Officials of the Nigerian Navy yesterday morning clashed with the truck drivers who protested alleged extortions by the Navy officials on traffic control duty.
Unconfirmed report has it that one person allegedly lost his live in the fracas which was later quelled by the men of OP MESA were later drafted to the scene.
Recalled that this medium reported last month that the leadership of the Council of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA) alleged that men of the Nigerian Navy arranged some hoodlums who attacked members of their Task Force who were deployed to work with the Navy to ensure free flow of traffic and use of designated parks by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for use by truck drivers.
Report also has it that truck drivers within the week accused the Nigerian Navy of sabotaging the call up system introduced by the NPA in order to decongest the roads.
However, miffed by the excesses of the operatives of the Nigerian Navy, truck drivers yesterday morning embarked on violent protest, calling for their removal from the port access roads and return to the barracks as their services were no longer needed.
Speaking on the crisis, the Lagos State Vice Chairman, Dry Cargo Section of National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Abdullahi Inuwa Mohammed told newsmen in Lagos that he was at home when he received calls from his superiors in COMTUA informing him of the fracas as well as directing him to ensure that the crisis did not escalate to Tincan Island Port Complex which he said was exactly what they did.
“We tried to make sure that the protest did not escalate to the other areas. So, we have to call some of our members to make sure that the drivers within this axis (Tincan) did not join what was happening there”, he said.
On the cause of the crisis, Mohammed who is also the Head of Operations, COMTUA said,” The cause of the protest is not a new thing. Everybody is aware of the nefarious activity of the Naval personnel which is unbearable. We own the trucks but the drivers are always on the road, they are the ones at the receiving end. Where it affects us is where maybe they (Navy) smash our trucks and all that but the drivers are the ones sleeping day and night on the road and if there is any other corporal punishment and harassment, they are the ones receiving that one.
“Although, they have been complaining since, based on that, COMTUA, last month wrote a protest letter to the Vice President who upon receiving the protest letter, the following day had to call on COMTUA leadership down to Abuja for a meeting and I learnt that a committee was set up to make sure that they quickly find lasting solution to it which I believe the committee is working towards that. It was based on the recommendations that we made to the committee that the officials of the Nigerian Shippers ‘Council and NPA undertook inspection of some private truck parks and make their own recommendation to the committee.
“You are all aware that based on the commitment of the Nigerian Ports Authority to see that they decongest the road, they converted Lillypond terminal to truck park which I believe can accommodate not less than one thousand trucks and the NPA has introduced a call up system which makes it easy for truckers to gain access to the port from the Lillypond terminal but you know, the Naval personnel are making it difficult for them, they have been frustrating the efforts of the Nigerian Ports Authority, for them to achieve that desire to decongest the roads by making sure all the trucks go the park.
“I think this is what I will say was the cause because some of the drivers who got the call up have been denied access to the port. It happened to my truck, when it was the turn of my driver to enter the port, on reaching the dockyard, they diverted the truck down to Costain and he went back, only to spend up to four days to get to the point of entry, they refused him entry again. I have to redirect the truck to the port through another route.
So, I believe that was what triggered the crisis. Some of them have spent more than a week waiting to access the port with their call up but they didn’t allow them and according to them, some other trucks are allowed to enter the port even without the call up. That was what triggered the crisis. Even with the call up, they still collect money before allowing trucks to enter the port depending on your bargaining power. The first time they started the call up system, trucks access the ports free of charge with their call up but after sometime, the Navy officials came up with extortion which made the initiative difficult”.
Asked to confirm if any live was lost in the crisis, he said,” I had that somebody lost his life but I cannot confirm the authenticity or otherwise of the rumour but I have detailed somebody to the scene of the crisis and until I get his report, I cannot say for sure if it is true or false”.
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