Ordinarily, the recent fracas between hoodlums and officials of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment needed not to have snowballed into arson and even death.
On the surface, it was a legit attempt on the part of the state government to clean-up the eyesore under the popular Ijora bridge. But, it was resisted by street urchins.
Ordinarily, the face-off ought not to have concerned the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA), not to mention exploding into its truck transit park, which is a landmark in the neighbourhood of Ijora.
In the attack, the truck park was invaded; vehicles and other properties belonging to the NPA were torched, sadly one person died.
Although, they may not be connected, the recent fracas at the Lillypond terminal and the resurgence of heavy traffic in Apapa has once again brought untold hardship to business owners, workers, drivers, commuters and residents.
The port city of Apapa is very strategic to the economy of Nigeria, it is linked to the rest of Lagos by two major highways; the Apapa – Oshodi expressway and the Western Avenue (FunsoWillaims Avenue). Of course, it can also be approached by water from Mile Two (on the mainland) and Marina (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 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.
We recall that, in a bid to stem the tide of debilitating traffic into the port city of Apapa, the Federal Government constituted a task team headed The task team headed (on paper) by Vice President; Yemi Osinbajo, but also had a former Commissioner for transport in Lagos state; Mr Kayode Opeifa as the Vice Chairman, and the man-on-ground.
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 returned to the roads leading into and out of Apapa was the elimination of extortion of truck drivers by security agents.
Truck drivers and owners attested to the fact that the task team brought respite and that what used to be a thriving extortion business no longer exists.
And just when we all were giving 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. It appeared like the Task Tem has failed!
By last week, it had become a huge headache for the Task Team, which had to contend with container-laden trucks and petroleum products-laden tankers. They all descended on the Ikorodu road axis, leading to chaos in the approach to Apapa port from Western Avenue.
Even though opinions are divided, there is nexus between the closure of the NPA-owned Lillypond truck park and the resurgence of traffic gridlock to Apapa port.
Apparently in response to the recent mayhem, the NPA locked up the facility at Ijora. The terminal was converted for use as Transit Park for trucks waiting to be called into the ports. It was serving that purpose creditably until the fracas between the hoodlums and the Lagos state government officials, snowballed into mass destruction of properties at the Ijora terminal.
Even though no one wants to point a finger, it is a fact that, the present chaotic traffic in and around Apapa is a reaction to NPA’s decision to seal-up its facilities.
Apart from the above, it is also a fact that there is a cold war between the NPA and the Task Team, a fact that came into the open at a recent meeting between the agency and truckers. At that meeting NPA directed that, personnel of the task team are barred from the Ijora truck park.
We think that rather than bicker over issues and rights, the duo of NPA and the Opeifa-led Task Team should work together in the larger interest of the nation’s economy and in the interest of stakeholders of Apapa.
There is no doubt that the Task Team has done well in its assignment, this has been acknowledged by all stakeholders.
Of recent and prior to the Ijora mayhem, it has also been in the news for allegations regarding extortion, a development that the team leader; Mr Opeifa denied vehemently. He likened the allegation to a case of corruption fighting back.
As much as we tend to believe that the team is infallible, we can not also vouch that every member of the tam and by extension their foot soldiers are equally above board.