Extortion: FG inaugurates task team to remove illegal checkpoints, free Lagos ports access roads

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More than 26 illegal checkpoints between the Apapa port corridor and Sifax terminal in Jora, a distance of less than 2 kilometres have been discovered as extortion points for touts and security personnel deployed to ease the flow of traffic along the port corridors.

The multiple checkpoints created by these security officials to extort truck drivers have also been identified as the major factor fueling the gridlock on the port access roads.

To address this problem, the Federal government on Thursday flagged off a new exercise tagged ‘Operation Free the Port Corridor’ an initiative of the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) to remove illegal checkpoints and clampdown on corruption along the Lagos port access roads.

PSTT is a creation of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Nigerian Ports Authority, Department of State Security (DSS), and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) charged with the responsibility of ensuring that standard procedures were followed in carrying out transactions at the ports and to carry out necessary anti-corruption activities that would help dismantle the corruption network fueling the traffic logjam within the port area.

Speaking at the flag-off of the exercise, the Permanent Secretary, Magdalene Ajani, noted that to clear the port corridors of illegal checkpoints and ensure the efforts are sustained, the problem must be addressed holistically.

She said, “We have to treat this issue holistically and that holistic treatment is what we are trying to achieve. The aim of the holistic achievement is for us to improve ease of doing business in Nigerian ports and around the corridor. So, it takes every one of us to agree that we can do it and to be able to achieve it, we need to have an SOP that we must follow.

“The SOP is not conscripting everybody to follow one person’s SOP. It puts into cognizance the SOP of all operating agencies in the port and that is why we are talking about the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM). The NPPM will bring everybody’s SOP into focus and we will come together as a team to achieve results.”

“We get the containers out from the port but to drive out to Liverpool takes another six hours not because the road is very bad like we have in Tin Can, but because you have 26 illegal checkpoints.

“So, this phase we are going into is how to reduce or totally eliminate the illegality at those points and that is why we are talking about the extended presidential standing task team. We need to agree on the number of legal checkpoints on the port corridor and team up to remove all the illegal ones to achieve sustainability. If we agree to achieve this, we will achieve it because everything on the corridor is man related.”

Ajani who commended the task team for its achievements especially in the area of port operation in the last one year said through the efforts of the team, vessel berthing time has reduced from five hours to 90 days adding that the time used in resolving importers complaints have also reduced from 10 days to four hours.

“Previously when a vessel arrives, it takes five hours to come to berth but with their (port task team) activities, it takes 90mins. It used to take 7 to 10 days to resolve complaints but now we are resolving complaints in less than 4 hours.

She said the reduction in berthing and complaint time has helped improve the ease of doing business as well as port efficiency.

In his welcome address, Executive Secretary, NSC, Emmanuel Jime, thanked the task team for constituting an enlarged team for the purpose of removing illegal checkpoints and shanties along the ports corridors.

He applauded the support and level of buy-in obtained from the stakeholders, especially the public and private sectors, which he noted is a demonstration of how the operators are eager to rid the ports’ corridors of the observed anomalies.

“This exercise which is about to be flagged-off tagged “Operation Free the Ports’ Corridors” is fittingly named. Indeed, the ports’ corridors are not free; the traffic does not have free flow, the shanties are not freeing spaces for conducive business environments, and the unnecessary checkpoints obviously do not make for an atmosphere free of extortion and other forms of corrupt practices.”

“This exercise is going to be the third in the series of activities of the task team since its inception in March, 2021. The team began its monitoring and enforcement mandate at the Joint Boarding of vessels operations where they ensured adherence to the provisions of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM).”

“Following the success of the first phase, the team moved to the Terminals in its second phase of activities to ensure a new culture of Joint Cargo Examination in compliance with the NPPM to foster global best practices. Today marks the implementation of the third phase as we embark on sanitizing the Ports’ corridors,” he said.

Speaking earlier, the National Coordinator of PSTT, Moses Fadipe, said the enlarged team to carry out the exercise comprised 108 personnel drawn from various security agencies.

Picture caption:

L-R: Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani; Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Emmanuel Jime and the General Manager, Public Private Partnership, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Eniola Williams at the flag-off of “Operation Free the Port Corridor” by the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) in Apapa, Lagos, on Thursday.

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