The festive season would put to serious test the ease of movement currently experienced in the Apapa-Tincan area of Lagos. This was made known to newsmen by Chief Remi Ogungbemi, President, Association of Maritime Truck Owners.
According to him, “The gridlock has decreased and movement is better now than it used to be before.
“This is due to the Truck Call-Up system which has helped to reduce the burden along Apapa and its environs.”
Electronic Truck Call-up System (ETO) came to be in February, as an App that controls “…scheduling, entry and exit of all trucks into the ports”, by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to address the menacing issue of congestion in and around Apapa permanently.
Ogungbemi used same opportunity to notify commuters that the festive period that commences in November would provide the real test for the workability or otherwise of the system.
“Right now, traffic is less because not many cargoes are coming in and out of the ports. However, let’s see how things go by November towards the festive season. Then we will know for sure.”
Throwing more light on the alleged distortion of truckers within the area, Ogungbemi maintained, “I can confirm that this is absolutely true. Extortion is still ongoing. However, it takes two to tango if you understand what I mean.
“Some of our truck drivers are giving in to pressure to pay bribes. However, we are leading a campaign urging them not to take part in this and we are hoping this can be resolved soon.”
Rebutting the above claim on extortion by Ogungbemi, Toyin Fayinka, Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Transportation, and Head of the Traffic Management and Enforcement Compliance Team Apapa, said, “People are extorting, no doubt about that; but who are those people? Not the task force. I’ve had cause to report some individuals to the governor with pictorial evidence. You shouldn’t point accusing fingers without pictorial evidence to back it up.
“Who are those extorting? Go there and verify. I want an interview where you can bring me on board, bring the truckers on board, bring the police on board, and verify.”
He thus exonerated members of his task force from any involvement in extortion.
Two things play out here. First, the relative ease of movement in Apapa and the credibility test of the Eto App come November. Second, the accusation and denial of involvement in extortion.
Looking more deeply into these issues, one would want to surmise that the Apapa gridlock is man-made and as such, solvable. If people who are put in place to control movements suddenly turn the venture to a racket, then the onus lies on the Government, Federal or State, to unravel the faces behind it and bring them to book.
Passing the buck would not solve the matter. Any task force worthy of the name should be able to tackle the question of extortion head-on if its hands are not soiled. It is the principal responsibility for constituting them. First, find out what causes the gridlock, then tackle it. If extortion is not the primary cause but contributes heavily, then stop it first and go to the next step.
If the racket engendering the act is beyond the State, then raise the alarm for public notice. It does not need special interview panels or special press fora to address. No, just issue a press release and you have set the ball rolling.
Azuka Edokobi is a Writer and Entrepreneur