The Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN), has raised an alarm over how a Presidential Task Force put in place to monitor as well as manage the endemic Apapa ports city traffic gridlock has allegedly turned their job into illegal avenues for extortion of motorists and other ports users.
In a press release issued by the association which was jointly signed by its President Anyan Njoku and General Secretary Dapo Olawuni, the body said it had become necessary to draw government’s attention to the worrisome development in order to save the situation.
According to the association, the task force headed by Commissioner of Police Hakeem Odumosu, the All Enforcement Lead of the Presidential Task Team on Restoration of Law and Order in Apapa, Lagos State, may have converted his position into an avenue for alleged self-aggrandizement and illegal enrichment of his cohorts.
Instructively, in the Task Team’s terms of reference, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is saddled with the responsibility of Security and Enforcement Supervision.
The Task Team’s Police Team Lead, Assistant Commissioner of Police Sulaiman, is one of the successors to Odumosu as Chairman of the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences.
The foremost body of maritime journalists claimed that Odumosu allegedly operates a private office located in the Yaba area of Lagos where road haulage fleet operators routinely visit to lodge bribes ranging from N500,0000.00 to N2,000,000.00 to procure un-receipted approvals that facilitate movements of their vehicles over certain agreed periods to and from the ports in Apapa.
“Notably, the Task Team’s Police Team Lead, during his tenure as a one-time Chairman of the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences, had continued on the trajectory of heavy-handedness trod by his predecessors, including Odumosu, which has established this nebulous organ of the Lagos State Government as a veritable Gestapo squad sadistically spreading sorrow across the state without restraint from the principals.
“These extortionist tendencies, which the duo have introduced into the Task Team’s mission, have infested their subordinates who now regard the Lagos ports access roads as paved with gold for their pickings” the release noted.
The association further averred “that Sulaiman had, during his tenure as Chairman of the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences, created three zones manned by his acolytes, ostensibly to cover and sanitise Apapa and environs adequately, but, which operations ended up endowing the operatives with reputations of new height in corruption”.
MARAN further disclosed that, apart from the illegal payment point derisively referred to as Odumosu Bank by hapless road haulage operators, at the Second Rainbow, Mile Two, and Kirikiri sections of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, squads of the Task Team routinely demand and collect the sum of N80,000.00 per truck to issue what they claim are “approvals from our Abuja Office for the release of arrested trucks.”
“Similarly, the Task Team’s operatives routinely demand and receive bribes of the sum of N80,000.00 in order to accord truckers with unqualified trucks “priority access” to the Tin-Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC) and the Lagos Port Complex (LPC)”.
To this end, the association expressed disappointed that, “owing to the tendencies which gloss over the deep-seated rot perpetrated by the undesirable elements in uniforms, notably the Police, the words encapsulated in the terms of reference of the Presidential Task Team on Restoration of Law and Order in Apapa have failed to be transformed into achievements.
“And to think that there was so much promise in those words as the adhoc body was mandated to see to the “the development of an effective management plan for the entire port area traffic, including the cargo, fuel distribution and business district traffic; enforcing the permanent removal of all stationary trucks on the highway, and the development of an effective manual truck call-up system, pending the introduction of the electronic truck call-up system.
“It also includes the implementation of a workable Empty Container Return and Export Container Truck Handling Policy, amongst others”
In a similar vein, the association also took a swipe at an earlier task force headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is yet to sign off as having executed the directive issued by President Muhammadu Buhari to eliminate in quick time the gridlock that has bedevilled the Lagos ports city of Apapa.
The gridlock, it says, has taken over Apapa and environs, for over four months after its inauguration following an emergency meeting convened by the President and chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on April 25, 2019, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“MARAN has closely observed and duly noted the drama being played out on the Lagos ports access roads over the years, including the respective reigns of the numerous task forces that took turns exacerbating the traffic situation while feeding fat on extorting road haulage operators and other commercial vehicle operators as the roads infrastructure and the environments of those locations generally degraded and presented serious security and health challenges.
“It is glaring that the Presidential Task Team is merely failure-on-arrival and incapable of restoring law and order in Apapa, even as its operatives, in the manner of those who worked in similar adhoc bodies in the past, excel in routinely intimidating and regularly extorting huge sums from road haulage operators” it added.
Confirming the situation, Chairman of Association of Maritime Trucks Owners(AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi, said extortions of various kinds are still going on among the task team members.
He however expressed the fear that “no amount of task forces can eradicate the malignant traffic gridlock on our port access roads until requisite infrastructures such as motorable roads , trailer parks and containers holding bays are provided.
“The constant recourse to task forces, he said, “is an ad-hoc arrangement that keeps postponing the evil days but which provide an open sesame for such task force members to enrich themselves” he added.