Apparently because we are a maritime media group, we have devoted a lot of our editorial space to issues surrounding the perennial traffic into and out of the port city of Apapa.
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. 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.
The state of Apapa axis has been like this for more than 10 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.
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.
It is not surprising that after the ‘bull’s-eye flight’ over Apapa, the VP summoned a meeting of all stakeholders at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. There was only one topic on the table- how to fix Apapa.
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.
As expected, the panicky measures on the part of both the NPA and the Lagos State Government failed.
The Federal Government last month, embarked on another exercise to tackle the menace. It created a task team , headed by a former Commissioner for Transport in Lagos state; Mr Kayode Opeifa , who was also the teams Vice Chaiman.
The mandate was to ensure that, all stationary, immovable, accidented, incidented or wrongfully parked trucks are removed on all port access roads with effect from Sunday, May 26, 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. This means that there can not be sanity in traffic in Apapa , until the Apapa-Oshodi expressway is fixed.
Similarly, 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.