Though residents and businesses in Apapa are celebrating and thanking God for the return of sanity to their environment following the introduction of an electronic call-up system for trucks which, so far, has been a success story, there is a flip side to that great feat.
Logistics operators are facing what they say is an unexpected round of losses in the wake of the shift in the call-up system at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) terminals in Apapa to a digital platform aimed at increasing transparency and easing traffic flow.
When BusinessDay monitored the implementation of the new system at the weekend, it was discovered that the exercise caught some of the operators unprepared as security agents dismissed all container-laden trucks queuing on entry routes for onward pass into the main terminal.
Some importers face a double whammy in which off-the-record payments made earlier to security officers for a pass has been lost and terminal charges, demurrages and evaluation charges pile up daily.
“About three of my trucks were turned back yesterday, despite reaching Eleganza Plaza. That is over N300, 000 lost already on trying to get to that point. Yet, my goods are in the ports and I have to continue to pay charges. It’s affecting us badly. It’s painful,” Nnamdi Okafor, a container-laden truck owner told BusinessDay during a visit.
As of Saturday morning, early gains of the implementation were clear in the free flow of traffic inbound Apapa, from Ijora to Marine Beach Bridge on to Wharf Road. This continued on Sunday and today it is a lot better as the whole stretch of Ijora Bridge down to Wharf Road is free of trucks.
There was heavy security presence at the main roundabouts of Wharf Road and Warehouse Roads with traffic wardens coordinating the movements in and out of port routes.
Onyekachukwu Emechebe, chairman of Maritime Container Haulage Association, noted that the system was expected to favour members and cut off the overbearing extortion from security officers. Members expend N100, 000 to N400,000 to move goods, he added.
Despite the system’s success story, concerns and doubts remain over efficient implementation and sustainability.
“Before you introduce a thing, all stakeholders should come together, but with what they are trying to do it seems the lesser evil will be out of the way while the mighty ones high-jack it,” Emechebe.
“It will restore sanity if they will comply with it. Something like this has been introduced before but was not upheld. There was a time all trucks were led to Lilypond Transit Truck Park before heading to the main port. But while others queue at Lilypond for weeks, you will see officials flying trucks directly to the port. That the discouraged people.”
On Tuesday last week, the Lagos State government and the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) announced a new solution to the menace of gridlock in Apapa, stating that the seaports would now be organised through a transparent electronic call-up system that will be based on a first-come-first-serve basis.
With the new system, no container-laden truck is expected to go on the Apapa corridor without clearance from the call-up platform. Any truck that flouts the electronic roster and park along the Apapa corridor will be impounded by the Taskforce already set up by the Lagos State Government.
Sanwo-Olu expressed optimism on the transparent electronic call-up system, saying the move was the beginning of the end of Apapa gridlock. He said the call-up platform would be complemented with virtual dashboards that will be placed in strategic locations around the seaports, where all stakeholders will monitor the scheduling of container movement.
“This electronic system has a limited interface with security operatives and unions, which usually cause the gridlock problem. It will be a simple case of possessing electronic clearance. If you don’t have it, you don’t have any reason to be around the seaports,” Sanwo-Olu said.