The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has called on Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu to prevail on the management of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) to release all the trucks its officials towed around the port premises especially at the Tincan First Gate since Friday last week.
Speaking in a telephone interview with our correspondence on Wednesday, the Chairman of NAGAFF, KLT chapter, Engr. Emmanuel Umeadi disclosed that the trucks numbering above ten (10) were towed by the officials of the agency on the ground that they were abandoned vehicles causing obstruction to free flow of traffic along the port corridor.
Umeadi, however, argued that those trucks, contrary to the claims by the LASTMA officials were not abandoned as they had genuine reason to be at the port at the moment they were towed away.
He further argued that no truck would have access to the port without having been called up to come given the new call up system which allows only trucks called up to access the port insisting that NAGAFF saw the operation carried out by the agency last Friday as illegal and without any clear directive because any container laden truck around port premises has a genuine call up.
Explaining how it happened, he said, “They came into the port premises; tow some trucks without consulting the NPA and stakeholders like the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders. They claimed that those trucks that they towed away were abandoned but there was no trucks abandoned anywhere. Some video clips were obtained to buttress our point. What they did was that they used some people to chase away the drivers and drove away the trucks on their own and they claimed they were abandoned, all in a bid to raise money for themselves.
“Up till now, those trucks are parked somewhere in Orile and are accumulating demurrage at the shipping companies because those trucks carrying empty containers were going to the port to drop the empties. And when you go there to ask them what the offense was, they will tell you that they were yet to decide on those trucks as there was no directive to release them yet.
“We are urging the Governor of Lagos state to give them directive to release those trucks. Before they tow trucks, they should contact NPA and if NPA confirms that those trucks had no call up, they should then tow them. We are not asking them not to tow because we need free flow of traffic in the port premises but due process must be followed.
“They should also understand that these trucks carrying empty containers that they are towing are causing more hardship on the importers, freight forwarders and the masses. We are asking the Governor to use his good office to intervene in this matter. I don’t think trucks would go to the port and park without having a call up in this new regime.”
Continuing, he said, “They towed over ten trucks since Friday last week and up till now, they have not stated their offence. When they go there to know their offence and to take back their trucks and the empty containers because they have genuine reason to be at the port with their call up, they will tell them that there is no directive. There is no directive which means they are not going back, they are not going forward. Let us assume that they have said bring this, you will now tell them you didn’t do anything, that their operation was illegal. Let us assume that they towed those trucks somewhere around Mile 2, they will claim that they are blocking access to the port but trucks that are already around the port premises have genuine reason for being there.”
The Chairman went on to inform that when the incident occurred, they contacted the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) at the Tincan Island port complex who denied any knowledge of the operation claiming that they were not consulted.
“They (NPA) said that we are association; that we should go and find out and get back to them. We have sent people to Orile and they keep telling us that there was no directive on what to do with those trucks. They (LASTMA officials) directed us to go to their head office at Oshodi, on getting there, they told us that the SA has not given any directive”, he said.
On way forward, Engr. Umeadi stated that “Any truck that has a genuine reason for being at the port which they towed should be release because with this call up system in place, no driver will have access to that extent without a call up.
“NAGAFF is a peaceful association; we won’t take laws into our hands. That is why we are using this medium to draw attention to our plight. We have written letters on this issue but nothing has been done and our business is clamped down, the containers are accumulating demurrage. If we should go to court, we are going to bill them for all the charges we are going to pay to the shipping companies.”
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