Truck drivers have commenced a strike action to protest against the restriction of their movements to night time by the Lagos State Government.
The action is capable of leading to a backlog of cargoes at the nation’s seaports with the potential of stoking a fresh round of congestion.
The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, Oluseyi Whenu, speaking against the backdrop of a fatal container truck accident which claimed three lives at Ojuelegba on Wednesday last week, said the trailer involved in the accident contravened Section 2 (i) (ii) of the Lagos State Road Traffic Law.
Whenu said, “The state government will henceforth go tough on any trailer and long vehicle that contravened the law, as such vehicle will be impounded and made to pay the stipulated fine accordingly.”
The section of the state traffic law bars trailers from travelling within the Lagos metropolis between 6am and 9pm. It states that “any driver found contravening the provisions of this section shall have his vehicle impounded by a duly authorised officer of the authority and shall upon conviction be liable to a fine of N50,000 or a term of imprisonment for six months or both.”
But the truck drivers under the aegis of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) and National Association of Road Truck Owners (NARTO), said yesterday that they were withdrawing their trucks from the road “with immediate effect” over the restriction directive.
“The military, Police, task force have started impounding our trucks and that is why we have decided to withdraw our services with immediate effect until normalcy return. The state policy restricting truck movement to night is difficult because the safety of our trucks, drivers and the cargoes cannot be guaranteed.
“There are hijackers that hijack goods in the daytime so if we move at night, the activities of hijacker will be more rampant.
“They wanted to start this from 2012 but we said we cannot allow it and they just invited us for meeting on Sunday and they told us that with immediate effect they will start enforcement,” AMATO Chairman, Chief Remi Ogungbemi said.
Ogungbemi carpeted the Lagos State Government for issuing enforcement directive, accusing it of contributing to the hardship faced by truck operators.
“They said our vehicles are rickety but they contributed to the rickety nature of our trucks by impounding it and putting a fine of N100, 000 or N200, 000. This is part of the reasons why our vehicles are in this condition.
“They directly and indirectly extort money from us. I can tell you that it is only Customs and prison warders that are not collecting money from us. Police, soldiers, Navy, Civil Defence Corps have all turned us to cash cows, collecting money from us so how do they expect our trucks to meet standard?
“It is not only trucks that are having accidents. What about ships that capzise, aircrafts that crash and accidents involving all vehicles?
“Accidents are things that happen unexpectedly. We are trying our best and there are contributing factors leading to fall of containers. We cannot say because there are accidents then we want to ban aircraft from flying but we need to know the cause of the accident and see how to avoid it,” he said.
A member of the association, Sulaiman Adeleke listed constraints facing the truckers in complying with the traffic law.
He said, “If the government want us to comply with this directive, they should provide street lights for movement at night, create trailer parks, repair the roads and also attach a police officer to each truck for safety.
“Also, no warehouse receives goods at night, so how do we discharge the goods? What about bonded terminals how do they expect them to work? So this directive is a tall order.
“Accidents occur in other mode of transportation and government never restricted them but why are trucks always the scape goats?”
By Pita Ochai