ShareTweetEmail0sharesFEATURE STORY   By Shola Fadeyi   Executive Vice Chairman(EVC) , Presidential Task Team(PTT) on Restoration of  Law and Order on Lagos  Ports Access... Presidential Task Team and Restoration of Sanity to Lagos Ports Access Roads

FEATURE STORY

 

By Shola Fadeyi

 

opeifa (1)

Executive Vice Chairman(EVC) , Presidential Task Team(PTT) on Restoration of  Law and Order on Lagos  Ports Access Roads, Mr Kayode Opeifa.

 

 

Undoubtedly, the Federal Government has been able to restore a high level of normalcy  on the Lagos Ports Access Roads , sequel to the perennial Gridlock which had before now , characterized  Apapa and its environs  for over a decade and has  taken a toll on vehicular traffic, made commuters to spend valuable man hours on the road, as well as affected cargo clearing  at the Lagos Seaports.

Sanity

It is gratifying that the respite, was achieved through the Presidential Task Team on the Restoration of    Law and Order (PTT-RLO)  on the Lagos Ports Access Roads, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as the Executive Chairman(EV) and Comrade Kayode Opeifa as the Executive Vice Chairman(EVC),  which government  set up to decongest the roads and bridges occupied by trucks and sanitize the environment among other functions.

Duties/ Composition

The Team’s terms of Reference include the development of an efficient and 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.

This also includes the implementation of a workable empty container return and export container truck handling policy, amongst others as well as the stoppage of all  prospects of extortion.

The Task Team  when it was set up  comprises , the Lagos State  Traffic Management Authority(LASTMA) representatives of a Unit of the  Police , headed by a Commissioner of Police , the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) ,  the Nigerian Shippers Council, The Nigerian Ports Authority , Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC)  and the Transport Unions.

The Presidency had given a  72 hours deadline to the  owners of articulated vehicles  in May  2019 , to remove them from the roads and bridges in Apapa , Lagos and its environs , while it has   charged   the Task Team  with  the onerous responsibility of  decongesting the roads, and ensuring  that , there was a free flow of traffic.

Experience

Opeifa as the leader of the Team , had relied on his  expertise and experience as a former Special Assistant, then later Commissioner of Transport to the then Lagos State Governor , now Works and Housing Minister, Raji Fashola, and later, Secretary of Transport, to ensure that he carried out the assignment in a professional manner, that has made the Apapa Roads and its environs to be devoid of gridlock to a large extent.

Thus in adherence , to government directive ,Opeifa had on May 23, 2019 moved to Lagos, with the then representative of the Police in the  Team  , Commissioner Akeem Odumosu   , now the Lagos State Police Commissioner , to hold series of stakeholders  engagements  with the NPA , Shippers’ Council , the Navy , Customs, the Transport Unions and  Freight forwarding groups  among others to brief  them and seek support for  its mission .

Efforts of PTT

To appreciate the extent of work that was done  by the Task Team, before it came on Board, the Gridlock was such that articulated vehicles  took over almost the whole of the access roads leading to the Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Port, the Marine Beach , Eko Bridge ,Costain Bridge ,Point Road,  Ikorodu Road  among other places, to the extent that the situation affected vehicular movement  in most parts of Lagos.

In fact , it was after the Lagos State Economy was almost experiencing a lockdown , the Ports became inaccessible  and sequel to  the failure of most of the  Task Forces  that have been set up in the  past, headed by the  Navy   and para- military bodies  to arrest the gridlock that , President Muhammadu Buhari had to direct the Vice President to have the Task Team in place.

Removal of Articulated Vehicles

So, the first major  task  the Team undertook ,for which it deserved commendation  was the removal , with the assistance of the leaders of the Transport Unions ,NPA and Shippers’ Council  ,of about 200  trucks and tankers that took  over the roads and bridges in Apapa and its environs  to some designated  truck parks and holding bays ,  thus making space available for other vehicles to use the roads .

Following the  removal of the first set of the  trucks blocking the roads and the bridges ,  the PTT  in conjunction with the truckers   and the towing van outfits ,  has also  since then been confronted with the towing away of  at least two  trucks, on a weekly  basis, which   have broken down on the Lagos Ports Access Roads  ,  thus assisting in managing the effect of the gridlock

SOP

It is however pertinent to say that  the   Standard Operating Procedures, that was adopted by the Task Team , which incorporated traffic management and enforcement direction and strategy,team management principles and system and an  initial call up system among others, assisted it  greatly in the discharge of its duties.

