The Port Standing Task Team (PSST) on Friday flagged off the second phase of ‘Operation Free the Ports Corridor’ to remove all illegal checkpoints, shanties and indiscriminate parking of trucks along the port access roads.
The first phase of the exercise which was flagged off on 14 April covers the Apapa Port Complex to Sifax-Ijora Road corridor.
Speaking at the flag off ceremony of the exercise, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Emmanuel Jime said the second phase of the exercise will cover Apapa /Tin-Can, Coconut/Berger Yard, Mile 2/ Orile and Ijora axis.
He noted that the 15.6km stretch of roads is littered with shanties and trucks parked indiscriminately thereby causing untold hardships to other commuters and creating opportunity for extortions and other forms of corrupt practices by both state and non-state actors.
The NSC boss said the commencement of the second phase is a demonstration of success that the Port Standing Task Team has achieved during the first phase even in the face of logistics and operational challenges.
He said the successes recorded were not without dire consequences including stern resistance, intimidation, threat to lives and physical assault of operatives, gadgets and vehicles.
“A case in point was the attack on some personnel of the task team including the National Coordinator where they were assaulted and harassed.
“It is not easy to walk the path that the PSTT have been through these past few months. Many people had their reservation while others expressed their doubts as to the capability of the task team in successfully clearing the Apapa port complex to Sifax-Ijora Road corridor with a view to bringing sanity and ensuring free flow of traffic.
“To be fair to the cynics, we all knew the enormity of the task to be a herculean one. However, at the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, buoyed by the cooperation of other committed stakeholders, we were resolute and dogged in our resolve in contributing to change the narrative. My delight stemmed from the fact that with dedication, commitment and necessary will, there is no hindrance to our quest for national development that is unsurmountable.
“The whole idea of “Operation Free the Ports’ Corridors” is essentially to rid the ports and Ports’ Corridors of inefficiencies and corrupt practices to enhance the ease-of-doing business. Therefore, I would like to reiterate my appeal to everybody or groups that still nurse reservations to kindly see reasons and cooperate to ensure that the Ports Corridors are free for ease of movement and conduct of businesses,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, who was represented by a Deputy Director in the Ministry, Mr. Adams Ofie commended the port task team for the successes recorded in the first phase of the operation.
She said the Ministry is aware of the various challenges of the task team due to inadequate logistics and operational need for a more robust and effective implementation of its mandate.
She assured that the task team request is currently receiving attention of the ministry for possible intervention and immediate facilitation of the acquisition of logistics and operational need for the seamless implementation of the PSST mandate.
According to her, the purpose of the flag off is to solicit support from agencies including NSC, NIMASA and NPA to synergise with various security agencies and the ministry to ensure how best to enforce compliance.
In his remarks, National Coordinator of the task team, Moses Fadipe expressed appreciation to other security agencies for their commitment to the mandate of the PSTT noting that without their commitment and professionalism, the operational successes recorded so far would have been impossible.
According to him, many industry players, observers and commentators have acknowledged that its bold step to rid the ports’ corridors of illegal checkpoints and other forms of corrupt practices has yielded tremendous success.
“This is most evident in the sanity established in movement of traffic in the outbound route of Apapa Port gate to Ijora. This route which is a distance of about 2.6km was the focus of the task team during the first phase of operations.
“These widely acknowledged successes were achieved but not without challenges. The major challenges were those of inadequate logistics and manpower. There were also hazardous encounters where personnel of the task team were assaulted and even held hostage in one occasion. In all of these, we remained upbeat as we were able to brace the storm,” he said.
He appreciated the support of the ministry in pressing on the sister agencies to shoulder some of the financial and logistical responsibilities of the task team as he noted that the burden of funding the task team is solely on the NSC despite its paucity of income.
“The imperative of multi-agency support for logistical and personnel needs of the task team is more relevant now considering that the operational phase we are about to flag-off will be covering a route that covers a distance of about 15.6km compare to the 2.6km earlier covered during the pilot phase.
“The intervention of NPA and NIMASA will be greatly appreciated in this regard. In addition to any other support that they may wish to render, we specifically require more pick-up vans in the fleet to aid the operation more effectively,” he said.