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Apapa gridlock: Senate probes e-call-up system, alleged extortion

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The Senate has mandated the Senator Danjuma Goje-led Committee on Marine Transport to probe the implementation of the electronic call-up system of admitting trucks into the port terminal and allegations of extortion by port officials.

Despite the introduction of the call-up system by the Nigerian Ports Authority, the gridlock on major roads leading into and out of Apapa port has not abated.

The Senate also urged the Federal Government collaborate with the Lagos State Government to ensure the relocation of tank farms to other areas.

It asked private terminal operators to explore water transport as an option in the movement of containers, just as it urged the Federal Ministry of Works to commence the reconstruction and repair of all access roads to seaports, namely Apapa Creek road, Apapa Oshodi Expressway and Tincan Island.

Besides, the Senate directed its committees on Marine Transport, Works and Petroleum (Downstream) to meet the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, concessionaires, Nigeria Union of Petroleum Engineers and all other stakeholders to ensure resolution of pending conflicts and ensure synergy, among other stakeholders.

Resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a motion titled: ‘Urgent Need to Tackle the Protracted Apapa Gridlock in Lagos and Embrace the Newly Introduced Electronic Call-Up system of Admitting Trucks into the Terminal’.

The motion was sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu and co-sponsored by senators Solomon Adeola and Adetokunbo Abiru.

Presenting the motion, Senator Tinubu said: “The Senate notes with great displeasure the gridlock which has persisted on access roads to Apapa Seaport in Lagos and has, for many years, been a source of heartache for individuals and businesses plying the road.

“Senate is also aware that the gridlock has persisted due to the terrible condition of Apapa port, the concentration of Tank Farms in the area, indiscriminate parking of petroleum tankers and trailers wanting to load petroleum products from the tank farms and the racket created by persons benefiting from the chaotic situation.

“Senate is also aware that the tank farms attract thousands of trucks and tanker drivers who lift the petroleum products for onward supply to Nigerians who owing to the paucity of parking lots take up all the spaces on the road instead thereby causing traffic.

“The Senate is also informed that there about 40 tank farms in the Apapa axis alone. This over-concentration is disadvantageous because one accident could be the undoing of this very important aspect of the Federal Government highway.

“The Senate is also informed that the unpalatable situation has made the area a goldmine for unscrupulous persons and operatives who have gone on to create a racket profiting off the turmoil created.

“Senate decries the poor quality of port access roads, complex ports procedures and ineffective truck call up system among other factors contributing to delays, inefficiencies and gridlock in Apapa with a huge cost to Nigeria’s economy.

“The Senate notes that this gridlock has increased the cost of doing business, encourage illegalities and stiffen ports activities with its attendant negative impact on government’s revenue projections.

“The Senate is concerned that the roads leading to Apapa are characterised with so much traffic that people would rather walk than drive.

“The Senate is worried that this gridlock has continued to pose a security threat to the lives of innocent Nigerians as hoodlums exploit the situation to disposes motorists and passers-by of their valuables.

“The Senate is also worried that due to the deplorable state of the roads, and the number of trucks and containers on the road, there have been several cases of containers falling on smaller vehicles, killing innocent citizens while goods worth millions of Naira are also destroyed or stolen in these accidents.

“The Senate further notes that only recently, following allegations of extortion by security operatives posted to the area, the Presidential Task Force handed over the reins of managing the traffic situation to the Lagos State Government which in turn set up the Apapa Special Traffic Management…

“The Senate observes that the NPA recently introduced the electronic Call-Up system for admitting trucks into the terminal and to control the movement of trucks in and out of Lagos Seaports.

“The Senate is concerned that despite the well-intentioned initiative the chaotic traffic situation still lingers as tankers and trucks are still parked indiscriminately on the roads causing inconvenience to residents, commuters and business activities in the area.

“The Senate is also concerned that tankers have not been incorporated into the e-call up system and the areas where container trucks used to be stationed have now been taken over by the tankers.

“Bothered by the seeming discord among stakeholders in the implementation of the e-call up system, NUPENG representatives have reportedly stated that the initiative is not feasible not only because alternative parking lots have not been provided, but also because as a body, NUPENG is not subject to the authority of the implementing agency in the Nigerian Ports Authority.

