Rendering a heartrending narrative of their traumatic experiences from the lingering Lagos ports access roads gridlock, truckers, vital components of the logistics supply chain, have cried out to the Federal and the Lagos State governments for urgent succour.
In their Save-our-Soul (SOS) to both tiers of government, the road haulage operators under the aegis of Containerised Truck Owners were unequivocal in their lamentations that the persisting trauma that they are subjected to in trucks queues parked on roads/bridges seriously comprise the health of their lives and their vehicles.
Containerised Truck Owners is a nascent amalgam of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) and the Container Truck Owners Association of Nigeria (COTOAN).
Chieftains of the amalgam have been holding series of strategy sessions since its emergence, the latest being that of Thursday, December 13, 2018.
In a communique dated December 14, 2018, and signed by the duo of Chief Remi Ogungbemi, and Alhaji Wasiu Oloruntoyin, representing AMATO and COTOAN, respectively, the truckers amalgam stated: “We are hereby using this platform to beg the Federal and Lagos State governments to urgently look into our plight, which has resulted in the following:
a. Untimely deaths of truck drivers while on the queues of parked haulage vehicles;
b. Inability of the drivers on those parked trucks queues to bathe, eat, sleep and rest adequately;
c. Exposure of the truck drivers on the queues are to regular harassment by street urchins, commonly known as area boys;
d. Truckers on the queues are being subjected to wanton extortion by countless security agencies at alarming rates ranging between N80,000.00 – N120,000.00 on each truck, depending on the particular operator’s power of negotiation;
e. The trucks on the queues are also routinely exposed to vandals who constantly damage the vehicles and steal various critical parts, which replacements further drain the lean purses of the operators; and
f. The drivers on the queues are subjected to serial brutalisation and dehumanisation by sadistic security operatives.”
In the season of Christmas, the Containerised Truck Owners are filled with angst of further distress in their lots, going by past records of increased delivery of imports and congestion at Nigerian ports in anticipation of huge sales at Yuletide.
The truckers body noted that, apart from the seasonal spike in imports, Nigeria also contends with increased security challenges caused by marauding criminal elements as well as high incidents of extortionate tendencies by rampaging unscrupulous security operatives along the ports access roads.
In its words: “Ideally, the Christmas season spells good tidings and joy, but, in the current poor conditions our members are contending with on Lagos ports access roads, the Yuletide can only spell “sorrow, tears and blood” for us, except the Federal and Lagos State governments hearken to our cries and save our lives and means of livelihoods.”
The Containerised Truck Owners made a passionate appeal to members of the general public, especially those that reside around the corridors where trucks are either queued or parked, to kindly lend their voices to help the truckers in prevailing on the concerned authorities to do the needful by introducing an automated system to regulate movement of trucks in and out of the ports.
The proposed automated system, according to the truckers, will effectively help keep the ports access roads clear by ensuring that all the trucks would not be heading for the ports at the same time.
The truckers are also appealing for the support of the general public in prevailing on government to “provide a place to serve as truck terminal at our (truckers’) expense, only for trucks that are already booked to load in the ports.”
Even as the truckers urged the shipping companies to provide adequate functional holding bays for receiving their empty containers being returned by trucks, they were quick to point out that, no matter the capacities of the existing or future container holding bays, the facilities will always contend with under-utilisation because conveyance of the boxes still rested so much on overcoming the traffic gridlock.
“We are also appealing to the Lagos State Government for the expansion of the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (ABAT) Trailer Park at Orile Iganmu that was faithfully started this year. If completed, it will reduce the volume of trucks going to the ports for business purposes.
“We passionately appeal to the Lagos State Government to call back to site the contractor handling the expansion of the ABAT Trailer Park at White Sand, Orile, because the contractor has evacuated all his equipment from the site,” the Containerised Truck Owners stated.
According to the truckers, “Undoubtedly, if these structures are in place, these would automatically remove the clog of trucks on roads and bridges.”
Even as they concluded by expressing their appreciation for “the efforts of the present multi-agency taskforce” managing traffic on the Lagos ports access roads, the Containerised Truck Owners posited that those efforts “are not the ultimate solution, but part of the solution” for restoring sanity on the roads.