Worries as traders, illegal occupants return to Tin Can port gate
There are worries over return of traders and illegal occupants to Tin Can port despite repeated efforts by Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Lagos Task Force to clean up the access road.
The traders were seen occupying Tin Can port vicinity with their goods three months after NPA in conjunction with the Lagos State Government and relevant security agencies commenced full-scale clean up operations known as “operation green” at the Lagos ports.
The exercise saw the traders evicted as well as demolition and removal of abandoned vehicles, containers, machineries, equipment and illegal structures, such as shanties and kiosks at the Tin Can Island Complex, Lagos Port Complex and Kirikiri Lighter Terminals I and II.
The Guardian learnt that traders have returned and they erect illegal structures to carry out their activities, thereby affecting free flow of traffic in the area.
Not even the presence of the policemen at the port premises was able to scare the traders, who appear more relaxed doing their businesses.
When The Guardian engaged men of the police force stationed at the Tin Can gate, they said the traders have remained recalcitrant, despite repeated seizure of their goods.
The officers however said their duty was not to drive the traders out of the premises, but to protect the port environment from robbers and miscreants trying to cause chaos to frustrate the ease of doing business in the ports.
But, a cobbler on the pedestrian bridge in front of Tin Can port, Suleiman Ibrahim, alleged that the traders reached agreement with port authorities to sell their wares within the premises.
He said traders were free to do their daily business without any resistance from NPA security officials at the port gate, except when they exceed the barricade.
When asked if the traders pay to get space to sell, he said they do not pay money for space, noting that it all depends if one is able to get space to put his/her wares.
The Guardian noticed that during morning and afternoon hours, yesterday, traders displayed their wares, along the road with a rope to form a demarcation between the area and the port gate.
But during evening hours, they displayed their goods on the port gate without consideration for passers-by, who want to access the gate.
Some traders, who spoke in turns, said they were only allowed to put up their trade in front of the port gate in the evening when management of the Nigerian Ports Authority had closed business for the day.
One of them, identified simply as Johnny said they were only restricted to the road during morning and afternoon hours.
According to him, they were not allowed to display their goods across a rope used to demarcate the port gate premises.
A trader, who sells second-hand clothes, who gave his name as Austin, said although, traders were not free to trade as Task Force members come after the traders to disperse them and seize their goods, the port gate remains a good spot where they can sell their goods on time due to human traffic.
A food seller, who pleaded anonymity, said they were only allowed to take their goods into the port premises during evening hours, stressing that the goods of those who exceed the barricade are often seized.
Responding, spokesperson for NPA Tin Can port, Hauwa Aminu, said the traders have become stubborn, refusing to leave the port premises.
She said, although the authority was mindful of the need for people to make ends meet, some miscreants and hoodlums perpetrate crime in the guise of trading at the port premises. When asked if the aim of the clean up operations was not met, Hauwa said, the authority and the Task Force team have been working hard to displace the traders who have refused to leave, even as they constitute hindrance to the ease of doing business as well as pose danger to port users.
She said the Task Force team and NPA usually take the traders unaware by seizing their goods.
The Guardian confirmed from the traders that the Task Force usually comes unexpectedly to raid their goods and disperse them, noting that they are always on alert to ensure their goods were not seized.
The Acting Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, has also restated continuous implementation of its ‘operation green’, through which all illegal structures and shanties on port access roads in Apapa would be cleared.
Bello-Koko, in a statement signed by NPA’s General Manager Corporate and Strategic Communications, Olaseni Alakija, said the move was part of efforts to ensure free flow of traffic in the area.
Recall that NPA, this year, launched “Operation Green,” campaign to sanitise ports’ corridors and surroundings of illegalities, as a lot of weapons and large quantities of drugs were discovered during past operations.