“The Senate is further concerned that clearing agents and truck owners along the port’s access roads at the Tincan Island Port complex accused officials of the NPA, security agents and the police personnel who are deployed to manage traffic in the area of sabotaging the smooth operation of the newly introduced e-call up system by colluding with community boys, touts and miscreants who disregard official e-call up tickets to extort truckers.

“Senate notes allegations by industry operators such as the National Association of Road Transport Workers that human interference in the e-call up system continues to hamper resolution of the issues and compound the problem.

Apapa gridlock, an embarrassment

“The Senate, however, is saddened that the current Apapa gridlock has become an embarrassment to our nation and a sore point for maritime business along the Lagos and Tincan Island Ports corridor and also saddened that this has a huge impact on the ease of doing business in Nigeria, shipping and the final cost of goods.

“The Senate is further saddened about the diversion of Nigerian bound cargoes to neighbouring country’s seaports.

“Senate is however reminded being the country’s most valuable import and export gateway, and a high yielding revenue hub, Apapa port is currently raking in over N1trillion annually into Federal Government’s treasury through various taxes, levies and tariffs.

“The Senate is equally reminded that as a stakeholder in the success of Nigeria, we must ensure viable working systems and institutions that benefit the populace.”

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Osun-Osogbo festival: Despite proven contamination, devotees drink from Osun river

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In June 2022, TheCable published an investigation which revealed how mining activities in Ilesa communities in Osun state have polluted the water body at the popular Osun-Osogbo grove.

Ilesa, also known as Ijesha land, is renowned for large gold deposits and other minerals. Owing to the heightened mining activity, waste, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemicals are washed into the tributaries which end up in the Osun river.

On Friday, which marks the grand finale of the annual Osun-Osogbo festival, devotees of the Osun deity were spotted at the grove drinking from the contaminated river.

Many devotees who trooped out in their white attires and beads were seen fetching the water into different kegs while some washed their heads with it and others drank from it.

TheCable had earlier subjected a sample of the water to a test conducted by UNILAG Consult. It was found to contain 0.034 milligrams per litre (mg/L) of arsenic, 5.663 mg/L of aluminium, and 0.090 mg/L of lead. Other heavy metals found, according to the test result, include Barium (2.326), Lithium(0.004), Nickel(2.006), and Iron (3.197).

These heavy metals were found to be significantly above the limit prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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Urban Alert, a civic-tech initiative leveraging technology to amplify the yearnings of the masses, told TheCable in June that a health crisis is inevitable if the over two million people living in more than 20 communities in Osun state continue to get exposed to the contaminated water.

“In fact, our data has shown that 100,000 people may be facing serious medical challenges before 2032 if the situation is not arrested and the proper remediation process does not begin,” Anthony Adejuwon, Urban Alert team lead, had said.

Following TheCable’s investigation into the pollution of the river, Abdullahi Binuyo, deputy chief of staff to Gboyega Oyetola, governor of Osun, said the state will carry out a clean-up of the sacred grove.

Binuyo said this while speaking on TheCable’s Twitter Space dedicated to the issue of illegal mining and pollution in the state.

LAST-MINUTE SENSITISATION

On the eve of the finale of the Osun-Osogbo festival, the state government advised tourists, devotees and visitors not to drink water from the river.

Rafiu Isamotu, the commissioner for health, said the water had been contaminated by the activities of artisanal miners and was not good for human consumption.

But Urban Alert criticised the state government for issuing the warning 24 hours before the grand finale.

Oluwatosin Olarewaju, communication officer of Urban Alert, said the response to the contamination of the river has been lukewarm and lacks the determination needed to address the issue of illegal and unregulated gold mining in the state.

“Despite vigorous engagements with the Federal Government, the Osun State Government and other stakeholders, nothing significant has been seen to have been done to avert the impact of the contamination, ” the statement reads in part.

“Having informed the Osun State Government and all appropriate organs of the Federal Government of the deleterious effect of the Osun River contamination, no serious step has been taken for the safety of the affected communities and the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove which sits on the bank of the Osun River. It is, therefore, shocking to see the Osun State Government issuing an impromptu warning to tourists and traditionalists, warning them from drinking from the Osun River on the eve of the Osun Osogbo festival.”

