APFFLON, AMATO URGE FG TO END MINDLESS EXTORTION ON PORTS ACCESS ROADS
By Mcanthony Onuoha
In reaction to the Notice of Withdrawal of Service issued by Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), on the 8th of August, 2020, in protest against “extortion, indiscriminate arrests/ impounding of container trucks and imposition of outrageous fines by Officers stationed at various points on Nigerian Ports access roads, Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), has unequivocally expressed its solidarity with AMATO for the planned industrial action.
The National President of APPFLON, Otunba Frank Ogunojemite, in a press statement, pledged support for the Association, saying that APFFLON will remain solidly behind them until this issue of mindless extortion and high level of oppression callously carried out by Officers stationed at strategic points on Ports access roads is addressed.
In the statement issued on the 9th of August, 2020, Ogunojemite said that APFFLON as an Advocacy of Ease of Doing Business will support AMATO’s proposed industrial action so long as it gears towards eradicating a sinister trend which is now seen as new normal in the industry.
Continuing, Ogunojemite pointed out that, “the major objective of the Federal Government for setting up a task force after an official working visit of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo months ago, is to restore sanity on Ports access roads, but as we have seen so far, the whole efforts have proven to be in futility as there has not been any improvement recorded”.
In the Notice of Withdrawal of Service issued by AMATO, and signed by its President, Chief Remi Ogungbemi, the Association lamented that there was currently no organized method of regulating the passage of truck to loading points as the passage of truck is on the trucker’s ability to bribe his way through the Port or petroleum tank farms for loading.
However, The APFFLON National President made reference to a report in The Punch Newspaper of 8th, August, 2020, where the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in a virtual edition of the presidential Policy Dialogue, hosted by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, warned government agencies to reduce the harassment and extortion of businesses in order for the country to improve on the Ease of Doing Business ranking. He said that government aimed to continue to improve on the national ranking in the World Bank Doing Business Index Ranking to below 100 in the coming years, calling on private sector to lead the charge for Nigeria’s economic growth and development by keying into the Economic sustainability plan of the Federal Government.
Ogunojemite said that the presidential Policy Dialogue disclosed the good intentions of the Federal Government towards improving the economy but lamented that agencies of the government are still the very bane of the nation’s economic growth, adding that the mindless extortion by Officers at various points on Port access roads has skyrocketed the price of transportation and has badly affected the prices of goods in the markets as end users go through difficulties to meeting their daily needs due to continuous hike in the prices of goods and services.
In the notice of Service withdrawal, which reads in part,’ in view of the growing rate of extortion, indiscriminate arrest/ impounding of container trucks, the imposition of outrageous fines ranging between N150,000 to N350,000.,depending on the mood of the billing Officers, all under the pretext that the trucks were wrongly parked or that truck broke down, we have been left with no other alternative than to withdraw the services of container trucks until the above mentioned issues are addressed and mutually agreeable decision reached,” APFFLON said it has every reason to support the proposed industrial action so long as it would bring the ongoing criminality and recklessness to an end.
Furthermore, the APFFLON National President recalled that in July 2016, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari set up the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), saying that if at all there is no room for business improvement in the country, there wouldn’t have been anything like PEBEC, and that what APFFLON earnestly yearn for is improvement in radical sectors.
In addition, APFFLON recalled that The IMF Economic Outlook visited Nigeria Ports in January and came out with a report that the states of Nigerian ports are nothing to write home about and called for improvement so as to measure up in the comity of Maritime Nations. The Association also pointed out that Nigeria, also being part of African Continental free Trade Area ( AfCFTA), does not need any form of bottleneck in its trade corridors or activities that could jeopardize its Ease of Doing Business policy.