ETO: Again, truckers embark on protest at Tincan over irregularities, threatens to withdraw service

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For their inability to get the attention of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) following the three days protests it earlier embarked upon last week, the Tincan Island Port Transport Operators (TIPTO), yesterday embarked on another protest to demand the attention of the authorities especially the NPA to look into and address their grievances in order to smoothen the rough edges of the electronic call-up system now operational at the Lagos ports.

The truckers who carried placards with different inscriptions on them commenced their protest from the Tincan first gate and marched through the PTML terminal to Tincan second gate singing solidarity songs while intermittently stopping to address onlookers who gathered to know what the protest was all about.

Speaking to our correspondent on the reasons for the protest, one of the leaders of TIPTO, Comrade Francis Okechukwu informed that they had to embark on another rounds of protest this week because they had not gotten any response to their demands from the authorities.

“We have been seeking the audience of the Nigerian Ports Authority and all the bodies that are concerned with this Eto to come and address us but nobody has come. So, as it were, we will continue to complain, let the world hear”, he said.

He stated that the group was protesting the humiliations members were receiving from the Nigerian Ports Authority which supervises the activities of the shipping lines operating at the nation’s seaport.

While describing the electronic call-up system as well as the Eto App as a welcomed development, Okechukwu, however, maintained that the process had become fraudulent as the system was now fraught many irregularities.

According to him, “The way and manner the Eto is being handled, when the truckers pay money into their Eto wallet and before they will come back again, they (garage managers)will start withdrawing N16,000 per day as demurrage and before you could know it, they will siphon the account of the truckers just on a call up. This MOB garage at the second gate is one of the places you can go and witness what I am saying.

“Before this time, the garage has been collecting N5,000 for trucks to come in which we complained back then as being on the high side and for demurrage, they were collecting N2,000 which was later on jerked up to N5,000. Now that the call up system has been introduced, they started collecting as much as N16,000 per truck per day and for one to meet up with the amount, automatically, it will not be at the cost of the job as the person may have to go and source for money from some other places because the expenses has become so much. And when the call up paper expires on the road, the security agents, NPA Security and others, when they see the paper, they will order the person to turn back except the person has to bribe them and some bribe with amount ranging from N20,000 to N50,000 before they can have their way or they will turn the truck back. “

He suggested that the electronic call up system could be restructured in such a way that payment would last for a trip rather than what obtained currently where truckers were billed per day noting that it would eliminate corruption in the system.

“If it is per trip, you will know that the person that collected Eto will use it to struggle to go and do the work and come out. Then going for another trip, he has to go for another payment’, he said.

While insisting that the shipping lines were not doing well, Okechukwu recalled that there was a time a meeting was held between the shipping lines and the truckers where they mapped out modalities to bring back empty containers to the ports, among them was that the shipping lines should have their holding bays outside the ports where they could receive their empty containers.

“So, when one picks the import, as he offloads at the importer’s warehouse, he takes the empty containers to the holding bay but we found out that there was none as none was functioning. And the few ones you can find are privately owned where you will come and the person will start to bill you. That was how we come up with people collecting N200,000 before they take empty container away from the truck. And while that container is on the truck, as we are looking for where to drop it, the shipping lines are collecting charges. We that are having empty boxes on our trucks will be using the money we have to look for a way to drop it, they that are supposed to provide where we will drop them will now be charging us and collecting money”, he added.

He further lamented that the officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) had not spared them either as opined that, “for this little space we can find to drop the empty containers sometimes, while you are queuing up with that amount of money that you are going to pay to the holding bay managers, LASTMA will come there and tow the trucks.”

“They will use Area Boys to beat up the driver, throw him off and then carry the truck and go. They will start to charge you between N30,000 and N500,000 without receipt. None of them is going with receipt and if you ask for receipt, they will ask you to wait until anytime it is approved for releasing. You can see what we are passing through in the hands of these people.

“So, automatically, the thing has become burdensome on us that our business is gradually dying off because some person may not understand what we are saying when we are complaining about what is going on. Some people may think that we are uncomfortable because trucks were removed on the road, no! We are not even happy to come and queue on the road. Previously, you will find out that even as the trucks were queuing there, it is there that the driver will remain bathing, toileting and doing every other thing which is abnormal”, he further explained.

On what would be their next line of action if the authorities still refused to respond to them, he said, “If they don’t listen to our demands, automatically, it is to withdraw our services at Tincan ports because that is where the whole thing will end. You can imagine the time we have given and then, we have been protesting all along, criticizing them, letting them know what we feel in this call up system but they are not responding.”

Photo: The Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala Usman.

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