Terminal operator, Apapa rail project contractors on collision course over alleged invasion of premises, destruction of exit gate

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By Mary BASSEY, Senior Investigator Correspondent, Lagos/

INDICATIONS emerged Wednesday, that operators of the APM terminals and the Chinese contractors  handling the Apapa light rail  project may soon head to a collision course over the alleged blockage and destruction of the former’s exit gate. Sources said operators of the terminal who were shell-shock at the bravado with which the foreign contractors blocked and damaged their exit gate had since appealed to the Transportation Minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA Managing Director, Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman to quickly call the contractor to order to forestall palpable breakdown of law and order at nation’s busiest ports. CrimeWorld was informed that the Chinese contractor had stormed the ext gate of the APM Terminal with their heavy duty tractors and started demolishing their facilities even without the slightest notice. They contended that action of the contractor violates extant ports’ security code. A sources who spoke on condition of anonymity describes the action of the contractors as capable of compounding the already nauseating gridlock in Apapa and by extension, hamper port’s operations. “The action of the Chinese rail project contractor has hampered Customs inspection, release and exit of containers at Nigeria’s busiest seaport. Experts say the demolition of structures including the terminal exit gate could compromise safety and security at the facility and is in breach of the International Ships and Ports Facility Security (ISPS) Code. Many importers and clearing agents were unable to conclude their transactions while loaded trucks were unable to exit the terminal. The blockade also made it impossible for empty trucks to enter the terminal to pick up containers for delivery to their owners. The situation has further compounded the Apapa gridlocks as trucks piled up on the port access road,” said the source, adding, “This is terrible. I have never seen this kind of thing before in this port. There was no warning, no prior notice from the railway contractor. They just brought their heavy duty machines today and blocked everywhere. Port operation has been stopped. It is a standstill. It is total chaos. Everywhere is blocked.”

*Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, the MD NPA Hadiza Usman during a recent visit by the Minister…

Another Customs agent simply identified himself as Mohammed who blamed the rail project contractor for being insensitive to ports operations and the economy, warned that this singular action against the West Africa’s largest container terminal would have adverse effect on Nigeria’s economy; stressing, “The rail project is a good idea but the way the contractor is going about is very wrong. You don’t paralyse port operation. Trade must keep flowing, but it does not appear they understand this at all. Now they have mobilised to site without allowing us to make necessary alternative arrangements for delivery of containers. There is also no arrangement for how trucks will enter and exit the terminal. They do not know the implication of what they are doing. And no one knows how long this will last.”

President of the Nigerian Importers Integrity Association (NIIA), Godwin Onyekazi, who was visibly discomfitted by the action of the rail project contractor said whereas, the desire of government to link the seaports to the rail network was commendable, the project should be implemented in a way that does not hamper port operation. According to him, “What we observed at the Apapa port today shows poor coordination of the rail project. The Chinese contractors handling the rail should have coordinated with the Nigerian Ports Authority and all the terminal operators at the port to ensure that while the construction is ongoing, port operations are not hampered. There is a huge backlog of containers in the port as we speak. To now block the port at this time and make it impossible for containers to exit the port is counterproductive. This is also the peak season for importation. More goods are coming into the country and this disruption will mean that these goods will be stranded at the port. Consequently, importers will be made to bear the brunt of this action because their goods will be trapped inside the port and they will not be able to take them to the market in good time. Also, they will end up paying more as demurrage and storage charges. This is not good at all. So we are calling and at the same time, appealing to the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Hadiza Bala Usman and the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi to intervene in the matter with a view to allowing cargo deliveries to continue alongside the rail project. ”

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