By Esther Oluku
Early hours this morning, commercial bus drivers took to the street of Apapa in protest of the traffic gridlock caused by unchecked activities of trucks and tankers, thus hindering the movement of vehicles to and fro the Port city.
The Nigerian Maritime News reports that as at press time, traffic along the port corridor had spilled into neighbouring areas like Ijora, Costain, Surulere, Ojuelegba, and Iganmu with trucks and tankers littered on major roads, obstructing traffic.
Lamenting that each trip into Apapa now takes about four hours or more instead of the normal thirty minutes, one of the leaders of the commercial drivers, Mr Lukmon Eletu, in an exclusive interview with The Nigerian Maritime News, said that the gridlock caused by a poor control of trucks and tankers has stifled their business, and hindered all vehicular movements.
He said that as drivers, their source of income has been grossly challenged by the lawlessness stemming from truck and tanker operations within Apapa and called for the immediate ban of trucks and tankers to end the menace and save the port city from total collapse.
“My name is Lukmon Eletu and I am one of the drivers. We started this rally because these trucks on top the bridge have been disturbing us and the road is not accessible. We had decided that since there is a diversion along marine beach, the trucks should take one lane while we take the other lane, which is on the one-way route.
“But one can stay on the traffic caused by the trucks for up to four hours. How will you make your daily bread and feed your family? Most of us have children at home who depend on us. We are working for our daily bread. Let the truckers leave the roads for us.
Eletu also emphatically blamed the crisis on corruption and alleged that taskforce agents along the route had no interest in coordinating traffic as all they did was extort money from drivers.
He said the taskforce worsened the condition of the drivers with the illegal collection of fines for violation of traffic rules caused by the gridlock.
“Task Force do come around to coordinate the traffic. If they want to coordinate the traffic because of the challenge caused by the trucks, they can do it but their activities on the roads have worsened our plight.
“They come in about thirty groups, section by section, extorting us. If you escape this one, you cannot escape the other one. If they arrest you, they will take you to a place in Costain known as Phase 3. When you get to Phase 3, if you want to quickly move out, it is either you pay a hundred or fifty thousand. I have paid N50, 000 to retrieve my vehicle from Phase three. They did not give me any receipt. Even when they collect this illegal, undocumented levy from you and give you back your vehicle, you would say thank you sir to them,” Eletu said.
Another victim of the illegal levy, Mr Mohammed Kazeem, said he paid a total of a hundred and twenty thousand naira (N120,000) to retrieve his vehicle last Friday.
“Task force collect money for my hand, one hundred and twenty thousand naira. The person wey collect the money, them dey call am Ijebu”, he said.
Kazeem who bemoaned the current situation where they are left without any support from government, alleged that government’s silence on the alarming situation is culpable.
“Government no dey support us. Them no dey talk anything for the matter and this thing don dey happen tey tey. We dey beg them to help us do something about this Apapa road wahala or comot the task force for this road wey we dey manage,” he said.
As regards interventions to douse the situation by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), which serves as the ports economic regulator, the Head, Public Relations, Mrs Rakiya Zubairu as at the time of filing this report said the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is in a better position to answer.
The Nigerian Maritime News however awaits response to its enquiries from the Nigerian Ports Authority.