By Simeon Mpamugoh*
The National President, Council Of Maritime Transport Union And Association ( COMTUA) Mr. Adeyinka Aroyewun has said that the solution to the legions of problems besetting the Maritime sector was being deliberately ignored adding that sustainable reform of the port and digitization was the way out.
In a telephone chat in Lagos, Aroyewun said that what was happening at Nigeria’s most busy port was like using malaria drugs to cure cancer patients. He supported his view with the example of the terminal operators whose spaces had been a concession by the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) but have no facilities for their business.
He said, “If the terminal operators have for instance spaces for 200 containers and they bring 200 every day, they will not remove the same number of empty containers when they are leaving. We need outright reform of the port and digitalization of the process to the extent that we can know how many containers are being expected, when and how they are being expected,” he said.
He denounced the activities of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), describing the body as one who wants to eat its cake and have It. He said, “The authority has concession spaces yet wants to make more money from those who park in the places they have collected money.
“The authority has given Tin Can Terminal (TICT) to APMolla, yet wants to regulate what they do, the vehicles that come into the park. And the things it has not been able to do successfully, it pushes the budget to the truck owners.”
He noted that “the problem operators are facing on the port corridors were not congestion but the resulting effects of it. “The congestion is inside the terminal. Until there’s a complete reform such that the activity of everybody is transparent, we will not make headways. There’s no speed applied, even if it is In running in the opposite direction, that will take us to the destination.”
He took the public to a scenario; “you’re returning an empty container to a particular terminal. Eto calls up will book you to go to that terminal but don’t be surprised that you can get to the entrance of the terminal and they tell you that they are not receiving the container you are carrying. You have to stay on the road because the driver cannot go back from where he was coming from. If he does, it will be assumed that he has used the Eto call-up ticket. So he will be required to book again. And this translates to more gas expended to and from.
“NPA claims to have provided parks but we know this is a lie because if you offload cargo in Tin-Can, and you are waiting for a job that will be ready in three hours’ time, you cannot be admitted into the MOB truck park which they claim to have been provided for our members. What we have is just a transit park for you to enter the Port. In addition, the authority claims that they have satellite parks everywhere and vehicles are no longer on the road but in their park, this is a lie.
“There is no vehicle that will not have a business in the port and/or go and park inside any of their accredited Eto call-up parks. But it doesn’t happen because they don’t have such facilities. And if you say you are expecting a container and have booked through Eto call up who is working on behalf of the NPA to access the terminal, there should be nothing stopping the container from entering but you will not enter if the terminal operator says they are not receiving 40 feet of excise duty container you are carrying. So there is no correlation with the things that go on within the authority and the terminals,” Aroyewun intoned.
On the new Presidential Standard Task Team (PSTT) headed by Comrade Moses Fadipe, Aroyewun explained that the team was established mainly to deal with corruption within the industry. He said, “It is not a traffic agency. To a reasonable extent, the team has succeeded in warding off corruption. Before now, you’ll find Federal. Operations Unit (FOU) of customs in Ijora, Apapa and other places stopped drivers and extorted money for cargoes that had been cleared from the port. The Fadipe- led team has been able to ward off some of those ones and others within the seaside which they have manned for more than 2 years. For the ship to berth on the Nigerian shore, it takes weeks and is very expensive but the team has been working to improve on this direction. So, they are not set up for traffic, and they are not working against truck owners.
“Although at a certain stage, they wanted to abuse the purpose for which they were set up. The fear then was that since they are clearing the road of irregularities and corruption, they might as well impound vehicles that commit the same offense, which is what we are kicking against. We were members of the team from inception but we pulled out when they wanted to use it as an instrument of exhorting money from our members. But on the whole, their business is basically to ward off corruption and minimize extortion along the port corridors. They’re currently dealing outwards and keeping to their rules of engagement to a reasonable extent, especially in the area of warding off corruption. This is in addition to what they have been doing inside the terminals and government agencies outside the port,” he stated.
COMTUA helmsman also spoke on the alleged use of thugs by some officials of government agencies to extort money from trucks delivering goods to clients. He said that his association condemned their activities which his members experienced regularly, and assured them that the association was addressing it.