Painful dilemma: Along Lagos roads, we pay all manner of levies to touts — Truck drivers

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For many trucks that ply the nation’s ports of Apapa and Tin-Can to pick cargoes or drop empties, ensuring prompt payment of levies at different checkpoints manned by touts belonging to different labour union has been the order of the day.

While many have continued to live with this brazen extortion of truckers by hoodlums along these various checkpoints, others who tried to put up a fight have lived to regret it.

Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune on the harrowing experience of truckers in the hands of touts who man different checkpoints, President of the Council of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA), Prince Adeyinka Aroyewun exclaimed that haulage operators are under siege from State backed touts who wield pipes and other dangerous object at various checkpoints.

According to Prince Aroyewun, “We pay all manner of monies to touts backed by the state everywhere we go to. They collect money from our members at will and injure or even kill truckers who are not cooperating. Even traditional rulers in Lagos are now getting involved in the extortion business because it is thriving.

“To say the least, it is sad to note that this brazen illegality continues in broad day light without any modicum of check.

“In the face of all these nauseating experiences, we have remained law-abiding. instead of resorting to violence, we have made several petitions and official letters to Government (at different levels) bidding to have relevant Government Authorities call the miscreants to order, all to no avail as all our entreaties have not been attended to.

“Truly, the body language of the government is only a confirmation of the claim of the touts that they have backing of the Government and are card carrying members of the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress (APC).

“Letters of complaint and consultation to Park and Garages Committee, Park Administration Committee and Maritime Workers’ Union (MWUN) on the activities of their members have all fell on deaf ears as non has yielded results.

“Instead of applying civility, they resort to most provocative affront as these groups, in connivance with Government Agencies, increases dues and extortion points.”

Also speaking to the Nigerian Tribune, a victim of one of the attacks by the hoodlums who wouldn’t want his name in print out of fear of being victimized explained that four to five people immediately descends on the truck who refuses to pay, giving the trucker no chance to fight back.

“When I refused to pay at a checkpoint in Sunrise, four boys with different weapons immediately descended on me, hitting me with pipes and sticks until I lost consciousness.

“I only woke up in the hospital after my motor boy ran away and went to call our members who came to carry me to the hospital even in my unconscious state. After waking up in the hospital, I noticed I had bled so much on my cloths and my head was bandaged.

“The truck I was driving was vandalized and some parts damaged by these boys who I cant even remember their faces because everything happed so fast,” the injured trucker told the Nigerian Tribune.


Illegal checkpoints

The COMTUA President further explained that while MWUN operates 20 illegal checkpoints, Parks and Garages operates 30 checkpoints along the ports access roads.

“To be specific, MWUN operates 20 checkpoints from Coconut to Tin-Can Port Second gate where N2,000 is forcefully collected per point from our members. This is under the watch of the MWUN President-General Comrade Adewale Adeyanju whose main coordinator is Taofeek Shorinola (Also known  and called Sheu Tao). They injure and sometimes kill our members for non-compliance to the extortion.

“Parks and Garages has Abayomi AbeyiAjele (Also Known and called Ikomodina), Michael Adewale (Also Known and called Hot water) and one Raji (Also known and called Student) as coordinators and they control 30 extortion points between Mile 2 and Sunrise where between N2,000 and N6,000 are forcefully collected per point.

“Park Administration has Chiboy and Adeleke as coordinators, and they collect money fprcefully from truckers around Kirikiri, FATGBEMS, Badagry Express Road and inside Amuwo Odofin.

“Of another serious concern is the involvement of a Royal father, The Oniba of Iba Land HRH Sulaimon Adeshina, who encourages his committee member to create more points of extortion.

“The role of Government is suspectable in this societal vice and this is of grave concern to our association. The claim by these pipes and other weapon-wielding touts that they are members of the ruling party in the State should be a cause for concern for this government if they are not in connivance.

“We are deeply troubled as our members are injured and killed by these criminals daily without any concerns from authorities and this is totally unacceptable especially as our members are living in very hard times due to poor return per trip and debts which is given impetus by this ugly state of affair.

“We want all to be reminded that no group has monopoly of violence and aggression because we have been pushed to the wall,” Prince Adeyinka Aroyewun lamented to the Nigerian Tribune.


Lagos government reacts

Following lamentation by truckers over incessant extortion along the Lagos ports access roads, the Lagos State Government has warned the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) to leave the highway henceforth or face prosecution by enforcement agencies.

Responding to enquiries by the Nigerian Tribune on the matter, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Transportation, Honourable Sola Giwa lamented the proliferation of Unions and associations at the ports, stating that efforts are in the pipeline to collapse most groups into one.

According to Honourable Sola Giwa, “As far as Lagos State Government is concerned, we are already talking to the Unions in the port industry because as it is, there are so much proliferation of Unions and Associations in the port industry.

“We have invited most of them and are looking at a way to amalgamate most of them to ensure ease of administration.

“For MWUN, they are actually Dockworkers. They have no right to be on the road. They are meant to be in the port and not on the road.

“I can tell you categorically that the Lagos State Government has no relationship with MWUN.

“I am using this opportunity to tell agents of enforcement to move the MWUN out of the road. They are Dockworkers and have no business to be on the road.”


Outcome of extortion

While the various labour unions continue to extort container carrying trucks along the Lagos highways, cargo owners have continued to pay through their noses for the increase in the cost of haulage.

Reacting to the extortion and attacks on truckers and the implication on cargo movement from the ports, a former President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Chief Eugene Nweke explained that extortion has led to a rise in the cost of moving cargoes from the Lagos ports to various places within the State.

“To move a container from Lagos ports in Apapa to somewhere in Ojo or Alaba international area before Okokomaiko, we pay as much as between N320,000 to N370,000 to truckers. Sometimes, this payment excludes the settlement that will be made at some checkpoints. This is a journey that shouldn’t cost more than N100,000 or at worst N150,000.

“When we complain, the truckers tell us that they have to settle over 50 checkpoints along the road before they will get to Alaba International in Ojo. So,at the end of the day, we are forced to pay that much and transfer the cost to the cargo owners who end up transferring the increased cost of haulage to their customers who buy their goods from them. This is how the end users who go to the market to buy these goods bear the brunt of the increased cost of haulage transport,” Chief Eugene Nweke told the Nigerian Tribune exclusively.

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