THE Team Leader of the Presidential Task Force for the removal of Apapa gridlock, Kayode Opeifa has debunked the allegation of bribe taking by any members of the committee, even as he described the efforts of the task force as a huge success.
He made the clarification while addressing members of the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) , even as truck owners corroborated his view, debunking all allegations, as recently reported by some social media, that the Presidential Task Force set up to control traffic in Apapa were demanding bribes from them in the discharge of their duties. The truck owners dismissed the allegation in separate interviews on Sunday in Lagos.
“There is a big success story in Apapa”, Opeifa stated, highlighting that the gridlock in Apapa was not only man-made, but that those who initiated and prospered from it were also, already fighting back.
He traced the current traffic gridlock to the point when a LASMA official was killed, and those wanting to take advantage of the usual Yuletide season fuel crisis took over and dovetailed the crisis into a money–extorting crisis, stressing that since then, it has been rather, a cat-and –mouse unending imbroglio, with the gridlock, being re-enacted by those who wants to make it a permanent feature of Apapa, in Lagos.
Meanwhile, the truck drivers have whitewashed the Presidential Taskforce team, stressing that the allegation against the team’s Head of Enforcement, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu collecting was totally baseless.
The Vice-President, Corporate Fleet Truck Owners Association of Nigeria, Mr Leye Thompson, described the allegation as baseless, saying it emanated from those who were not happy with the impactful work of the task force. He added that those making the allegations were those profiting from the old system which was characterised by abuses and inefficiency.
“One or two persons sit down somewhere and concoct allegations of graft against a body whose work we all see every day, whose impact we truck owners feel. “The Presidential Task Force has put them out of business and that is why they are fighting back. “The task force and its personnel do not accept bribe from anyone. I am speaking to you as owner of a fleet of trucks and Vice President of Corporate Fleet Owners Association.
“Those people behind the allegations are movers of trucks, they are like agents, they don’t have any trucks; they are boys who worked for some people in the old system when truck owners had to ‘settle’ to get their trucks into the port. “Believe me, they were like brokers to those in charge of traffic at that time; this is a clear case of corruption fighting back,” he said.
Thompson said the task force had stopped all bad practices concerning traffic management in Apapa, saying the ”unfounded allegations” did not emanate from truck owners. Also, Mr Gbade Amodu, the Secretary of Corporate Fleet Owners Association, said truck owners could come openly to accuse the task force of bribe before allowing trucks access to the port.
He said one of those behind the allegation had once been arrested by the task team for trying to facilitate undue passage for trucks. Amodu said that the unfounded allegations were meant to discredit the Presidential team, even as he confirmed that the body had done very well in the short time.
“Let me tell you, what the task team has done is very obvious to anyone who has to navigate through Apapa, or those who work there. “As truck owners, we are in Apapa on daily basis, so we can confirm that they have done well. We were all here, even when the Navy was in charge, they only compounded our woes and enriched themselves”.
He said the task force had improved traffic in Apapa. Similarly, the Head of Operations, Council of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA), Alhaji Abdullahi Inuwa, also debunked the allegation of extortion levied against the task team by some truckers.
He said that his association controlled over 70 per cent of the truck business in Apapa, adding he had not heard any complaint of task force extortion from any truck owner. “I know the strength of my organisation (COMTUA); if you come to trucking sector my association controls about 70 per cent of the trucks that are operating in the maritime sector.
“And I have never heard any allegation of extortion by the task force from any of my members. “People accusing the new task force of extortion are the people who are angry because of the destruction of some illegal parks. “I know some people have their grievances over some operations that have taken place by the new task force in the area of cleanup of some illegal parks,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Vice Chairman of the task force, Mr Kayode Opeifa, has accused the Chairman of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMARTO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi, of being one of the people frustrating efforts of the task team because of alleged racketeering and profiteering from the gridlock.
According to him, “Remi Ogungbemi does not have a single truck, he started fighting the committee because we cleared Lillypond Under Bridge, he said he is the one collecting money under the bridge, so he started fighting us”.
Opeifa also debunked the allegations of corruption levelled against police officers attached to the task force, saying the allegation is a case of corruption fighting back. Ogungbemi had last week accused the task force of extorting money from truck owners before they could access the ports.