Terminal operators and shipping companies are now capitalising on the rowdy situation on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway to defraud importers returning their empty containers late.
According to an official of a bonded terminal, the shipping firms make it difficult for them to return their empty containers so that they would lose the N100,000 which they paid for each container as deposit.
The agent said that when, they take delivery of their cargo, they deposit N100,000 for each container which they are expected to return within a given timeframe. If they fail to do so at a record time, they would lose their deposit.
However, he said, the trend has become consistent to the extent that last year alone, his company lost over N400 million.
He said their drivers spend two weeks or more between Mile Two and Tin Can Island Port because of gridlock occasioned by bad road. However, the shipping companies will not consider the frustration. All they want is the opportunity to lose their deposit.
Worse still, when the drivers finally get to the shipping companies the securitymen demand N20,000 before allowing the drivers into their premises. This has pitched the agents against the shipping companies.
“The terminal operators make it difficult for us to drop our empty containers. Our drivers sometimes, spend two weeks on the road. On getting to the point of dropping the empty containers the securitymen will insist on payment of N20,000 before allowing our drivers into their premises.
“The drivers will be told that such empty containers are no longer accepted in that terminal or the securitymen will say that they don’t have a space anymore. When the drivers insist on going in they will demand a bribe of N20,000 for each container. When our driver went to drop two of our containers, they said that they no longer accepted Mackline containers. But if he could give them N20,000 for the two containers in the truck, they would allow him in.
“This is outside the deposit for these containers. For a 20-foot container we deposit N100,000 and 40-foot container attracts N200,000 deposit. If the drivers are not able to return the containers at the appointed time, they will charge demurrage despite knowing that the road is not accessible.
Last year alone we lost over N400 million on deposits in various shipping companies for the problem that we did not create.
Two years ago when the road was accessible such a thing was not happening. Now that the road is no more accessible the terminal operators don’t want to consider us,” he lamented.
However, the Director, Complaints, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr Moses Fadipe, whose responsibility is to resolve conflicts between the shippers and the importers, blamed the authorities for not providing good roads.
He also indicted the shipping companies for not having a holding bay where importers can deposit their containers.
“The situation on Apapa Road is neither the cause of the agents, importers, terminal operators nor the shipping companies. It is the infrastructure that should be provided by the government. However, trade must go on. As a result of the bad road, lorries queue for days trying to drop containers.
“Shipping companies must have holding bays and when they have holding bays, the drivers can take their containers to that holding bay and drop them there. But observations have revealed that not many of them have got that holding bay. But there is a government directive that everybody must have a holding bay. In the ports, there are storage facilities for the containers to be shipped outside the country. Most of these containers are stacked somewhere. But we said no. The ones that will go to the stacking area are the ones ready for shipment. So, when the stacking area is filled up, the shipping companies stop the drivers from coming in. Then others who cannot go in can be diverted to the holding bay.
In this instance, I got a call by a bonded terminal called Port Express. The caller said that their truck was ready to enter the TICT in the morning and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) officials said that they cannot go in and they demanded N20,000 from them and then a fracas ensued. The controversy, was however resolved in favour of the bonded terminal and they have written an appreciation letter,” he said.
Recall that Apapa Road has been an albatross for both commuters, importers, residents and workers in Apapa for several years and the authorities have given deaf ears to the yearnings of Nigerians.
A worker in Apapa and General Secretary of Bible Society of Nigeria, Dare Ajiboye, recently cried out over the condition of the road, especially now that the rains are threatening to come.
According to him, motorists are attacked by hoodlums on the long traffic and the government loses money because some containers cannot come into Apapa. He said that the two major arteries into Apapa, namely Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and Ijora-Apapa Road are in decrepit situation, replete with deep gullies at various sections of the road – from West Minister up to First Gate Bus Stop.
Although, president of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote has assured Nigerians that the construction of Ijora axis of Apapa Road will be completed on or before June this year. This has given the stakeholders on that road some glimmer of hope that for once in about 15 years, they will have a breather.