The ongoing gridlock of trucks on the roads leading to the ports of Apapa and Tin Can in Lagos remains a major headache for the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). That’s the word from Acting Managing Director, Mohammed Bello-Koko, who says that the congestion outside the port gates has defied solutions for more than ten years.
He said the NPA should be giving priority to Nigeria’s export cargo but instead was having to be concerned with traffic gridlocks around the ports.
This was despite some measures introduced to minimize the congestion. Unfortunately, there was human interference with the manual manifest and call-up system causing them to be ineffective.
‘We have brought in ETO [electronic call-up system] to ensure smooth inward and outward movement of cargo from the port. The idea was to ensure that all trucks coming in are supposed to move from trailer parks to Lilly Ponds (inland container terminal) then to the port.’
He said the trailer parks were supposed to have deployed physical and electronic infrastructure but that was not happening: ‘When I was appointed, I gave them an ultimatum to ensure that those items were installed as quickly as possible.’
The NPA had since taken other measures which showed some improvement and a better flow of traffic but the major hindrance remained the road.
Continuing with: ‘The Tin Can corridor is bad.’ He added: ‘We have had discussions with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing to ensure that the construction company deploys its gadgets to start construction around that area.’
Bello-Koko said the NPA has complained about multiple checkpoints which the NPA has tried to reduce. These led to various cases of extortion from touts who are referred to as ‘area boys’ and who find ways to divert the trucks, which he said further increased the traffic congestion.
The stakeholders needed to buy into the ETO system, the acting CEO said: ‘We have had Town Hall meetings with stakeholders to let them understand that this is a system that we are not going to change. The world has gone automated, so we need to reduce human interference.’
Port of Tin Can also in Lagos
‘We discovered a building not far away from Apapa gate where one can get a number plate printed in less than 20 minutes. This number can be used to get an ETO ticket. We have told the security agencies; they have raided the building and investigations are ongoing.’
Bello-Koko said there were also saboteurs among NPA staff. The company was taking action, he said, and some staff has been placed on suspension to enable a proper investigation. Another staff has been transferred to different ports.
‘We have made it clear that we shall not tolerate saboteurs in the system no matter where they are coming from,’ he said.
To ensure the success of the ETO system there had to be multiple trailer parks outside the port precinct. He said that after advertising a number of parks had been provided with the necessary infrastructure including an uninterrupted power supply for the automated systems and automatic gates, CCTV, and internet access.
‘We advertised and people showed interest in providing the parks that NPA will use for the ETO. We gave them what was needed for them to qualify.’
Bello-Koko said some trailer park operators have commenced operating, but others have not. Those that haven’t been being given a few more days and any park that by then fails to meet the requirements will be delisted and replaced.