Zonal Coordinator, Zone A, Nigeria Customs Service, Assistant Comptroller General Chinwe Ekekezie

The Nigeria Customs Service has said that the inability of those that supervised the nation’s port concession programme to properly handle issues around the common user areas and other activities in the ports was the primary cause of the perennial gridlock on the port access roads.

The service also said that following the upsurge in the volume of cargo in response to increasing population and other economic activities, little or no efforts were directed at properly managing the traffic in and out of the seaports, a development that had culminated in the current chaotic traffic situation in the area.

Deputy Comptroller, Enforcement Unit of the Tin Can Island Command of the service, DC Dera Nnadi, who represented the Zonal Coordinator, Lagos Zone A, Assistant Comptroller General ACG Chinwe Ekekezie at a one-day stakeholders’ meeting organised by the Nigerian Shippers Council, noted that issues of common user areas were not properly managed during the concession programme, which brought in private terminal operators to handle cargo.

Deputy Comptroller, Enforcement, Tin Can Island Command of Customs, DC Dera Nnadi.

He also blamed the challenge partly on the poor traffic management system in the seaport areas, especially following the astronomical growth in the nation’s cargo throughput, but warned stakeholders not to dwell on the causative factors rather than offering solutions.

He said: “With due respect, 90 per cent of the stakeholders that have spoken here today dwelt on the symptoms of the challenges and not the solutions and that is not going to take us anywhere. The question one should ask is prior to port concession, what was the situation”

“We should also ask ourselves prior to the growth in our cargo throughput, what was the traffic situation and traffic management was like? If we fail to address these issues, we will keep talking of the symptoms of the challenges and not the solutions. Even if we nylon tar all the roads, the problems will persist if we fail to evolve modern traffic management systems. .

“The challenge lies in the fact that during port concession, the issues of common user areas were not properly addressed and as long as those trucks trying to enter the seaports are not allowed in, the traffic will continue to be there”.

He however noted that the service has identified what he called low-hanging fruits that if applied would bring about temporary reprieve both in the short and medium terms. One of the recommendations, according to him, was for the contractors handling the various road projects in the area, especially the Apapa-Oshodi Express Way to open up more alternative access to ease off the huge volume of vehicular traffic on the existing roads.

He cited that Tin Can Island Port Complex, which only access road is the Liverpool Bridge, following the closure of the Liverpool Road, a development that increased pressure on other roads as well as increasing haulage cost, which used to be in the neighbourhood of N250, 000 to nearly N1million.

DC Nnadi, who was once Public Relations Officer of the Apapa Command of the service also recommended optimising the available human resources for proper and effective management of the traffic, insisting that the gridlock would come to a manageable level if the truck drivers were made to queue in an orderly manner and go into the ports when the need arises.

“The issue of barge operations has come to stay. But we should also streamline the activities of the barge operators. We should know who the barge operators are, who uses their services, there must be regulation for sanity to be restored. For now, those manufacturers who are qualified to use the Customs fast-track facility can also be made to use the barge services for instance so that there will be orderliness.

“The terminal operators should also be made to lift empty containers to create more spaces in their terminals. They should also work in tandem with the traffic and security agencies by operating their internal call-up systems so that they will notify the security operatives when a particular truck driver is needed to come and lift cargo or drop empty containers”, he also said.

On the activities of the operatives of the Federal Operations Unit FOU, who stop duly inspected and released cargo or officers and men that indulge in unprofessional conducts, he challenged the stakeholders to always read the service’s monthly orders to see the several cases where officers and men are disciplined for some infractions, which the service does not always want to bring to the public or media attention.