Just when we all had given kudos to the presidential task team on Apapa traffic for what we thought was a damn good job; the traffic and the road rage have reappeared.
The task team which was headed (on paper) by the Vice President; Yemi Osinbajo, had a former Commissioner for transport in Lagos state; Mr Kayode Opeifa as the Vice Chairman, and the man-on-ground.
This intervention was after several others, including the drafting of naval personnel to control the traffic.
We recall that at a one time, Vice President; Yemi Osinbajo even took a helicopter flight for an aerial view of Apapa, it expectedly generated a lot of commendations.
Needless to recount that, scores had died in the madness that drivers of articulated vehicles, and others, including commuters experience daily. The financial losses are unquantifiable.
Apapa is very strategic to the economy o f Nigeria, it is linked to the rest of Lagos by two major highways; the Apapa – Oshodi expressway and the Western Avenue (Funso Willaims Avenue) . Of course, it can also be approached by water from Mile Two (on the mainland) and Marina axis (on the Island).
May we also add that robbery attacks are a common thing on the two access roads, the Ijora axis being the more notorious.
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.
Before the traffic menace enveloped the it, it 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.
In his assessment of the effects of the Apapa gridlock in 2017, business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote put the economic loss, occasioned by the 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.”
We recall that the mandate given to the ‘Opeifa team’ was to ensure that, all stationary, immovable, accidented, incidented or wrongfully parked trucks are removed on all port access roads to a designated impound yard.
While rendering account of the team’s stewardship, Opeifa said the team was able to achieve about 100 per cent of terms of reference which included short, medium and long term solutions.
“We have been able to eliminate the issue of extortion levelled against the military taskforce earlier set up for management of traffic in the axis. You can take a check round and ask the truckers and port operators they will tell you things have changed for the good. The achievement was however, due to support and cooperation of all stakeholders of which I can’t practically mention, because they are numerous.”
Arguably, the team’s greatest achievement, apart from ensuring that a certain degree of sanity returns to the roads leading into and out of Apapa is the elimination of extortion of truck drivers by security agents who had been drafted in to help.
Truck drivers and owners attested to the fact that the task team has brought respite and that what used to be a thriving extortion business no longer exists.
Finally, what the team has done is not enough to bring sanity to Apapa. Granted that the approach from Western Avenue is saner, it has to be complemented with an equally sane approach from the Mile 2 axis to Apapa wharf. This means that there can not be sanity in traffic in Apapa , until the Apapa-Oshodi expressway is fixed.
We acknowledged the fact that road reconstruction from Oworonsoki to Apapa has commenced, we can see the ‘traffic hardship’ that comes with it, but we hope that it will be worth the sacrifice.
The achievement of the task team can only have a meaningful effect when the truck terminal at Tin Can port is ready and put to use. There is need also for NPA to complete the lighting at its Lilly pond facilities, so that trucks can make use of it round-the -clock.
It is also important that the NPA commences the much-talked-about electronic call-up system for trucks exiting the parks for the terminals.
Sadly, reports emanating from the two approaches into Apapa do not complement the efforts of the task team. It appears that whatever the team had accomplished vanished at the end of its assignment.
Officials of government, who now take charge, have been accused of unbridled extortion, even as law and order no longer hold sway.
The recent bloody cash between hoodlums and truckers was fallout of the breakdown in the enforcement of traffic rules that were introduced by the task team. Apparently, the rules became unenforceable after the exit of the team.
It is shameful that to resolve the issues and restore sanity, Opeifa had to be invited to mediate, even after the team which he headed had completed its assignment.