A chieftain of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Abdullahi Inuwa Mohammed has chided the managements of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) for their inability to provide safety kits in form of face masks and hand sanitizers for the truckers working day and night to serve the port community.
Mohammed who made this observation in an interview with this reporter in Lagos on Tuesday described the development as a big challenge as they had to also show concern to their drivers.
He recalled that there were so many palliatives given out during the lockdown especially to the port operators but nobody considered the truckers despite the fact that “it is our duty to supply for our drivers which we have already asked our members to arm some drivers but at least the Nigerian Ports Authority or the Shippers’ Council ought to have considered that this our drivers that have sacrificed themselves to see that they serve the nation should be well equipped before they are admitted into the terminals.”
According to him, “If you see any driver that is not wearing any face mask or having hand sanitizer, I believe they should have assisted them by providing them with one as palliative because they are human being too. I want to appeal to either the port management or the Shippers’ Council to consider it.”
Mohammed who is the immediate past Lagos State Vice Chairman, Dry Cargo Section, NARTO submitted that it was only the truckers that were customer friendly during the lockdown period as they agreed to cut their charges by 30 percent while the Nigeria Customs Service was increasing the exchange rate for duty payment and the terminal operators and the shipping companies were having running battle with NPA and the Shippers’ Council over suspension of storage/ rent charges and demurrage.
On whether the truckers would revert back to the old charges now that the lockdown was being gradually relaxed, he said, “We agreed to cut down our charges by 30 percent during the lockdown period but now they have relaxed the lockdown and we are still battling the Covid-19 pandemic. We are still maintaining the 30 percent cut but there are other factors that will make us to revert to old charges. You know some of members do use barges to ferry their trucks to the port because of the gridlock. Assuming there is an enabling environment for truckers to operate freely, there won’t be any need for us to revert to old charges but this observation I am making, if I have cut down 30 percent of my rate and on my return to the port, I now pay a barge either N200,000 or N250,000 to bring back empty container, you see that there are indications that the truckers may revert back to old charges.”
Mohammed who is also Head of Operations, Coalition of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA) observed that their drivers encountered a lot of challenges more especially during that period of lockdown as about 50 percent of the rucks that did come to the port, came from other parts of the country adding the imposition of the lockdown took them unaware because majority of them were trapped.
“And when they were trapped, they were not having some of the safety measures that were prescribed by the government and they don’t have access to them. If not that one of our members was able to distribute about six cartons of hand sanitizer, it would have been worst. Apart from that, even to access the port was a major issue because some of their masters were sending some cash to them through transfer but they cannot access the money because majority of the banks were not dispensing cash. So, it became a very big challenge to the drivers.
“Again, you see majority of them carrying export and even the export was not able to access the port except when the documents were complete. It also affected our job because of the inability of the banks to operate and despite pleadings from the Nigerian Shippers’ Council that they have tried to see that the banks were working but the development affected our operation. Despite that, our drivers were able to service the port”, he submitted.
He however advised their members to be conscious at this very as life is very precious saying “they have to follow all the safety precautions issued by the health authorities and we should also continue to sensitize our manager and our drivers on the need to maintain social distance and to wear face masks and have our hand sanitizers handy.”
“They have to also frequently wash their hands and we should also continue to pray as we go back to God that he may forgive us our sin so that God can wipe away this virus from the entire world”, he added.
Photo: NARTO Chieftain, Alhaji Abdullahi Inuwa Mohammed.
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