Urban Alert said the response to the issue “is a clear indication that the safety of the people and access to safe water is not a priority”.

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41 dead as fire engulfs church in Egypt

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At least 41 people have been confirmed dead in a fire outbreak at Abu Sefein church in the working-class neighbourhood of Imbaba in Giza Governorate, Egypt.

According to a report by Bloomberg, another 14 people were injured in the fire incident that started at the Coptic church during Sunday morning service.

The report added that fifteen firefighting vehicles were dispatched to the scene to put out the flames while ambulances ferried the casualties to nearby hospitals.

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A police statement confirmed that the fire was ignited by an electrical short-circuit.

Reacting to the incident in a tweet on his verified Twitter handle, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Egypt’s president, expressed his condolences to the victims’ families.

He said government has put in place necessary measures to mitigate the effect of the fire outbreak.

“I am closely following the developments of the tragic accident in Al-Munira Church in Giza Governorate, and I have directed all concerned state agencies and institutions to take all necessary measures, and immediately deal with this accident and its effects, and to provide all aspects of health care for the injured,” the president wrote.

“I offer my sincere condolences to the families of the innocent victims who moved to the side of their Lord in one of the houses in which they are worshipped.”

The Cable
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NDLEA Uncovers 442 Parcels of Crystal Meth in Heads of Smoked Fish

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Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have uncovered, at the SAHCO shed of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, no fewer than 442 parcels of crystal methamphetamine concealed in heads of smoked fish.

The drug-laden smoked fishes were packaged in cartons weighing 11.9 kilogrammes and for export to Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

According to a statement on Sunday by the spokesman of the anti-narcotics agency, Femi Babafemi, the consignment was brought to the SAHCO export shed of the airport on August 5, by a freight agent, Adekunle Paul, 32, from Yagba West Local Government Area of Kogi State.

He was promptly arrested upon the discovery that the seven cartons he presented for export contained parcels of the dangerous drug wrapped with foil paper and concealed in the heads of hundreds of smoked catfish.

Babafemi disclosed that the following day, Saturday August 6, another consignment containing 1.45 kilogrammes cannabis concealed inside granulated melon and crayfish and packed among other food condiments going to Dubai, UAE was also intercepted by NDLEA operatives who arrested the freight agent, Ajisefini Lateef, that presented the cargo for export at the SAHCO shed.

Also, anti-narcotic officers at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu have arrested a 50-year-old Mgbeobuna Eberechukwu for ingesting 77 pellets of cocaine.

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He was arrested on Saturday, August 6  following his arrival from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia onboard an Ethiopian airline flight.

Babafemi said the suspect passed out the 77 wraps of the illicit drug in eight excretions spanning four days.

In Kaduna, three suspects — Saifullahi Sani, Salisu Nafi’u and Abdulrazaq Mamman — were arrested in Zaria last Thursday with 1,112,350 tablets of tramadol (225mg and 100mg) weighing 38.3 kilogrammes, while in Kano, a female drug dealer, Saratu Abdullahi, 28, was nabbed at Hotoro with 541 blocks of cannabis weighing 245 kilogrammes.

In Lagos, NDLEA operatives recovered a total of 1,773.25k kilogrammes cannabis sativa at Ebutte-Meta and Akala in Mushin areas of the state in separate raid operations between 9th and 10th August.

At the Tincan seaport in Lagos, 86 parcels of cannabis indica (Colorado) weighing 43 kilogrammes were recovered from a 40ft container during a joint examination with Customs and other security agencies.

The illegal consignment seized last Friday was brought in from Toronto via Montreal, Canada and concealed in two drums inside a Mercedes Benz SUV in the container.

In Abia, two suspects — Nnanna Ijo, 58, and Orji Uguru, 29 — were arrested last Friday with various quantities of cannabis, heroin and cocaine at Nde-Agbai, Abiriba, a week after Nnanna was released from detention over a similar offence committed in June.

Meanwhile, the Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd), while commending the officers and men of MMIA, AIIA, Tincan, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos and Abia Commands of the agency for the seizures and arrests, charged them and their compatriots across the country to always remain steps ahead of the drug cartels.

Thisday
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