When he was appointed as the Minister of Power Works and Housing, many users of Lagos ports and those who either live or commute through the port city; Apapa were elated, because they had thought that as the immediate past Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola would use his new office to fix the two approaches to Lagos ports of Tin Can Island and Apapa.
Lagosians will recall vividly how Governor Fashola (then of Lagos State) picked on the Federal Government of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) at every opportunity for abandoning the very important Apapa routes, be it from Ijora or from Oshodi.
By its strategic geographic and commercial location, Apapa is linked to the rest of the city by two major highways; the Apapa – Oshodi expressway and Apapa-Ijora road. Of course, it can also be approached by water from Mile Two (on the mainland) and Marina axis (on the Island).
Needless to recount that, scores have died (and continue to die) in the madness that drivers of articulated vehicles, and others, including commuters experience daily.
May we also add that robbery attacks are a common thing on the two access roads, the Ijora axis being the most notorious.Business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has put the current economic loss, occasioned by the bad roads and the attendant traffic bottlenecks along the road, at over N10bn daily. This is a huge loss to an economy that is struggling.
He said: “You have to understand that Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports handle about 80 per cent of the cargoes that come into Nigeria. “As we speak, some of our ships are waiting to come in from Lome and discharge. It is not because we don’t have anywhere to berth the ship but because all our operations are choked up because we have containers, general cargoes that have actually been there and we are not able to remove”
“But I am more worried about the smaller operators because for those that have imported, the charges are accumulating every day. Transport charge has almost doubled.”
What is happening in Apapa is not unexpected, given its privileged location as home to Nigeria’s two foremost ports which are currently being managed by nine terminal operators. Between the two ports (Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port) more than 65 percent of dry cargoes and about 90 per cent of the nation’s liquid (petroleum products) are handled. This is because it hosts about 45 tank farms (and still counting). These are in addition to the many banks, shipping companies/agencies, licensed customs offices, factories and numerous other businesses that are located in this port city.
Apapa used to be a thriving, attractive and very busy city, with free flowing vehicular and human traffic; this is in addition to other human endeavours that take place there. It is so sad that Apapa has now turned to a failed city; a bedlam of chaos and no-go-area for many.
The present state of two approaches has terribly impacted negatively on the highbrow residential areas like Apapa GRA, Beachland estate, and of course, the low income residential areas such as Ajegunle and Ijora.
No matter the argument, the presence of petroleum products tank farms has brought untold hardships to residents, owners of businesses, motorists and workers in Apapa.
Apart from the tank farms and the tankers, the other contributor to the menace is the various articulated trucks that come in and out of the ports daily. Of course, the number of these trucks has increased tremendously since the ports were concessioned in 2006. Volume of cargo has increased significantly, so also is the means of conveying the cargoes out of ports.
Sadly however, just like with petrol tankers and the tank farms, these bulk cargo bearing trucks have also brought pains, sorrow and even deaths to Lagosians. There have been so many accidents linked to container-laden trucks.
The state of Apapa axis has been like this for about 10 years, but it became aggravated due to insensitivity on the part of the previous administration which heard and even saw the extent of decay, but never did anything to ameliorate it.
It is even worse now that those who complained are yet to do anything tangible enough to cause a stop to the madness on this road.
We recall that, when the Vice President; Yemi Osinbajo a few months ago took a helicopter flight for an aerial view of Apapa, it expectedly generated a lot of commendations.
After that seemingly ‘bull’s-eye’ flight over Apapa, the Vice President summoned a meeting all stakeholders at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. There was only one topic on the table- how to fix Apapa. Commitments were made, sadly they are yet to will transform to action.
In all of the recent efforts to fix the approaches to Apapa, we see panic on the part of both the NPA and the Lagos State Government, both of which have tried to restore sanity, but they have failed.
While the intervention by the security agents on the approach from Ijora has helped, the repair of Wharf Road is also ongoing. Both will give a respite to those who come into Apapa from that axis.
The same cannot be said of the approach from the Mile 2 end of the Oshodi-Apapa expressway.