- STOAN Chairperson, Princess Vicky Haastrup
By Anthony Nwachukwu
With over N538 billion invested in port development from the concession in 2006 to December 2017 alone, port terminals across the nation have remained well coordinated and professionally run, the only problem being the dilapidated access roads, the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) has said.
The other major challenges to the smooth operation of the port include poor traffic management, which combines with the dilapidated access roads to ensure intractable gridlock, and 100 per cent manual examination of cargo by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the body explained.
In a statement Monday refuting the allegations that the terminals were not being efficiently run, STOAN classified the terminal operators as victims of the “dysfunctional state and chaos” on the port access roads.
According to STOAN, “concessionaires have done very well to ensure efficiency in their various terminals. The major problem is the road. Terminal operators do not have any role or responsibility on the road.
“We don’t own the road; we don’t control the roads; and we don’t control happenings on the road. We cannot control the security agencies saddled with the responsibility of managing traffic on the road.”
It further noted that more than any other entity in the logistics chain, the terminal operators are worse hit by the Apapa gridlock because it stalls cargo evacuation, adding: “The business of terminal operators is to keep trade moving, we don’t make money from cargo sitting at the terminal.
“Our profitability is in the volume of cargo we handle, so it is in our best interest for cargo to leave the port as soon as possible. Unfortunately, those who profit from the chaos on the road make it difficult for trucks to move freely to evacuate cargo from the port.”
It wondered why the gridlock always disappeared anytime President Muhammadu Buhari visited: “In 2019, when the President visited Lagos, the otherwise intractable Apapa gridlock disappeared. The gridlock also disappeared on June 10, 2021 when he visited to commission the rail line and the Deep Blue Project.
“It was not terminal operators that cleared the road but the same security operatives manning it. How did it happen? Can they continue on daily basis what they did on those two occasions of Mr. President’s visits?”
STOAN noted that “the problem with the roads leading into and out of Apapa is caused by bad roads, numerous checkpoints mounted by security agencies and rickety trucks. If these three issues are addressed and adequate parking lots provided for trucks, the gridlock will become history.
“The trucks that have direct business at the port are less than half the number you see on the road. The other half consists of petroleum tankers heading to jetties/tank farms and trucks owned by some Apapa-based manufacturing concerns, such as Honeywell, Flour Mills and Dangote, among others.”
Buttressing the relationship between the checkpoints and the gridlock, STOAN cited the Ag Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko, as counting over 30 checkpoints by security and traffic management officials on the port roads.
“The truth is that those who mount these illegal checkpoints are profiting from the chaos they deliberately create. It has nothing to do with terminal operators. We cannot control the action of these government officials. Only government can call them to order,” it argued.