Extortion: Truckers cry out for help

TRuck drivers at the Lagos Port Complex , Apapa have continued to decry the high rate of extortion being experienced at the hands of security officers. These include; officers of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and officers attached to Area ‘B’ command of the Nigerian Police Force, Apapa Lagos.

Onyeka Emechebe, Apapa Chapter Chairman of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), alleged that these security officers collect money from them on the roads, or else their vehicles would be towed away to their offices, where huge amount of money would be asked from them afterwards.

This comes two months after truckers protest over the continued extortion by security agents at the gate of the Lagos Port Complex, which paralysed economic activities at Apapa. The protest was triggered off when security operatives at the port gate allegedly demanded the payment of N500 per truck before being allowed into the port.

The protest that took place at the wharf gate showed angry truck drivers singing solidarity songs at the port gate.

“The extortion from Barracks, Flour Mills down to the port gate?. It is getting out of hand, there must be ‘handshake’ and when there is no handshake there is no way they will let you go,” he said

He said the officers extort them on daily basis, saying: “None of our members drive freely from Area ‘B’ without money changing hands, it has become a daily occurrence that we are tired of,” even as he complained that LASTMA had turned truckers into cash cow that they milk everyday, especially when their trucks breakdown.

He said that LASTMA is known to always go outside the scope of their job, especially when their trucks breakdown on the road. “Ideally, when trucks breakdown, they are expected to help us tow it to one side until we repair, but rather, they prefer to use that opportunity to collect money from us.”

He said that although the association’s leadership had been reaching out on how the extortion can be stopped, but to no avail. “The extortion is much, before we settle police, LASTMA, FRSC what would be left for us?” he queried.

None of the security officials agreed to react to the allegations when contacted as at press time on Wednesday.

It would be recalled that the euphoria that greeted the decongestion of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, especially the port approaches, by combined effort of Lagos State Government and Presidential Committee on Ports Monitoring was short lived. This was because of the new dimension of traffic gridlock that resumed when security operatives deployed to monitor compliance of truck owners to traffic rules turned it to a money making venture, raking in as much as N5 million daily to private coffers.

At least 60 trucks and tankers were impounded in an unprecedented exercise that restored sanity to the express road, freeing up access to the ports. Lagos State government also provided crushing sites, where vehicles that returned to the roads would be crushed and officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA), Port Authority Police Command (PAPC), Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) security were deployed to monitor compliance.

Investigations by Daily Independent revealed that the traffic gridlock returned as the security and traffic officials introduced N5,000 illegal toll fees for trucks at both the first and second gates of the Tin Can Island Port Complex, and allow them to park indiscriminately, thereby causing serious gridlock for hours on end. For express access into the port, trucks pay N10,000 toll fee, and don’t need to stay on the usually long queues.

Expectedly, both the police and the Nigerian Customs Service denied knowledge of any toll fees, claiming access for trucks into the port is free.

Source : Independent

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