PTT’s Support on Lillypond TTP

Also , the technical  assistance rendered by the PTT to  NPA , when it was to commence the use of Lilypond as a Truck Transit  terminal, as directed by the government  made it possible for the  facility to take off as it initially suffered infrastructure challenges such as  ,access roads, de-flooding and security lightning, management capacity, inadequate staffing and security.

The PTT had thus made it possible for  the NPA through the Terminal operators to  manage Call ups from the initially  identified truck parks ,combined with the deployed Traffic Management Systems which was   critical to the permanent removal of Trucks from the roads and the Restoration of law and order.

In fact , it  was the PTT that  cleared the approaches under the Bridge  to the  Lillypond Terminal , where the trucks usually park indiscriminately and block access to the Facility , and its efforts made it possible  for trucks to move  freely out of it, into the ports, as well as into it ,for parking purpose, while it also lent  its support to ensure that the place was functional when touts vandalized its facilities in October .

 Call Up System

It was able to design a workable call up system which it dully tested for weeks, used and discovered that it made the roads to be free to a large extent as at October 11 , 2019  before it submitted the package to the NPA .The PTT has however argued that , if the model  of the Call- UP  system , it submitted had not been tinkered with or comprehensively reviewed by NPA, it would have worked better than the current one in use.

This has made Opeifa to insist that the current Call up System in use and being controlled by the Terminal operators is not working , while he has also called the federal government to audit the Concessionaires  for the fact that their failure – inadequate cargo handling equipment , lack of data for the PTT  to use  for its work have slowed down the pace of its work.

But in its quest for solutions to all measures that will make the roads to be free, the   PTT participated at ensuring the successful clearing of the trucks occupying Tin Can – Warehouse  axis preparatory to the rehabilitation of that section of the Apapa- Mile 2, Oshodi Oworonshoki Expressway  which is expected to be concluded this year .

Monitoring

The  monitoring of the assignment by the PTT can also be said to be commendable,  as the EVC himself was  always on the road in  Apapa before  7, am with his team ,coordinating  the traffic to encourage the drivers to be orderly , while other Team  leaders are  always there, whenever he leaves for inspection,  to continue the work , so that no gap would be created.

Restrictions on Truck Movement

The PTT  was likewise able to achieve some level of success in its assignment for the fact that it was able to restrict the movement of the trucks coming from outside Lagos  and tankers to say from about 8 pm  when the peak evening  time traffic must have been over till  about 11 am after the morning peak period.

However , an issue that is undeniable,  and  to which most stakeholders have attested, is the high level of integrity , sincerity , commitment and patriotism , which Opeifa and particularly the high echelon of his team   brought  to bear on the assignment , as he assisted to expose most of the extortionist activities  that have made the gridlock to fester.

Perhaps, in what could be described as paying the maximum price for a course,  two Police Personnel and two LASTMA  officers  attached to the Team lost their lives, while on active duty , while Opeifa himself has his car battered  in an incident, in  the process of ensuring that  the roads are free for vehicular traffic.

Little wonder that Opeifa and his team have been commended by the Federal Government  for their efforts at tackling the gridlock , while the Lagos State Government has recognized the head of the PTT with a consultancy task, even as the Head of the Police Unit , Akeem Odumosu was later appointed as the  Lagos State Commissioner of Police.

Extortion Allegations

While the issue of extortion , has been a major factor that has contributed to the failure of the  past Task Forces, as the truck  drivers have complained bitterly that they had to pay bribes,  to the personnel of those bodies then,  before they could allow their trucks to access the Port, the development ,  made Government to ask the Team to ensure it nipped the challenge in the bud.

In its quest for solutions to all measures that will make the roads to be free, the   PTT participated at ensuring the successful clearing of the trucks occupying Tin Can – Warehouse  axis preparatory to the rehabilitation of that section of the Apapa- Mile 2, Oshodi Oworonshoki Expressway  which is expected to be concluded this year .

Deterrence

What the Task Team , however did to tackle the issue of extortion, a trap it knows its lower level  personnel  can easily fall into ,  was  to put series of measures in place to deter them , even as there have also been the same allegation against the Team itself by various stakeholders.

