By Steve Agbota
The Federal Government through the Ministry of Transportation (FMOT) last week flagged off “Operation Free the Port Corridor” an initiative of the Port Standing Task Team (PSTT) to remove illegal checkpoints and clampdown on corruption along the Port access roads in Lagos.
There are more than 26 illegal checkpoints between the Apapa port corridor and Sifax terminal in Jora, a distance of less than 2 kilometres.
The corridor have been discovered as extortion points for touts and security personnel deployed to ease the flow of traffic along the port access roads.
Addressing stakeholders at the flag-off of the exercise, the Permanent Secretary of FMOT, Magdalene Ajani, said that to clear the port corridors of illegal checkpoints and ensure the efforts are sustained, the problem must be tackled holistically.
“We have to treat this issue holistically and that holistic treatment is what we are trying to achieve. The aim of the holistic achievement is for us to improve ease of doing business in Nigerian ports and around the corridor. So, it takes every one of us to agree that we can do it and to be able to achieve it, we need to have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that we must follow.
“The SOP is not conscripting everybody to follow one person’s SOP. It puts into cognizance the SOP of all operating agencies in the port and that is why we are talking about the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM). The NPPM will bring everybody’s SOP into focus and we will come together as a team to achieve results.”
“We get the containers out from the port but to drive out to Liverpool takes another six hours not because the road is very bad like we have in Tin Can, but because you have 26 illegal checkpoints.
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“So, this phase we are going into is how to reduce or totally eliminate the illegality at those points and that is why we are talking about the extended presidential standing task team. We need to agree on the number of legal checkpoints on the port corridor and team up to remove all the illegal ones to achieve sustainability. If we agree to achieve this, we will achieve it because everything on the corridor is man related.”
In his welcome address, Executive Secretary, NSC, Emmanuel Jime, commended the task team for constituting an enlarged team for the purpose of removing illegal checkpoints and shanties along the ports corridors.
He also acknowledged the support and level of buy-in obtained from the stakeholders, especially the public and private sectors, which, he noted, is a demonstration of how the operators are eager to rid the ports’ corridors of the observed anomalies.
“This exercise which is about to be flagged-off tagged “Operation Free the Ports’ Corridors” is fittingly named. Indeed, the ports’ corridors are not free; the traffic does not have free flow, the shanties are not freeing spaces for conducive business environments, and the unnecessary checkpoints obviously do not make for an atmosphere free of extortion and other forms of corrupt practices.”