The vice president, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo in brown attire and in the middle of the picture, to his right is the COMTUA president, Adeyinka Aroyewun and to his left is Senator Gbemisola Saraki.
Story by Dili Utomi.
The Council Of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA) has paid a courtesy visit to the vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osibanjo at his office in Abuja. The body which is an amalgamation of over ten different transport associations in and around the maritime sector and which has been seen to be championing the course of people within the road transport sector has over time made itself a rallying point for the promotion of the principles of the different associations under its control and also for the tackling of all the challenges bedeveling their business environment.
The president of COMTUA, Mr. Adeyinka Aroyewun led the delegation that met with the vice president and it could be said that a somewhat fruitful deliberation took place at the meeting which also saw the vice president asking that the Minister of State, Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki be in attendance. The COMTUA president used the opportunity to highlight some of the challenges facing the sector which is sometimes referred to as the ‘movers’ of the economy as he detailed the areas where improvements need to be made and also proffered solutions.
Mr. Aroyewun noted that at the height of the traffic gridlock in the port industry in Lagos, the vice president visited to inspect the area and that a Presidential intervention task team was created as the VP graciously honoured the collaboration with the selection of some members of COMTUA into the Committee which was aptly named ‘PRESIDENTIAL TASK TEAM’.
“On the 25th of November 2021, COMTUA held its National convention that brought a new executive Council into existence. This executive having taken off with the enormous task of leadership felt that it was necessary to present itself before you and this is what has prompted this courtesy visit”.
Mr Aroyewun’s statement continued “Mr Vice President Sir, the greatest concern in the Maritime industry today is the issue of ease of doing business. Every person knows that it is the wish of the government that the cost of doing business in the nation’s port should be at the barest minimum for the interest of the economy and the nation as a whole. In our segment of the industry, the challenges mitigating against the ideals of ease of doing business stem from the operational and policy issues. These range from the challenges of empty containers’ return, poor road infrastructure, inadequate facilities on the part of terminal operators and shipping lines, traffic gridlock and the failures of the recently introduced ETO project with the accompanying enforcement team to address the gridlock”.
The COMTUA president opined that the advent of the ELECTRONIC CALL UP SYSTEM introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority was welcomed with all enthusiasm as it planned to bring relief from at least 80% of the sufferings in the industry, but that unfortunately the reverse has become the case by their own estimation and going by the performance of the handlers of the eto software application driven project, the Trucks Transit Park Limited. He noted that the project has not only failed to bring about the desired relief but has more been concerned with revenue generation issues which has made it not only exorbitant and arbitrary, but that it encourages the enrichment of its cronnies with the pre-gate charges and other obnoxious policies.
More group photograph after the visit.
The association also complained that the _modus operandi_ of the enforcement team has only been successful in encouraging rather than eliminate extortion and that the enforcement team by its composition and activities drag along such sub-agencies like the Lagos State Taskforces and Commitees whose roles have been detrimental to the association’s properties to say the least. He said that ‘hijacking’ and illegal towing of trucks have been the article of trade of the teams. Furthermore, the president of COMTUA said that the enforcement team seems biased as it is only active in areas of unlawfully punishing truckers on issues such as empty containers returning and empty containers holding bays and added that activities are not holistically monitored such that continuous extortion thrives well in several forms, while truckers are left to suffer unjustly in the hands of law enforcement agents.
He implored that their other concern is in the area of high costs of diesel and spare parts and that it is brought about by several economic factors. Mr. Aroyewun revealed that while the cost of diesel increases daily, their members find it difficult to remain in business.
“Our members have lost businesses to foreign haulage companies.These companies are more protected by policies and the companies secure the jobs directly from countries of origin, thereby denying us direct and profitable jobs”.
He said that they suffer unjust detention of their trucks in the hands of the Nigerian Customs while offending cargoes and agents are released, the trucks are then sometimes auctioned after a while and that they are often ignorant of the contents of cargoes.
The speech by Mr. Aroyewun also detailed that delay in the delivery of export cargoes is also a
problem in the industry, but noted that it may not be possible to catalogue all the issues bothering their segment of the industry in the singular address, but he went on to say that all is not well with their business.
However he continued, “We are always optimistic of better days. To this, we have always endeavoured to be part of the solutions to the maladies in our industry. We are law abiding and have always gone about our business in orderly and lawful manner and hope to remain so and in view of the foregoing, we are bringing some of the following humble suggestions for your kind consideration in resolving the challenges of the industry”.
The association thus outlined the areas that they think that the government should look into. “It is our opinion that the monopoly of TTP to ETO be broken by unbundling the system, competition would usher in improvement. It is even obvious that the situation on ground has not brought the expected dividends maybe the citing of the Nitel experience is suffice. The creation of a dedicated enforcement team including members of our trucking community is advocated as there is an African saying which says that you can not shave one’s head in his absence. This enforcement team shall take up the movement and routes of Maritime trucks. Every other enforcement agent should leave Maritime truck routes and dismantle all road blocks and check points in the system. A special monitoring shall be put in place which should include some members of the trucking community to monitor the activities, facilities, stakeholders performances including shipping lines, terminal operators, holding bays and all their operations and to report back to your excellency for address”.
He added to to their requests and said that the others are the discouragement of every balkanizing agency in the unification efforts of the trucking community and that a deliberate policy to unify the industry is advocated.
“Non denial of any party the right to the benefit from the dividend of the process where it occurs.There should be justice and equity as everyone is operating under the same nation. Your excellency Sir, our prayers are for you to use your good office to effect the following”. He continued “The revitalisation of the Presidential task team, where the relevant stakeholders including our trucking unions and Associations are members.
The support for our union in the implementation of our local call-up arrangements in partnership with relevant agencies viś-à-viś the Nigerian Port Authority, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and the Ministry of Transportation. Apparently, we want the unbundling of the current exorbitant ETO system. A forensic audit of the ETO past activities since there are several alleged irregularities. Refund of all monies illegally and unduly collected by ETO and the payment of amounts due to all parties in the ETO arrangement. The federal government to be alive to their regulation of traffic movements within the federal roads leading to the ports. The government to look into the activities and qualifications of the terminal operators, shipping lines and other agencies who have stakes in the industry for proper monitoring as well as keeping them alive to their duties. Deliberate efforts to carry members of our trucking community along in policy formulations in the sector by the relevant agencies of government”.
He pleaded that “Our association shall appreciate your support and assistance in our business”.
The COMTUA boss also used the opportunity to chip in a word for the making of Senator Gbemisola Saraki, the substantive minister of Transportation as he noted that she has a hands-on approach in solving a lot of the challenges that are bedeviling the sector and that she will make a good administrator of the ministry as shown by her visit to Lagos for stock taking of all facilities as well as her parley with stakeholders.
They also thanked the vice president for granting them the honour and hoped that their visit to his office shall mark a turning point in the search for solutions, even if it is only to a point of removing some of the numerous challenges in the country.
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