But Opeifa has continued to insist that the leadership of the Team is in no way corrupt and that no trucker should give any bribe to any of its personnel, but should rather ensure that they do the right thing , by registering for Call up  and ensuring  that they park their trucks in the  Lillypond Truck Transit Park  and be ready to go into the Port when the terminal operators call them.

The Task Team leadership has said that the operatives of the Police , and the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency(LASTMA)   know that extortion  carries heavy  penalty, while they are aware that  even as humans, when commit minor offences , they would be   appropriately punished and risk being locked up for days .

Measures to Curb Compromise

To check complaints of extortion, the Team had to  remove its operatives  from  places such as Ijora Olopa, Sifax among others where the personnel of the Team  could exhibit such behavior.

It   had likewise  directed that  the  Police operatives on the Team  should no longer check particulars of vehicles while it ensured   that the  Police, Federal Road Safety Corps(FRSC)  and the Lagos State Traffic Management (LASTMA)  operatives that worked with the Navy , when it was the lead agency were changed so that they would not infect others.

Not too long ,the PTT  stopped the LASTMA and Police operatives  from staying under tents , in the  belief that  , it is only  when they are ‘comfortable’  under such an arrangement  that people can start approaching them with a view to compromising them.So, they have been using raincoats  , when rain falls

Allowances

Apart from giving the operatives  allowances, the PTT also  gives them uniforms, boots and other tools , which they need to do their work as well as fuel their patrol vans  , all to ensure that they do not  have any cogent reason to be corrupt.

Personnel

While the Team has more than 200 LASTMA personnel,  who are  part of the Task Team’s work, including the Police men manning the bridges , it has however admitted that with that large number including the Police operatives  , it is indeed very difficult to keep an eye on them all , but it has asked those who have proof of extortion, to bring them forward to the Team leadership.

Many of the members of the Trucker Unions  working with the Team have  however described the allegations of extortion against the outfit , as being   unfounded, saying they  were meant to discredit the work of the team, particularly by those who have been benefitting from the sleaze that took place in the past.

Absence  of Gridlock

While Opeifa has continued to lay emphasis on the fact that most of the allegations of corruption against the Task Team have been false and tantamount to corruption fighting back against the Team , he  had also insisted that those   who make use of the Apapa Port and its environs on a daily basis, can vouch for the fact that the roads are relatively free now ,compared to when the Team started its work.

This is  probably  why the Task Team’s EVC  has continued to insist that there is no longer Gridlock on the Lagos Ports Access roads , but that what exists now is  the normal traffic congestion, caused by many factors including non adherence to traffic regulations, and the ongoing repairs of the roads in the Apapa environment , including  the Apapa- Mile 2, Oshodi  Oworonshoki  Expressway  among others.

Completion of Roads Repairs

However , just as some experts including the Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian  Shippers’ Council , Comrade Hassan Bello have  said ,  the good works that the  Task Team has been doing for some time now , would be  better appreciated , when the ongoing repairs of the Apapa- Oshodi – Mile 2 Expressway is completed  and  by April 2021, after the Lagos Seaports must have been  linked by rail.

But as suggested by stakeholders, for the  Task Team to get better results from its work and completely vindicate itself against the allegation of corruption, it would need to set up a secret but trusted monitoring team that would  comprise some of its operatives,  who would secretly monitor the activities of its personnel and report back to the leadership , while those indicted for extortion  must be punished publicly, to serve as deterrent to others.

Improved Output

However to achieve a freer Lagos Ports Access Roads, the Call up system , currently being operated by the Terminal Operators on behalf of the  NPA, would also need to be improved upon,  and subsequently upgraded to the electronic version ,  while there would be a need for the NPA with the support of the PTT, to ensure that  Lillypond Truck Transit Park work at full capacity,  to deter  Trucks from parking on the roads.

Also , the work of the PTT  would  also be much more appreciated with  better synergy between it , the NPA and Terminal Operators  while the traffic congestion  would also ease significantly if the NPA will acquire more Truck Transit Parks  within and at the outskirts of Lagos , preferably Ogere in Ogun State  for the parking purpose of Trucks  coming to Lagos, and to complement that of Lillypond.

 

 

 

 

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