For the first time in the history of Nigeria’s port operations, electronic call-up system would be deployed from February 27, 2021, and used to direct truck movement into ports in Lagos. This automated process, known as ‘Eto App,’ is expected to restore sanity within the Apapa port corridor by removing the daily traffic congestion, if properly managed.
Interestingly, as port users, operators and Apapa residents await the deployment of this newly developed traffic control app, there are five critical reforms the call-up system is expected to introduce in port operations. They are as follows:
Truck calling must be electronic
Going forward, trucks must be called upon using the Eto electronic call-up system before it could gain access into the ports. Therefore, all trucks and their owners are expected to download the Eto App and sign-up in order to become part of the new system.
“It would be done transparently on a first come first served basis. We have also requested for the operator to have a dashboard in front of port locations where movement of trucks would be displayed for truckers to see their daily schedule,” Hadiza Bala Usman, managing director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), said recently.
This would remove human intervention in the process of managing truck movement in and out of the ports. It is also expected to put an end to the problem of rent-seeking and extortion of truckers by security operatives in charge of traffic control within the Apapa corridor.
Trucks must sit at designated parks
The NPA in partnership with the Lagos State government has selected eight truck parks that have signed up to the call-up system. This means that from February 27, trucks not parked within the eight approved parks would no longer gain access into Lagos ports to pick cargo.
These parks, which are going to be operated by private sector owners for a fee, are located in areas like Ojota, Obanikoro, Oregun, Olowotedo-Ibafo, Amuwo-Odofin, Orile-Iganmu and Okorisan-Lekki/Epe, and they must have the capacity to sit up to 2,000 to 3,000 trucks.
By implication, trucks would cease to park indiscriminately on Apapa roads and bridges, thereby eliminating the ugly incidents of perennial traffic jams that have bedevilled Apapa port city for close to a decade.
The authority has also empowered officers of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LATSMA) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to impound any truck found to be parked indiscriminately on Apapa roads starting from February 27.
To ensure compliance, Lagos government would be in charge of impounding trucks that are not part of Eto App, and such trucks would be made to pay a certain amount as fine before release.
Payment of N10,000 fee
Truckers are expected to pay a token of N10,000 for utilising the Eto App and to park in the truck park. The download of the App is free and truckers are only expected to make payment when they want to exit the park.
Truckers would be making the payment through an app that is in compliance with the Treasury Single Account (TSA), which requires all revenue going to government-owned agency, to go directly to the government while payment to third party contractors would be made out of what has been received by the government.
This payment is actually made to the NPA, and not to the Truck Transit Park Limited, operator of the App on behalf of the NPA. There is no other fee to be paid by truck owners to access the port or park at the transit park.
Export cargo consolidation
Part of the electronic call-up is the requirement for exporters to consolidate the export cargo before they are moved to the port. Here, export goods are required, going forward, to be at the Lilypond Container Terminal, which would serve as export processing terminal. Here, the exporters would be required to consolidate their export cargo, and have room to complete the necessary documentation before moving the cargo into the port for export.
Return of empty containers
For effective management of empty containers, the NPA has directed consignees to drop empties at the holding-bay of shipping companies, and liners would now be responsible for taking empties into the port.
Here, all international shipping liners that are doing business in Nigerian ports are expected to provide holding-bay that would have the capacity to sit 65 percent of the volume of container it brings into the country annually.
Compliance to the empty container policy would, going forward, be part of the requirements for the annual validation of shipping liners that would be licensed to call Nigerian ports, NPA has insisted.
The essence of this, the authority said, is to cut down the annual loss recorded by cargo owners due to inability to retrieve the container deposit (monies paid to shipping companies before they could release the cargo) due to the congestion on the port roads.
“Due to the congestion on the road, cargo owners are now losing money to shipping companies for not being able to return the empties within the specified window. Up to 90 percent of the time, consignees are not able to collect back their container deposit due to the gridlock and shipping companies have been making hundreds of millions of naira annually from container deposit paid by consignees,” Usman said.