Strictly Opinion: The port System: Extortion , Presidential Task force

R-L Comrade Ralph Agbogu and MARAN President, Mr Anya Njoku

By Ambrose Okehi



Barely a month after accusations and counter-accusations extortion against the Presidential Task force team which is currently monitoring the Apapa gridlocks, there have been series of evidences and more emerging facts of the alleged extortion by the same team.
Just few days after the Vice Chairman of the presidential Task force, Mr. Kayode Opeyifa’s denial of media reports allegedly pointing accusing fingers on the presidential task force team,  claiming that his team is not in anyway collecting money from truckers plying along port access roads, more facts are emerging everyday. Just few days after that public denial, the Apapa Customs Area Controller (CAC), comptroller Abba- Kura confirmed to the visiting House of Representative Adhoc Committee members who were on a fact-finding mission in his office on why the. Eastern Ports are not working, the command’s CAC told them that even  there was a lot of extortion going on by members of the team.
Various freight forwarders who had spoken on this issues at various fora have equally confirmed the same. They are of the opinion that there are a lot of money exchanging hands in the system.
However, Comrade Ralph Agbogu, the National Public Officer of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) recently too rood maritime journalists during a media roundtable at the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN’s) International Press Centre, Apapa, that there are a lot of extortions going within the port system especially against the truck drivers within Lagos and its environs.
The NCMDLCA’S image maker even lamented that now it cost an average agent and his importer over N500,000 to move a 40ft container from the nation’s seaport to a place like Ladipo market in Mushin area of Lagos due extortions from various security agencies as well as members of taskforce team. He also said it takes up N800,000 to take a 40ft container to Shagamu in Ogun State.Saying Nigeria is the costliest country to transact business likewise port operations and cost of moving cargoes from one point to the other.
Last week again, this reporter who visited one of his in-laws, witnessed a similar incident in the hand of an apprentice agent, who was detailed by his boss to escort a container from Kirikiri to the importer’s warehouse somewhere in Wilmer Bus Stop in Olodi Apapa area of Lagos. This boy (agent)decried the pains and disturbances (extortions) he encountered in the hands of these security agencies, street boys as well as NURTW members on their way to Wilmer. According to him, a journey of 15 minutes took the whole of the night as the boy could not close his eyes for s sleep that night as the novice motor boy and his driver kept on calling the young mam throughout that night at every point of collection, telling him they say I should bring this amount or that amount. But as the  assumed novice was calling the boy who had paid over N15,000 for a particular checkpoint within KLT before leaving, the agent was so curious, saying “haven’t I given you people enough money?”He also told this reporter that he even gave them extra N10,000 to greeze the hands of remaining extortioners who work through the night just from Beger Suya Bus Stop to the owners warehouse at Wilmer just along Kirikiri road.
The young agent who had already settled the security officers and their boys at some points that night before the Beger Suya Bus stop, before leaving them to go and sleep a bit for the night (at my in-laws place),  said there were places they will collect N2,000 and some points too, they will pay N3,000. He told me that the money he gave them should have been enough but unfortunately for apprentice agent, the driver and his boy wanted to extract another cash from him, and they keep on disturbing him throughout the night and they actually succeeded in doing so. The calls kept on coming and by 5am the call was still very much that I had to advise him to go and see them because it was already morning so that his boss will not blame him for any eventuality.
This story will show you a bit of what is actually happening on the way to the nation’s gateway. Even these so-called security personnel they have their boys working for them over nights. They don’t sleep. At every turning of your truck, there are certain amount you must pay which is known to all the truckers and their motor boys.These amount of money exchanging hands is not part of the bulk money the transporter had charged to move the container to its destination.
This situation will tell you that there is nothing really happening from anywhere to remedy the Apapa traffic gridlock, not even the so-called presidential taskforce team is helping matters.
This last Thursday too, we all saw and read what happened at  Lilypond gate where out of annoyance for haven being so much disturbed by these taskforce team, the truckers said No, enough is enough! We don’t want this nonsense anymore! And that led to a fracas that resulted to the death of one person and destruction property worth millions of naira.
The so-called presidential taskforce team who were appointed to come and find solution to Apapa gridlock have turn same to own ways of becoming billionaires.
The Lylipond incident, eye witness accounts said truck drivers clashed with the task force team and that resulted to the death of one man.
The October 24, 2019 incident, also saw the destruction of two police vans, other vehicles while the gate of Lilypond truck park was SRT ablaze. Another source said the Lilypond terminal gate, two police Hillux vans were still on fire.
Tracing the cause of the face-off which many could not ascertain as at the time but findings show that from the faces of some of the protesting boys and those who spoke on the issue, they said it was as a result of too much extortion by some members of the task force team.
The reporter further gathered that a young driver who was in his early twenties was the casualty of the whole thing as he died in the process inside the terminal.
It was equally important to note that the rift between both parties started on Wednesday over alleged bribery and by noon on Thursday, two patrol vans have been set ablaze and scores of other vehicles destroyed by in the skirmish with truckers in the Terminal.
The military operatives were sighted shooting sporadically in the air.

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