…Says fake uniform men from Ibadan, Abeokuta creating bottlenecks for extortion!***
Abdullahi Mohammed Inuwa, the Lagos State Vice Chairman, National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Dry Cargo section is also the Director of Bill Operations under the National secretariat for Lagos Port. In this interview with OLUYINKA ONIGBINDE, he speaks on challenges facing truck owners in the country and possible solutions.
What is NARTO?
NARTO is an acronym for the National Association of Road transport owners. It’s an umbrella organisation for all commercial vehicles owners.
The tankers you see plying the roads and the containerised trucks belong to NARTO members. We also have commuters sector.
We are into haulage of oil products, movement of passengers and also movement of cargoes across the country.
Freight forwarders and importers are of the opinion that many of the trucks plying Nigerian roads are rickety, not roadworthy and are the major cause of accidents. As an association, what is NARTO doing to ensure that trucks plying our roads are roadworthy?
You have to look of the factors that necessitated the cause. For so many years, our roads have been so bad. Even this government inherited these bad roads and it is of recent that they started working on the road.
So if you talk about rickety trucks plying the roads, you will discover that it’s not the same with that of tankers i.e. those carrying wet cargo.
They are different from those carrying containers. They are better in terms of standards and quality compared with those carrying containerised cargoes because they regulate their rate between NARTO and the government.
There is an arm of government in charge of that, called the Directorate of Petroleum Resources.
Also, the oil companies have something they give to them as supportive measures because if are a constant transporter with them, they give you a kind of financial assistance and they will give you a long period of time to pay back in installments.
But if it’s not so with the dry cargo section, how do you intend to manage your trucks, without financial assistance, coupled with the dilapidated state of our roads?
Again, there is no bank set up by the government to support the transport business in Nigeria and for you to acquire a standard truck, you need to have between N25 million to N30 million.
When you who have an investment for only one truck of about N30 million and you approach the bank for loan, you won’t get the loan, but somebody with a property of N3 million will be given.
Are the banks are turning down such loan requests because of the risk involved in transport business?
The reasons are best known to them. I believe if we have a bank that will support transport business in the country, this would help to reduce the numbers of rickety trucks on our roads. Although I learnt that the Federal Government through the Ministry of Transportation and the national leaders of our Association are working towards that with the Bank of Industry. Our prayer is that it sees the light of the day.
There has been hike in the cost of transporting goods from Lagos port recently. Could this be the result of some of the challenges you pointed out?
The hike in freight rate of recent is not even as a result of these things. The dollar rate is one of the causes; fake spare parts and some other accessory attached to the truck are on the high side. Even the Automotive Gas Oil that we have been buying before for lesser price is now about N230 per litre.
Specifically, I can say the roads have been commercialized.
Let’s thank the effort of the Task Force because they have tried in creating one single lane for the containerised trucks and one lane for other road users. But there are some mischievous elements that are not even assigned to participate in the traffic control but are making use of their uniform to make things so difficult such that they are sabotaging the effort of the good ones who are doing the right thing.
Some come from Ibadan, Abeokuta some are not even service men and these are the ones causing artificial bottlenecks for us.
So, what’s the update on the Truck Transit Park here at Tin Can Island Port?
Yes, work is ongoing on the TTP, especially the one here at Tin Can. They are about to complete the job, I think what’s remaining is only the shoreline. But even with the presence of the Transit Park, if operational issues inside the port are not addressed, nothing will change. This is because if the shipping companies that are meant to provide container holding bay outside the port where they will be receiving their container fail in doing so, the problem will still persist.
Most of the shipping companies have no functional holding bays.
It is when these shipping companies have holding bays that I can boldly tell you that this traffic gridlock will come to an end. Because if that happens, the trucks will go and discharge the containers at the holding bays and by the time the shipping companies approach Nigerian Ports Authority to get approval of numbers of containers that would be taken in to the port, there will be control.
But now, all the shipping companies have their thousands of containers outside with no control measures as they are coming in. And you have asked those trucks to come and discharge those containers and failure to discharge within the grace period, you will now be held responsible for delay with charges to pay for demurrage. Even with the presence of the Transit Park, nothing will work except these operational issues are addressed.
What’s the relationship like between NARTO and NPA?
We have a good relationship with NPA because we know they are the landlord of the port, and whenever they have issues that concern us, they call us we sit and dialogue on some certain issues. We also approach them as well when things seem difficult. So, we have maintained a good relationship with them so far.
Can you put a figure to how much trucks owners have lost to the bad state of our road?
Trucks owners are losing money every single day. Let me paint a scenario. You know an average of 20 people derive their living from one single truck I.e. the driver and his family.
The motor boy and his family, the loaders, about six or seven of them, the off loaders as well, and our friends along the road. So when you sum up everything, you will see that an average of 20 people make their living from one single truck. Before now, if you are operating locally, in a week you could do about five trips successfully. But now, if you are fortunate, that is when you get a trip in one month. Some of our drivers have spent six weeks on the road and are yet to get to the Port . For those who are going up north, up east or south, before now, they do go successfully four trips in a month but now, it takes them barely two months before they even get a trip. So we are losing huge money to the bad state of our roads.
We lost about 15 drivers to the stress on this road last year!