Extortion worsens Apapa gridlock
‘Clearing agents lose average of N300m to illegal collection’
Importers, clearing agents and truck owners have expressed concerns over worsening gridlock along the access roads at the Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC), accusing officials of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Security Department, police and the Presidential Task Team on Apapa gridlock of extortion.
The stakeholders in interviews with The Guardian said in addition to the poor condition of the port access roads, extortion by security and traffic control officials remain the major cause of the unending gridlock along the Apapa-Oshodi expressway.
Recent reports have exposed a well-organised racket of security officials at the Tin Can Island Port Complex, who extort between N70, 000 and N200, 000 per truck before such trucks are allowed into the port.
The situation, it was gathered, has negatively affected port operation, as cargo delivery has been considerably slowed down. It has also led to a sudden rise in haulage and shipping costs, thereby fuelling inflation in the country.
A truck owner and executive member of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Sanni Bala, said the security agents demand sums of money ranging from N70, 000 to N200, 000 depending on the “bargaining power” of the truck driver to be allowed into the port.
He said: “The issue of unlawful extortion by NPA security officials, police and the Presidential Task Team along Apapa and Tin Can Port road axis has become a daily occurrence and an institutionalised phenomenon that is taking a serious toll on the incomes of truck owners and exacerbating the plight of motorists on that axis.
“The traffic on the access roads is artificial and caused by human factor because without the traffic, there is no way they can extort people, so they have to create the traffic by delaying truckers.
“They collect ranging from N70, 000 to N200, 000 and as a result, many truckers have been left with nothing to take home and maintain their vehicle. Yet, the Lagos State Government will complain of rickety trucks on the roads whereas it is the outcome of the extortion by Police and others and they have refused to vacate the roads,” he alleged.
Chairman of AMATO, Chief Remi Ogungbemi, said: “Business is still going on as usual and the task force team has refused to leave because they are benefiting from the chaos. They have formed a cartel. If you are not in that group, they will not pass your truck.”
A clearing agent operating at the Tin Can Island Port, Ojo Akintoye, said there are more than four roadblocks between Tin Can Island Port First and Second Gate set up by the security officials and that each truck is expected to part with money before allowed passage.
“From First Gate to Second Gate, we have about four roadblocks mounted by the security agents and the trucks must part with money before they can move. As we speak, we pay between N1.1 million and N1.2 million per truck as against N100, 000 to move our containers out of the port. The cheapest truck you can get to hire is N1 million. It has never been this bad,” he lamented.
The National Vice President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Kayode Farinto, said clearing agents lose an average of N300 million weekly to the illegal collection by the security officials, adding that to enter the port, truck operators pay as much as N280, 000 to security operatives on the road.