The Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMATO, has stated categorically that there is no taskforce, including the present Presidential Taskforce led by Mr. Babatunde Opeifa, can stop truck drivers from parking on the port access roads in Lagos because there are no spaces for them to park since the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, in 2006 converted the parking spaces originally built for them in the ports to cargo terminals and thereafter failed to provide alternative for them.
AMATO Chairman, Chief Remi Ogungbemi who stated this in a chat in Lagos with PortNews last week noted that before the port concession in 2006 truck drivers diligently parked their vehicles in the parking lots in the two ports in Apapa and Tin Can in Lagos without constituting traffic nuisance on the roads while waiting for time to pick cargo.
Ogungbemi said parking on the port roads was not their making but the port authority’s describing the call by the federal government asking them to build parking space for their trucks as unfortunate whereas it was the same government that sold off the parks in the ports.
According to Ogungbemi, 90 percent of trucks picking cargo in Lagos ports originated from other states and how would it be possible for their owners to build parking spaces in Lagos when they already have ones in their respective states?
‘’There is no taskforce that can remove or stop truck drivers from parking on port access roads. We are not happy or making parking on roads and bridges in and around the ports in Lagos. It is because government has failed in its responsibility and very unfortunate for government calling us to provide parking spaces. How will it be possible for trucks coming from other parts of the country to Lagos to begin to build parking space when their origin is not Lagos’’ asked AMATA Chairman.
On the call-up system which NPA promised would take off in August, Ogungbemi noted that NPA said the takeoff could not happen because of logistics. According to him, the system would have brought sanity into the vehicular traffic in and out of the ports.
He called for expansion of port access roads particularly Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, saying its present capacity could not cope with the volume of cargo leaving both Apapa and Tincan port.
Speaking on personal efforts made by the association, Ogungbemi, who commended the Nigerian Ports Authority for returning the Lilypond Container Terminal back to its original purpose of truck parking, said the association saw a piece of land at Ijora and contacted the Lagos State Government to survey and allocate it to them but lost the land due to bureaucracy. He added that there was another one sighted by the association which has waterfront that can be served by barges to move empties into the port terminals.
Speaking on high charges by truck owners, Ogugbemi attributed the development to free market where there is no regulator as everyone fixes his or her charges and traffic gridlock, admitting the charges had come down considerably now.
‘’W do not have price control; Nigeria runs a free market economy where everyone fixes prices. We capitalize on the situation to cheat ourselves – jack up prices at will. A trucker won’t be happy to be on the road on several days and bribe his way into the port, spend a lot of money to fix his truck and expect him to charge low. All these responsible for high charges,’’ noted Ogungbemi, saying that it is difficult for them to buy new trucks to replace their old ones as the federal government has failed to assist them while it is supporting other sectors of the economy.