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May 10, 2021

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Apapa Gridlock: Stakeholders At MAJAN Summit Demand Effective Action From Govt., Regulators

Maritime Stakeholders have said that the Government and regulators have not done enough in tackling the Apapa port roads gridlock, hence the persistence of crisis situation.
This was a fallout of brainstorming by key stakeholders, experts,operators and regulators at the Powerful Pen Media Maritime Summit in Lagos on Wednesday, April 14.
Keyspeakers and personalities at the event included Mr.Adeleye Ajayi; Chiarman Nigeria Union of Journalists (NIJ) Lagos State Council, Chief Eugene Nweke; former President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) and Chairman of the occasion, Mr. Pius Ujubonu, Co-Chairman and a member of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA): Akin Osinowo; Deputy Director, Operations, Nigeria Railway Corporation, Mr. Kingsley Ukabiala; Representative of the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA).

Others are, Mr Francis Omotosho; Registrar, NAGAFF Academy, Mr. Dipo Olayoku; National Secretary, NAGAFF, Chief Boniface Okoye; Managing Director,Stage Bontex, Mr. Tunde Olalere, Secretary NUJ Lagos State Council, Mrs. Iyabo Ogunjuyigbe; Treasurer, Lagos State Council and Olayide Awosanya; EX-Officio, Lagos State Council.

The discussants and speakers were in unison that the Apapa gridlock has gotten to a crisis point and has brought with it sever and damaging outcomes such as:
i. Consistent port congestion and turnaround of vessels.
ii. Excessive rise in costs of cargo clearance/delivery and transportation.
iii. Astronomical increased in costs of living occasioned by the gridlock.
iv. Loss of patronage of Nigerian ports by landlocked countries of Niger Republic, Mali, Chad.
v. Loss and closure of allied businesses and companies in and around Lagos ports
vi. Health Hazard and many unwarranted deaths of port workers and road users caused by the gridlock.
Apart from highlighting the challenges, the resource persons identified some solutions and what must be done to change the narratives, these include; urging the Federal Government to re-evaluate and re-jig the port reform taking into account the role of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council as the Economic Regulator, Terminal Operators (concessionaires) must improve on their cargo handling equipment and delivery systems to enhance quick turnaround of vessels and trucks picking cargo, there the need to diversify transportation modes – ports must be connected with the rail system; feeder vessels should be made to convey containers out of the ports although barges can still be used. This is to create healthy competition to crash prices and reduce pressure on port access roads.
Other suggestions at the summit include: the need for government to revamp refineries and pipelines for effective distribution of wet cargo mostly petroleum products to stem solely reliance on the Lagos ports,  NPA is urged to revoke licenses given to oil depot owners at Ibafo area in Apapa and possibly relocate the oil depots away from port environs, there is the need
 for the government to reclaim lands around the ports for expansion of port infrastructure including roads and dedicate road lanes for trucks and tanker.
The Summit commended the NPA’s Call-up but said there is need to improve upon for the purpose of monitoring and enforcement with the installation of CCTV in a control room where traffic controllers are stationed for control as against being on the road for control.
Truck owners were implored to provide roadworthy trucks and provide standards to checkmate excesses and bad habits of their drivers to stop indiscriminate parking.
It was further observed that, many of the truck owners do not have a parking and maintenance garage. Many have but with a limited space in the garage, overwhelmed by their fleets.This compels and leaves truck owners and their drivers to taxi around the port access road, thereby increasing the traffic.
Worried that after several seminars, workshops and conferences held on the same subject matter, with recommendations thereof, oftentimes  culminating in one Government intervention or another, yet the situation persists, the Powerful Pen Media, a Publication of Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria  (MAJAN) therefore held its maiden Maritime scheduled the Summit  to further draw attention to this crisis that has continued to negatively affect the economy of the country.
The Summit was attended by members of MAJAN including officials and delegates from the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Nigeria Customs Service, Wharf Landing Collecting Fees Authority, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, National Council of Managing Directors Licensed Customs Agents, Sikkens Paints, Sino Trucks, businessmen, industrialists and individuals.
The Summit condemned in strong terms the wilful absence of some key stakeholders whose actions and inactions have caused the traffic crisis to fester. These, it mentioned as shipping companies, terminal operators and transport groups.
Participants commended MAJAN for its consistent bold step in proffering solutions to the monster and concluded that the traffic gridlock is synonymous only to Lagos ports and is man-made –  This is because:
a.Port administrators have failed to manage the port efficiently. As Apapa port is typically a case of administrative forecast  and planning failure.
b. Nigerian ports presently under the grip of the gridlock are not profitable and IT-compliant
c. E-Call Up system is not working as expected and that NPA and other managers of the system must go back to the drawing board to perfect it
d.  Those in positions of authority in the industry should take up responsibilities to tackle the gridlock once and be held accountable if it persists in spite of the recommendations.
e.  There is need to draw a line between truck owners garage, transit park and call off park. The triangular truck parking system should be revisited and implemented.
f.   All hands must be on deck to correct the prevailing perception suggesting that the Apapa traffic gridrock seems to have defeated and making a mockery of the whole essence and object core of the port concession.

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