For the past nine days, one of the truck garages at the Apapa seaport containing fully-loaded fuel tankers and several other trucks has been locked down by the Nigerian Ports Authority, FIJ can exclusively report.
In a bid to prevent the illegal movement of trucks within and outside the seaport, NPA ordered that the ‘Baba Garage’ at the Marine bridge be closed on May 25 on the allegation that some trucks used for exporting goods were taking advantage of the garage to boycott export duties.
Police officers from Area B Command are, however, taking advantage of the order to extort truck drivers willing to pay a bribe for passage.
One of the truck drivers who asked not to be named for fear of retribution told FIJ: “One of the tankers was released last week after paying a bribe to the policemen manning the gate.
“When some other truck drivers made an attempt to follow the tanker driver, the Police threatened to shoot at them. That is why other truck drivers decided to block the entrance from any kind of movement until they are ready to let us go.”
Meanwhile, FIJ confirmed that at least three fuel tankers have been inside the garage alongside no fewer than 35 trucks. They were said to have arrived at the ‘Baba Garage’ for temporary purposes like minor repairs and brief packing, before the garage was closed.
Unknown to the NPA, the entire garage is now at risk of explosion with at least one of the tanks fully loaded with petroleum content.
FIJ understands that the goods worth millions of naira will be lost if there is any accidental fuel leakage, as most of the inter-state trucks are loaded with timbers, cars and food products.
Specifically, a good number of the trucks are headed for Kaduna Inland Ports.
Ibrahim Babangida, for instance, mentioned that he has three trucks loaded with cars heading for Abuja, the nation’s capital.
One of the truck owners, who prefers not to be named, lamented about the situation, saying: “If NPA are saying some export trucks are not supposed to be packed inside the garage, all they need to do is come inside to count and fish out the culprits.
“But with what they have done, all business people are at risk of losing all their goods to a fire accident because of the presence of fully-loaded fuel tankers inside the garage.”
As of press time, Ibrahim Nasiru, NPA’s Assistant General Manager and Head of Corporate & Strategic Communications, had not replied FIJ’s text message for comments on the issue .
While the authorities of the nation’s biggest seaport may be unaware of the consequences of locking fuel tankers with trucks, a massive explosion on August 4, 2020, at the port in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, was caused by the storage of a large amount of ammonium nitrate at a warehouse in the port. The accident led to the death of at least 207 people and US$15 billion in property damage.
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