At least 1000 truck drivers and motor boys operating within the two seaports in Lagos are at the risk of contracting and spreading the deadly coronavirus following lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other preventive items.
Investigations revealed that the maritime sector haulage operators have been neglected by their employers and associations by failing to provide necessary protective kits for their employees.
Some of the truckers observed by our correspondent along the Mile 2, Trinity and coconut axis of Apapa Oshodi expressway were merely sleeping, smoking and interacting with female hawkers.
Maritime agencies and other stakeholders in the industry have made positive and impactful donations to cushion the effect of the pandemic to both the federal and state government’s but none to their employees.
The truckers submitted that the donations by maritime operators were one sided as nobody had deemed it fit to consider the plights of truck drivers since the beginning of the lockdown.
According to them, the various Transport groups made donations to the state and federal governments neglecting their immediate constituency.
They therefore adduced the gesture of their employers to hypocrisy saying that their charity does not begin at home.
Aliu Salisu who spoke to our correspondent accused some of the associations of donating relief materials to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), describing it as “eye service”, adding that such gesture is disservice to humanity.
Salisu lamented that the Automated Teller Machines (ATM) within Apapa and its environs no longer dispense cash for them to feed even before the presidential lockdown adding that truck owners are not even bothered about their current predicament.
Another of the drivers who preferred anonymity said since the presidential directive was pronounced, truck drivers and their assistants have not been given any form of palliative.
He lamented that truckers are most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic in the maritime industry adding that without the service of the transporters movement of goods and services would be stalled.
The driver regretted that neglects on the part of government and other relevant stakeholders was quite discouraging to facilitate trade.
The driver said, “We are not properly kitted thus vulnerable to COVID19 and we are not happy because they feel we are not important in anyway.
“Transportation activities in the maritime sector plays a key role in the movement of cargoes to any part of the country but it appears the government is not looking in that direction.
“We need to be carried along because we are human like all other stakeholder subsector operators. There is no harm in providing all necessary palliatives for us because most of us left our families far and wide and we don’t have food to buy talk less of feeding.
He called on NPA, NIMASA, Nigerian Shippers Council, Nigeria Customs Services, to provide the necessary kits for the truckers to prevent the spread of the virus.
Reacting to the allegations, the Vice Chairman, Dry Cargo Section, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Inuwa Abdullahi agreed that the drivers are vulnerable to the COVID19 and that some of them believe that the virus does not exist.
“Yes it is true, within the first period of the lockdown those drivers and motor boys you see over 50% of them are drivers that come from outside Lagos to drop empty containers and in return load import, before they become trapped with the lockdown order and nobody assumed that it will get to this stage.
“Even at the beginning, so many of them did not believe on the existence of the virus due to fake news that is been spread out on some social media that the virus is for the rich men.
“For most of the drivers that their employers transferred money into their account for feeding, they could not cash the money as all the Banks’ ATM machines within the area could not dispense cash for 2 days after the lockdown; up to this moment, the ATM machines are not paying! I think that is the reason why they are asking for help.
On his part, Secretary, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT), Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Comrade Godwin Ikeji argued that some of the drivers were provided with the PPE but they claimed to be uncomfortable with the items.
Ikeji lamented that the drivers are indeed vulnerable to contracting the COVID-19 and stressed the need for government to focus on how to support them from further havoc.
Editing by ‘Biodun Soyele
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