Controversy has trailed the electronic call-up system also known as ‘Eto’, for the movement of trucks in the nation’s seaport, introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority and executed by a technology company.
While some truckers have said that the platform is ineffective and has failed to address the issue of traffic gridlock, which it was supposed to address, others opined that the platform has tremendously reduced extortion along the port corridors.
NPA had on February 27, 2021, introduced the electronic call-up system for trucks at the ports in Lagos to end the gridlock witnessed on the road. The e-call-up system was launched alongside an app called Eto, which truckers are expected to use to book turns to enter the port.
But speaking on the traffic situation along the port axis, a trucker and the National President of the Council for Maritime Truck Unions and Associations, Mr. Adeyinka Aroyewun, in a letter to the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation over the weekend, said despite the promises made to users, it is evident that the Eto system has failed to achieve its stated objectives after few years of implementation.
In the letter titled, ‘Continuous gridlock on roads leading to ports in Lagos, a collapse on NPA electronic call-up regime’ Aroyewun said that they were assured that the platform would ensure prompt turnaround time and free flow of traffic among others.
Aroyewun added that is it disheartening to note that these promises have not been fulfilled, leading to great frustration and inconvenience within the industry.
He said, “The inefficiencies and shortcomings of the current system are causing significant disruption and delays in the movement of goods and services. This not only hampers the productivity of businesses but also affects the overall economy. It is imperative that swift action be taken to address these issues and provide a viable alternative to the current system,” Aroyewun stated.
He urged the state government to think of alternative solutions to the gridlocks.
“I kindly request the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation to proffer alternative solutions that would effectively address the challenges faced by the industry. It is crucial that these alternatives prioritise prompt turnaround time, ensure the free flow of traffic, enhance safety and security measures, eliminate extortion along the roads, and minimize human interference,” he added.
According to him, failure to address these challenges will be detrimental.
“Failure to address these concerns and provide a suitable alternative to the current system may lead to a likely crisis within the industry. The consequences of such a crisis would be detrimental not only to the businesses involved but also to the overall reputation and functioning of the transportation sector,” Aroyewun reiterated.
Meanwhile, in a sharp contrast, the Secretary General of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners, Mohammed Sanni, in a chat with the PUNCH on Sunday, blamed compromised enforcement architecture as the reason for the gridlock.
He said, “My attention has been drawn to the misinformation going around that the Eto call-up system is the root cause of gridlock along the access roads leading to the ports. It is important to set the record straight without bias and prejudice. It is not the Eto call system that failed or collapsed. Rather, it is the enforcement architecture that is supposed to ensure free flow of traffic for electronic calls to function efficiently that is compromised by unscrupulous elements of the security/traffic enforcement team.”
According to Sanni, “Eto releases trucks from pre-gates to the ports based on truck requests from the sea port terminals. By the time these trucks enter the roads, security/traffic operatives, hoodlums, and union thugs would intercept these trucks at multiple checkpoints on the roads for several days before allowing them to pass after collecting money from the drivers. The multiple checkpoints mounted by security/traffic operatives, hoodlums, and union thugs selling tickets to truckers not belonging to Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria and National Union of Road Transport Workers are the major factors frustrating efficient performance of Eto call up.”
He, however, said it was unfair to pass a vote of no confidence on Eto.
“Before the coming of Eto, truckers used to pay up to N350,000 to access the port but under Eto call arrangement, you only book Eto call up at N21,500 for your truck from anywhere in the world without begging or knowing anybody to access the port within few days, unlike the pre-Eto period where you have to kiss some cabal boots and spend over a month trying to access the port with N300,000. Those that are overlooking the human factors interrupting the operation of Eto call up and passing vote of no confidence on Eto are doing so out of anger and frustration because the call system has rendered most of them jobless and irrelevant in the maritime trucking industry,” he added.
According to him, “They have lost all the privileges they used to enjoy before the coming of Eto call up. Eto call up has canceled the outrageous N300, 000 they used to charge for the truck to access the port. No trucker is coming to prostrate for them to gain access. They are doing everything possible day and night to blackmail and get Eto call- up system sacked to enable them to come back and make money from traffic anarchy to the detriment of Nigeria’s trade facilitation, ease of doing business, and seamless evacuation of cargoes from the Nigerian ports,” Sanni stated.
He stated that since the coming of Eto call- up, businesses are coming back to Apapa/Tincan, and the roads have opened up.
Sanni urged the government to address the artificial barriers of extortion mounted by security/traffic officials, hoodlums, and union thugs along the port access roads that are causing traffic gridlock and affecting the smooth operation of the Eto call-up system in the best interest of the national economic progress and prosperity.