignments or drop empty containers.

It is on record that most of the trucks that park along the port access roads such as Wharf, Commercial and Creek Roads are laden with empty containers. Many of the drivers of such trucks use the roads leading to the port for parking their vehicles, thereby putting pressure on the road and reducing the space meant for other road users.


Agents, others urge Osinbajo to

visit the port

Speaking with The Nation after the stakeholders’ meeting with the NPA and NSC Executives, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) urged the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to lead other members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to visit the Lagos seaports and see how bad the roads are.

Some Apapa residents, motorists and other protesting stakeholders  said the visit would enable the Federal Government to assess the state of the Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports.

Among the stakeholders are members of the Bible Society of Nigeria (BSN), who asked the government to fix the roads and reduce users’ suffering.

The group said it was no longer news that the Apapa/Oshodi Expressway and the Ijora/Apapa road were deplorable and begging for attention.

The group’s Secretary-General and Chief Executive Officer, Dare Ajiboye, said the roads posed danger to life and also have negative effects on trade and commerce.


Stakeholders’ expectations

ANLCA said it was not happy Mr  Fashola did not attend to the roads in the last two years, despite being the immediate past governor of the state.

They wondered why it was difficult for successive ministers of Works to fix the roads, despite that the Federal Government, through the NPA, earned several millions of dollars yearly, from the ports.

“About months ago, a journalist covering the maritime beat was killed on the road leading to Apapa port by a hopeless truck driver. The sudden death and other vices on the road would have been averted if the Federal Ministry of Works headed by Fashola has been alive to its responsibility of fixing the most dangerous roads leading to the seaports.

Shittu urged the Federal Government to rehabilitate the roads and resolve other challenges to make the ports more attractive and competitive.

Fashola as a former governor of Lagos State, Shittu said, should tell Lagosians what the Federal Government intends to do over the pathetic condition of the roads.


Colossal losses

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), it was learnt, lost over N5billion at Lagos port to the three strikes. Also, terminal operators, shipping companies and other government agencies at all the ports, it was gathered, lost several billions of naira to the strikes.

A senior Customs officer, who craved anonymity, told The Nation that Apapa and Tin-Can Customs generate over N1 billion,  daily from the ports. He said this excludes what the NPA, NIMASA, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Shippers Council and other agencies make.

ANLCA spokesman, Dr. Kayode Farinto, while speaking with The Nation on the poor state of the roads, said the stakeholders have given the Federal Government a  fresh 21-day ultimatum to address the situation or risk the ports being shut down in protest.



Way forward

The Chairman, Seaport Terminal Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Victoria Haastrup, said on several occasions that the bad roads and the gridlock being experienced in Apapa, were caused by system failure in the oil and gas industry logistics chain.

Haastrup, who is also the Executive Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium Limited, operators of Terminals C and D, Lagos Port Complex Apapa, said the only way to solve the gridlock is to immediately suspend the lifting of imported petroleum products from tank farms in Apapa by road.

“There must be immediate suspension of the evacuation of petroleum products from Apapa by road. The authorities must immediately activate the use of barges for petroleum products evacuation. Petroleum products meant for the northern part of the country should be moved to Lokoja and Baro Ports by barges while the trucks collect them from there rather than coming to Apapa,” she said.



For port users, another way to tackle the gridlock is to address motorists indiscipline on the roads, especially drivers of old vehicles. One of them, Segun Adewale said because of the indiscipline and unruly behaviour of the drivers, all lanes on both sides of the roads are occupied. “The truck drivers are the kings of the roads. They do not bother about any other road user,” he said.

He also observed that drivers use the roads as makeshift toilet facilities. They also drive against the traffic and cross the  embankment separating the two lanes of the roads at will. Apart from being an eyesore, he said the sorry situation gives the country a negative image.

“We all know the challenge facing the ports’ roads and we believe that the government is also aware that this is not only affecting the operations of the port and residents in Lagos, but the entire economy.

“We hope that the Federal Government will do its best not to turn this period to the season of strike and protest at ports as another 21-day ultimatum has been given to the government,” he said.

The post Season of ports’ strike appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.

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