Truck drivers shun FG’s directive, cause gridlock at Apapa

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…They didn’t obey the Presidential order – Opeifa

Story by Seun Ibiyemi

Truck drivers have ignored federal government 72- hour directive to evacuate roads leading to Apapa seaport, causing gridlock on Friday when Nigerian NewsDirect visited the Port.

The federal government had given truck and tanker drivers who parked their vehicles on all access roads and bridges to the Apapa ports and environs in Lagos State 72 hours to remove them.

The task force, which is headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari after the April 25 emergency meeting he summoned to find a permanent solution to the gridlock.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the task force, Kayode Opeifa speaking with Nigerian NewsDirect said the directive does not affect trucks using the road, stressing that the government directive was meant for trucks blocking access to the port.

According to him, “But when the truck has passed where they can get trailer pack will you not allow them into the port, Eko Bridge has been cleared now. Also most of them did not obey the presidential order because they could not go back to their trailer park.”

Opeifa added that “there is sanity at the wharf now and for Mile 2, we are now at Tin-Can. The port efficiency is not as expected but we are making sure that trucks that have passed their trailer park should maintain order and gain access into the port.

In a swift reaction, the vice chairman of National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Abdullahi Inuwa said that the federal task force officials are on ground to enforce compliance, stressing that”they are clearing all the stubborn truck drivers.”

Commenting on possible sanction on defaulters, he said, “I cannot really say if there will be any sanctions for arrested trucks for violating the presidential order, as you know the federal task force takes directives from the presidency.”

Nigerian NewsDirect in a chat with a truck driver, Wasiu Adekunle said “I am not aware of the presidential directive and nobody has come to ask me to vacate the road with my truck.

“I have not even heard that there was an order for vehicles to leave here within 72hours, but I am not sure trucks can be moved out of this place within the time frame. Where will the trucks park if they leave here.

“They must go and offload the empty containers, and there is serious traffic inside the terminal. So I am not sure it can happen?”

Another truck driver who gave his name as Mr. Jimoh Salakutu told our correspondent that the Navy officer that always collect bribe has abandoned truck drivers on the road.

He also added that he had spent 17days on the roads with a 20ft container of Egusi for export.

He said, “This container is for export and I am carrying Egusi and today makes it 17days that I have been on this road. From Mile 2 to this Coconut I have spent almost 11days, the Navy officer that has been escorting us, we paid him N70, 000 to take us to the port and he dropped us at Trinity Bus stop and disappeared”

Salakatu who handles export containers also accused the exporter of abandoning him on the road at some point.

Recall that a Presidency statement on Wednesday signed by Osinbajo’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr, Laolu Akande, said the task force had two weeks, beginning from Wednesday (yesterday), to complete the assignment.

“A Presidential directive has been issued for the immediate clearing of the Apapa gridlock and the restoration of law and order to Apapa and its environs within two weeks.

“The directive mandates the immediate removal of all trucks from the bridges and roads within Apapa and all adjoining streets leading to the Apapa area.

“To facilitate this important assignment, operators of trucks and tankers have also been directed to vacate the port access roads within the next 72 hours.

“This directive follows an emergency meeting convened by President Muhammadu Buhari and chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on April 25, 2019. The meeting proffered a lasting solution to the gridlock around the Lagos ports, as the traffic congestion has continued to restrict all operations and livelihood in the area.”

Meanwhile, The Presidential Task Force on the Restoration of Law and Order in Apapa Ports’ Area has unveiled its operational guidelines.

The guidelines as contained in a paper made available to stakeholders at a meeting held in Lagos, recently, stipulates continuous stakeholders’ engagement as one of the critical strategies.

Others are the deployment of effective and efficient traffic management system for the control of cargo and fuel distributions and business district traffic within the entire Port Area, the use of Dedicated Truck Parks at NPA Lilypond Terminal as temporary holding bays and the deployment of a revised effective Empty Container Return Management Policy.

Additionally, the provision and strict adherence to a newly developed NPA Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) on Port Truck Clearance Procedures incorporating the temporary Manual Call-Up System for Empty Containers, Export containers and other port truck operations and vehicular movements are included in the operational guidelines.

The Vice Chairman of the Force on Restoration of Law and Order in Apapa, Mr. Kayode Opeifa has called on stakeholders to comply with the new directives.

He expressed the Task Force’s readiness to punish any truck driver that violates the Order.

The Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr. Hassan Bello, in his key note address explained that the Federal Government was aware of the perennial traffic problems and has commenced moves to establish Truck Transit Parks (TTPs) for drivers and other motorists.

Bello was represented by the head of the Consumers Affairs Department of the Council, Chief Cajetah C. Agu.

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