Two foremost freight forwarders, Ichie Frank Obiekezie, National Secretary of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders Nigeria, AREFFN and Sir Tony Anakebe, Managing Director, GoldLink Investment Limited have confirmed the allegation of racketeering around the Eto Call Up System made by Mr. Olufemi Abiodun Olabanji and published by this medium.
Olabanji who is the Chairman of the Lillypond Export Chapter of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA had alleged that the Call-Up ticket for trucks which was initially issued for N27,000 is now being hoarded and made available to very few cabals who are now reselling it for N150,000.
According to him, trucking of cargoes from the port has increased from N400,000 to N800,000 and as much as N1.2million as a result of the new development.
Meanwhile, the operator of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA Electronic Call Up System otherwise known as ETO, Trucks Transit Parks, TTP has dissociated itself from the story where Olabanji alleged that the ETO Call-Up tickets for trucks was being sold for N150,000.
“We would like to categorically state that at no point has an eto ticket been sold for the reported amount of N150,000. The approved and standard pricing structure is transparent and fixed. Costs range from N10,750 and not exceeding 21,500 (VAT inclusive). This price depends on the parks or pregate that these trucks are electronically scheduled to go through before they are batched and released to progress to the port.
“The primary issue with irregularities arises from the fact that truckers fail to affix their plate numbers on their vehicles. Consequently, this allows for the potential swapping of plate numbers between trucks, leading to resale of tickets at inflated prices. It is important to emphasize that these practices are not endorsed or facilitated by Trucks Transit Parks Limited or the eto system”, a statement signed by Irabor Akonoman, Head of Operations for TTP said.
Confirming the story, Anakebe said “Let me start by saying that there is a lot of racketeering in the Eto Call Up System. In fact, the last container I loaded, I paid seven hundred thousand naira to Mushin and the thing is not helping the issue. The importer will input back the cost on the goods to be paid for by the final consumer and that is why the inflation rate in the country is hovering between 26 and 27 percent. With all these things cropping up, all these security agencies in the port are part of the rot as they are milking truckers seriously.
“They are not helping issues because if only to buy Eto call up ticket is almost two hundred thousand naira, how much will the truck drivers make? Now, they are pushing the whole thing back to the market because if you don’t sell, you will not buy again. As it is, the consumers are the ones bearing the brunt.
“But in the actual sense, the country is not helping this issue at all, our nation has failed its citizens, I don’t know why we should be arguing about trucking now. We have been to many countries of the world and we have seen how efficient and effective their ports operate but in Nigeria, it’s a different ball game.
“We have many capable hands that can manage this country to the best of their abilities and Nigeria will be a Haven for every investor but as of now, what we are seeing are politicians that are highly corrupt. It is not good for our economy and it will not augur well for our economy.
“You can’t believe that in Nigerian Ports now, all the units of the security apparatus in the port are seriously milking every trucker in the port. There’s a lot of things going on in the port which most of us cannot talk about. I personally believe that there’s a plan by all the security agencies involved in the security of the port that this is their time to make money and they are seriously making money from every transporter and you know this is festive season, people want to get their goods out from the port before traveling.
“Customs recently jacked up its rate for duty payment from little above seven hundred naira to a little above eight hundred naira and nobody is complaining. Equally, all the shipping companies have increased their tariffs, nobody is talking again, we are no longer talking about the terminal operators, they have increased their charges almost one month ago.and nobody is talking and now, they have turned to transportation in the maritime industry. Everybody is trying to make money.”
On his part, Obiekezie said, “I am confirming it to you. Not quite ten minutes ago, my importer at Onitsha called me and asked me whether there has been an increase in truck charges. I told him that there has been an increase not necessarily because of the trend in the economy because the trend in this economy now is an upwards increase in everything.
“The last delivery we took on the tenth of this month (last month), we paid about five hundred thousand naira per truck to Iddo and when I asked my transporter, he said that the ETO call up system had problem, so they now buy it second hand or third hand between one hundred and thirty thousand naira and one hundred and fifty thousand naira. He said that this is what they used to pay twenty seven thousand naira but now, you can’t get it.
“He told me about this cartel, that there are people, either officers or whatever group who have their own containers, they pass them in the night and in the morning, they will tell them there’s no space in the terminal until the ones inside come out. So,the problem with our port has become intractable, difficult to solve but who do you blame?”
Asked if the temporary suspension by NPA of the release of flatbed trucks from satellite truck parks to pregate from entering various terminals inside the Lagos Port Complex could be responsible for this racketeering, he said, “They are the people that should explain. Goods in the port normally require different types of trucks, if you stop one for sometime, look, if you close that port for two days, the multiple effects could better be imagined.
“NPA and associated agencies are responsible for this. You hear the Managing Director talking of N1.2 billion to rehabilitate port infrastructure, these are the only types of things that Nigerians are interested in. The ones that are available, are you making maximum and efficient use of them? Where is the guarantee that whatever you do tomorrow will last and that they will be sustainable?
“These things are man made problems, a good leader will dismantle this thing in 24 hours but there’s a lot of selfish interest, they don’t bother what will happen to the economy. It contributes to a lot of insecurity because many people are being deprived of their genuine means of livelihood no matter how small. So, it’s a reality, it’s happening, it’s affecting us.”
On why it’s difficult for the authorities to unveil those behind this racketeering, the AREFFN chieftain said, “And who told you that they are ghosts? The people that are stealing our oil, have they been unveiled? Remember, there was a time Vice President Osinbajo headed a committee to decongest the roads, what happened? The truth is that, you see, our NPA has been dismantled to a large extent, it still has control of so many things happening but the problem we have is the problem of leadership. When leadership is not decisive, those below the lather can be doing anything, dropping names.
Sometimes, the ultimate man may not be that kind of person but because he is not ready to wield the stick when necessary, the people below him will be committing a lot of atrocities. If I tell you what this thing is costing Nigeria economically, you will marvel.
“It is not a question of being unmasked or unveiled, who is unveiling who? It is not a one person affair, NPA is involved, our security agencies are not exonerated. Several times, they have been mentioned, so, I push it to the doorstep of the government because this thing has assumed a dimension that even the President was aware of, because the current President, I have not heard him say anything about it. But we know that a sitting Vice President superintendent over a thing like this.
“The Shippers’ Council has this Presidential Task Team, they will tell you to call them whenever you have a problem, even on the road, there are certain things that are beyond employees. Most of the people in the Shippers’ Council are all employees and they don’t have control of most things but they may be telling you something that they may wish that it is like this, otherwise, this thing cannot last more than two days and everybody will understand that sometimes, there could be a glitch. But this is business, if there’s normalcy for one week, many of them will be uncomfortable.”
Meanwhile, efforts to get the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, NPA to react to these allegations proved abortive as her telephone number was not reachable as at press time.
Photo 1: Sir Tony Anakebe, Managing Director, GoldLink Investment Limited.
Photo 2: Ichie Frank Obiekezie, National Secretary, AREFFN.
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