One of the things that Nigeria has come to be notorious for is the endemic corruption that pervades every sector in the country. These maladies are the reasons for the continued migration of a good number of the population to other climes. It is bad enough that the situation of things in the country is degenerating but worse that many businesses are made to go through harrowing experiences in the hands of those who are supposed to make the system better. A good example of this is what is going on in the Apapa port and the harrowing experiences that businesses tied to this port have been undergoing and still undergo. From time immemorial till 2019, truck drivers, and clearing agencies have become the milking cow in the hands of the police and some conniving Ports Authority staff. It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eyes than for a truck to go into the port to load their consignments.
Early in the year, the Nigerian Ports Authority decided to decongest the traffic on the road as well limit the extortion of trucks and clearing agencies by police and so ordered that all trucks should come in through the Lilypond. From there, they are expected to process their call-up letter before leaving the garage. To process the call-up letter, you will send the truck number to load the delivery, the name of the driver of the truck, and the documents of the delivery to be taken. With the call-up letter which takes not less than two weeks to process, a truck driver is allowed to go into the port and take his delivery and this was going on well for less than two months. The NPA had to stop this because the police was frustrating their efforts. Some trucks and big clearing agencies whose trucks do not follow the laid down procedure pay the police between N120,000 and 150,000 to have their trucks go into the wharf just like that while those who have their trucks parked at the Lilypond are still forced by police officers on the road to part with as much as between N50,000 and 70,000. Should a truck refuse to play ball, he is turned back. Let me quickly say it that while a truck is waiting for the call-up letter, demurrage is piling up (N20,400 per day) and additional terminal charges of N12,250 per day, all these excluding the 7.5% VAT. This is aside many paying a tip off of at least N10,000 to facilitate the call-up. The implication of this is that many prefer to just pay the police whatever they will and save themselves the stress and accumulated payment of demurrage and terminal charges.
When the NPA, on hearing of the heavy extortion by the police, decided that it will henceforth not allow any truck without call-up letter into the port, the police also decided not to allow trucks with call-up letters and earlier parked at the Lilypond to come into the port. A truck is expected to part with money at different places. Just on top of the bridge, the crop of police officers will demand N30,000 and that is not negotiable. When you descend from the bridge down to airways just Area B Command, there are also police officers who demand between N10,000 and N30,000 depending on their bargaining power. The police officers whose checkpoint is around Eleganza and those close to Etisalat demand N10,000 each. When clearing agencies and truck drivers could no longer cope with these extortions, they decided to go inside the port through the barges but what did the almighty police do? They sealed up the jetties on the orders of the Commissioner of Police who also doubles as the Head of the enforcement unit of the Presidential Taskforce on Apapa gridlock in Lagos, Mr Hakeem Odumosu, who is also said to be acting on orders from Abuja. The trucks in the jetties were not released until each paid the sum of N55,000 and we are talking of way over a hundred trucks locked in the jetties. Suffice that this is not the first time that a thing as this will happen as truck drivers who truck were locked up in the jetties around late 2019 also had to pay N55,000 to secure the release of their trucks. While one cannot confirm the involvement of the senior police officer in this shameful act, the police officers give an impression that they are acting on orders from the top.
One begins to wonder how a business is expected to thrive in this kind of condition where you are milked dry and the government still expects that you live up to your civic obligations of paying taxes after its agents have ripped you off on all sides. A lot of clearing agencies who cannot stand the heat have had to close shop due to this while others are heaving hard under the burden of the extortions. Interestingly, it seems the powers-that-be have their presence in the media as many attempts to put this out there have been stifled several times. As a country governed by laws, we should not let it get to the terrible situation where truck drivers resort to a strike and make a public shame of the country before drastic action is taken against this action. This is definitely not a good way to ensure the ease of doing business. There are a million ways to kill a business and this comes in the top three.