In the past few months, this newspaper has devoted ample attention to the failed access roads to Lagos ports of Apapa and Tin Can. The attention, that were given either by way of published Editorials, interviews or news were all geared towards drawing attention to the economic and social implications of the failed Apapa-Oshodi expressway and the Ijora axis of the approaches.
Of course, this should be expected of a maritime industry-based newspaper, which is also deeply involved in the day-to-day activities of the industry.
Needless to recount that, scores have died in the madness that drivers of articulated vehicles, and others, including commuters experience daily. We recall with sadness that a maritime journalists and Secretary of Federated Maritime Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists; Mr Segun Agbolade died on the Tin Can Coconut axis of the collapsed expressway. May his soul and those of the countless and unknown victims of this road rest in peace. Amen
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).
May we also add that robbery attacks are a common thing on the two access roads, the Ijora axis being the most 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.
On a normal day, 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 more than eight years, but it became aggravated due to insensitivity on the part of previous administrations which heard and even saw the extent of decay, but never did anything to ameliorate it.
So, when the Vice President; Yemi Osinbajo recently took a helicopter flight for an aerial view of Apapa, it expectedly generated a lot of commendations. Needless to stress that this is unprecedented.
It is not surprising that after the bull’s-eye flight over Apapa, the VP 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; it is our hope that these commitments will transform to action.
While the Abuja meeting was being concluded, the Lagos state Government which had appeared helpless suddenly woke up and constituted a task force to clear the two approaches to Apapa. The Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) also reeled out measures which included banning of shipping companies from bringing in empty containers to the port.
In all of these, 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. Where is the assurance that the current measures and the task force respectively will solve the problem?
There is nothing new in what the duo of Lagos state Government and the NPA wants to do, perhaps the difference may be in the seriousness that they may want to attach to it and the readiness of stakeholders to support them.
Business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote put the current 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.”
This is the third week since the VP met with stakeholders including Dangote, and others , yet nothing has been done, even though he (Dangote) had expressed the hope that Nigerians would begin to a see a massive change by next week (that was last two weeks ago)!