National President of ANLCA, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike

Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents ANLCA has expressed reservations over the creation of yet another adhoc task force, the Lagos Task Team on Restoration of Law and Order on Apapa Port Access Roads by the Lagos State Government, saying it might prove counterproductive.

This is coming less than one month after the disbandment of the Presidential Task Team on Apapa Gridlock inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari in April 2019, headed by former Commission for Transport in Lagos, Kayode Opeifa as vice chairman while Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was the ceremonial chairman.

This committee, which was initial designated to last for just three months ended up spending nearly two years, which were characterised by several allegations of corruptions and extortion both by the vice chair and members of the task team.

National President of the association, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike, who spoke in a telephone interview, noted that at the recent sensitisation meeting for government agencies and stakeholders in the maritime industry on the implementation of the Nigerian Port Process Manual NPPM held in Abuja, stakeholders agreed that the deployment of task teams has not addressed the perennial logjam on port access roads.

He also warned that the proposed restriction of movement of container laden trucks and other articulated vehicles to night might stall the country’s projection to attain 24-hour port operation since consignments cleared from the seaports would not leave until night falls when the trucks are permitted to move on the roads.

According to him, dismantling one task team in order to create another would be counterproductive, adding that it was high time government at all levels adopted more pragmatic and long term approach to addressing the gridlock than these adhoc measures, which complicate the issues over time.

He noted that apart from the total absence of truck parks and holding bays for empty containers, another major cause of the logjam on the port access roads, remains the poor state of the roads, any of which are in terrible state of disrepair and therefore need rehabilitation and expansion.

The ANLCA-boss argued that most of those roads were constructed when the seaports were handling less thatn30, 000 metric tonnes of cargo per annum and can no longer be sufficient for the movement of over 100, 000 tonnes of cargo, which is about the current cargo traffic at the seaports in Lagos.

“Removing one task team in order to create another one would definitely cause distortions and in the medium and short run prove counterproductive as past experiences have shown. What government needed do is to expand and rehabilitate the roads to suit the current cargo throughput.

At the recent NPPM meeting held in Abuja, stakeholders were of the consensus that the deployment of task teams has not addressed the perennial logjam on port access roads and that efforts should be made to harmonise the road traffic management strategy”, he said.

While commenting on the plan by the Lagos State Government to restrict the movement of trucks between 9pm-4am, he said: “This plan should be properly thought through because restricting truck movement would hamper port efficiency and stall achievement of 24-hour operation.”

Recall that the newly inaugurated Lagos Task Team on Restoration of Law and Order on Apapa Port Access Roads had recently visited the Nigerian Shippers Council and sought to collaborate with it to enable it address the traffic problem in the area, saying the bad traffic situation was taking its toll on port efficiency.

Chairman of the Task Team, Toyin Fayinka had during the courtesy visit also called for stakeholders support to enable it succeed in its assignment.

Fayinka who doubles as Special Assistant on transport to Governor Sanwo-Olu said the essence of the visit to NSC was to introduce the team to the council, adding that the committee cannot succeed in its assignment without the support of the NSC, Nigerian Ports Authority NPA and other agencies as well as stakeholders in the maritime industry.