News Ports

How state, non-state actors turn port corridors to notorious

By Steve Agbota                                    [email protected] 

Despite the excited that greeted the electronic call up system introduced by Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to manage traffic logjam and promote ease of doing business in the nation’s ports, the Apapa and Tin Can ports corridors have suddenly been turned to a notorious haven of corruption and extortion by state and non-state actors.

The said nefarious activities are being carried out in the name of checkpoints mounted by various security personnel and task teams stationed to restore sanity to the gridlock that has become synonymous with Apapa ports over the years. 

The corrupt practices are allegedly been carried out by security personnel of the Police, LASTMA and other uniform men around the port corridors.

Daily Sun authoritatively learnt there are over 30 illegal checkpoints within the Apapa and Tin-Can Island Port corridors where truckers are compelled to pay between N50, 000 and N60, 000 per trip to access the port, despite having valid electronic call-up tickets.

According to the truckers association, the  multiple checkpoints along the ports corridor have become  the deadly cancer eating away proceeds of truckers and undermining growth and progress of the transport sector in the maritime industry.

It is also among the reasons why most truckers cannot feed well and put their eqiupments in good conditions  having become the  the root cause of rickety trucksdue to damaging effect  of traffic enforcement of security agencies, transport unions and local government hoodlums. 

In ordinary universal parlance, a checkpoint is a place where traffic is stopped by security, traffic and other law enforcement agencies in order to control traffic check against any act of illegality and unauthorised access to restricted areas.

However, in Nigeria’s context, especially in the maritime ports corridor, a checkpoint can be described as a place where trucks are being damaged, truckers are intimidated, harassed, extorted and unnecessarily turned back or delayed from accessing the ports by uniformed traffic controllers, security agencies, transport unions, and hoodlums.

Truckers said the existence of multiple checkpoints of extortion along the ports corridors slows down the movement of trucks moving goods out of the ports thereby allowing burglars to climb slow moving trucks to burgle and steal goods from containers/ cargo or hijack both truck and container/cargo from drivers.

The illegal collection of fees by both the state and non-state actors posed financial loss to importers and truckers arising from diversion of containers/cargo and trucks.

Against this backdrop, the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN), truck owners and clearing agents recently formed an alliance to eradicate endemic corruption and illegality on the nation’s port corridors.

At anti-corruption maritime event recently, the Chairman of Association of Maritime Truck Owners AMATO, Chief Remi Ogungbemi, said that the myriad of illegal checkpoints on the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports roads in Lagos, have become a channel of organised impunity, official lawlessness and excesses defying the authority of government.

“As a result of multiple checkpoints, we no longer have security along the ports roads because the priority of security men is to extort money from truckers. On same roads with presence of security operatives, containers are being burgled and hijacked. On same roads, hoodlums are extorting and robbing truck drivers. 

“On bridges manned by the security personnel, hoodlum  still breach light cables installed by the Federal Government to light up the bridges at night for security with most of these being stolen by scavengers” he lamented. 

He, therefore, suggested that there should be sincere political will by the Nigerian political leaders to end multiple checkpoints, corruption and extortion in the nation’s ports corridor by wielding the big stick against the uniform and non-uniform extortion bandits involved in the illegalities happening in the ports corridor regardless of their ranks, status and political connections in the best interest of the Nigerian economy and survival of transport sector of the maritime industry.

“There should be a sincere commitment by the top hierarchy of traffic and security enforcement agencies to tackle corruption by collapsing all illegal checkpoints, eliminate extortion, end the impunity, illegalities and lawless activities of the union and local hoodlums in the ports corridor. 

“The birds of corruption, extortion, and lawlessness that are cat walking on high heels and dancing in our ports corridor have drummers in the bush nearby. The arrogance, lawlessness, and impunity with which uniformed men mount illegal checkpoints and extort truckers along the port corridors is an indication of legitimacy and support for their illegalities from the top hierarchy,” he added.

Meanwhile, the CEO of MACN, Soji Apampa, said that there is a need for all stakeholders to collectively tackle the issue of corruption affecting the nation’s maritime industry.” There is therefore the need  to find  solutions to address the issues of corruption and extortion on the nation’s ports corridor. One of the critical points to look at in tackling corruption around the port corridors is the lack of political will. When there is political will, it will enable people to do things in a manner that is acceptable.

However, he stated that the only way to get the political will is to have a standard operating procedure for what people ought to do if at all there is a checkpoint.

“What are the expectations of behaviour from both the truckers and the officials who are there whether it is the state actor or non-state actor? Otherwise, if you do not define the parameter of what is supposed to happen, then, what are you complaining about? he queried.

Speaking in the same vein, the National President of COMTUA, Adeyinka Aroyewun Aroyewun, recommended interim and permanent solutions to address corruption around the port corridors. 

“Regulations of the existing system have always been applied by the authorities ever since the system is challenged, but it has not yielded required positive results,” he said.   This may not be unconnected with the perceived compromises in enforcement and implementation. Though there is a limit to use of regulation, policy summersault and poor advocacy could equally hinder the efficacy of regulation.

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