Musa Mohammed , the Chairman of Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), has said that more than 400 trucks have left Apapa and Tincan port areas in Lagos in the past one year due to the dilapidated access roads which is yet to receive government’s attention.
The RTEAN boss disclosed this yesterday during a round table chat with some Maritime Journalists in Apapa, Lagos.
He said that majority of RTEAN members had left the truck business and delved into other ventures because they could no longer cope with the bad roads situation.
According to Musa, the problem on the port access road is affecting his members as containers keep falling daily.
Seeking government’s attention to address the urgent situation, Musa who was represented by the state’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Comrade Abayomi Afini, said that RTEAN had written several letters to the National Assembly, Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) but there was no response to the effect.
“Two years ago FERMA came, surveyed the area, and took some palliative measures which were washed off by the rain. The port access road requires a standard construction that will last long,” Musa said.
Adding his voice, Chairman, RTEAN, Tin Can chapter, Isiaka Olalere also complained of how the dilapidated road have affected their trucks, a situation he said is making members sell off their trucks as scraps.
“We are going out of the business gradually, because if you go to trailer parks, you will see truck owners cutting their trucks into parts and selling them. A truck owner with seven trucks last cannot boast of two due to the bad and dilapidated access roads. It is affecting our business seriously.
“Immediately the truck falls on the road, it becomes scrap as it will no longer be balance. Today most truck owners are cutting their trucks and selling as scraps as the dilapidated roads is affecting their businesses.
“Anyone that invests in truck business now will soon run out of business because where you are supposed to go two to three trips a day, you will not go more than once in a week due to the bad roadsThe people you see buy new trucks daily are those that don’t know much about the road aspect of the port.
On alleged recklessness on the part of drivers parking on the roads and obstructing other road users, Olalere blamed the issue on lack of functional holding bay to drop empty containers. He said that the association ensured they educated their drivers regularly to ensure compliance on their trucks to meet minimum standard.
“The problem does not lie on the part of transporters. We don’t have functional holding bay. Some of the shipping companies do not have functional holding bay to drop empty containers, the drivers have to bring them back to the port, thereby causing gridlock on the access roads. That is why you see our vehicles littered on the road.
“We even advise our members them that rather than having four substandard trucks they should dispose two and use the proceeds to repair the other two to a standard level and they are complying. We are in support of minimum standard and we are repairing our vehicles,”
Afini added that lack of unity among the various truck owners associations in the port contributed to NPA’s success of collecting the fee for the stickers even as he blamed the government for not sticking to the two recognized associations notable in the transport sector.
In his words, “Last year, NPA came out with the issue of stickers, that sticker issue has been there for six years but because there are many associations in the port, that is why we have the problems we have today.
“If the government had been dealing with the two major associations, that is, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and RTEAN, there wouldn’t have been the problems we have today in the port. These two bodies are supposed to take care of all transport problems in the country but today, we have so many associations.
“On the issue of the stickers, we had several meeting with the MD of NPA and the General Manager, Western Port all of NPA but they were able to penetrate because we are not speaking with one voice and that NPA said immediately we are able to pay the money then extortion would stop at the gate,” he stated.
Speaking further, the PRO said that the state of the port roads had sent more than four hundred trucks belonging to their members out of business both in Apapa and Tin can axis in the last one year adding that some of the truckers have sold out their trucks as scraps due to lack of job and bad port access roads.
He said, “In Tin Can and Apapa alone, I can count about forty owners that are no more in business. I am talking of members that have about 10 to 15 trucks each.”
Afini also alleged that substandard spare parts is also responsible for what kicks their members out of business because according to him, if a trucker buys a spare part today and gets spoilt the next day, he will have to buy another one which he said the price is too exorbitant.
Asked if the association has an internal standard mechanism to make sure that members’ trucks meet the required standard, the Comrade said that the association had always been charging its members to maintain their trucks and to make sure they are in good shape and according to him; the members are compliant to the directive.
He however dislodged the allegation that the members of the association park their trucks indiscriminately on the roads thereby denying other road users access to the road. He said the reason why trucks litter the roads is because the terminal operators refuse to provide trucks bays for the trucks coming to return empty containers as well as the failure of the government to provide parking lot for trucks coming to the ports.
“The problem does not lie on we transporters, the issue of terminal operators are there . if you see containers lying from first gate to second gate, from Apapa to Ijora, that is the problem of terminal operators and again, we don’t have holding bays, even the shipping companies do not have functional holding bays.
“If there is a functional holding bay, after offloading, you will a particular place to drop the empty container. That one is not there, you must bring your empty container back to the port and we are not happy about that.
“Truck terminal is not there except the one under construction which nobody knows when they are going to complete, that is why you see our trucks littered on the roads. It is not our making and sometimes they tell you that their servers are not working, Afini added.