In December last year and apparently in response to the glaring failure of the Presidential Task Team which had Mr Kayode Opeifa as its vice chairman and operational head, the Lagos State Government gave the hint that it would take over traffic management from the Presidential Task Team, in order to restore sanity to the Apapa area.
The state Governor; Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu said this after a fact-finding visit to the Lagos Ports access roads to ascertain the reason for the incessant congestion in the port area, in spite of providing a park for articulated trucks.
He also admitted at the visit that, “this is not the first time, certainly not the second and in fact this is about the third or the fourth time in my government, that we are trying to see how we can bring an enduring solution to the Apapa gridlock. On all of the times we have come, we knew that we are having a road construction, but you can see now that inside Apapa, there is significant progress. A lot of roads have been done.
Not long after the visit, the Governor constituted a Special Traffic Management and Enforcement Compliance Team to resolve the traffic gridlock in and around Apapa.
The governor said that the areas of coverage of the team’s operations were to be: Ikorodu Road to Oshodi – Mile 2 – Apapa, Ikorodu Road – Funsho Williams Avenue (Surulere) – Alaka – Iganmu – SIFAX – Ijora 7up – Apapa
Perhaps, following the cue of the Lagos State Government, the management of the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) also in February announced that an electronic truck call up system designed for the management of truck movement and access to and from the Lagos Port Complex and the Tin Can Island Ports in Apapa.
By the proposal “all trucks doing business at the ports will be required to park at the approved truck parks until they are called-up into the port through the Eto app.
The Eto app will be responsible for the scheduling, entry and exit of all trucks into the ports with effect from 27th Feb. 2021, it said.
In fairness to NPA, it thought it had the e-call up all arranged as the final blow to the recalcitrant Apapa traffic.
Part of the electronic call-up is the requirement for exporters to consolidate the export cargo before they are moved to the port.
The NPA had also directed consignees to drop empties at the holding-bay of shipping companies, and liners would now be responsible for taking empties into the port.
It was also arranged that all trucks coming to carry containers in the port, must wait at designated parks. The NPA in partnership with the Lagos State government then selected eight truck parks that have signed up to the call-up system. This means that from February 27, trucks not parked within the eight approved parks would no longer expected to gain access into Lagos ports to pick cargo.
These looked good on paper, and they actually worked in the first two days, then the unexpected began to happen, thus threatening the start-up success of the e-call up.
First, petroleum product tankers descended on the approach to Tin Can port from Mile 2, they queued up to load products at the tank farms, and in the process thinned out the main expressway. Second, by Tuesday, un-laden trucks also trouped out from somewhere around Mile 2.
And by Wednesday, the approach from Ijora to Apapa ports had started seeing a long queue of flatbed trucks on the bridges.
Even though the Lagos state government has impounded many trucks for infractions, despair is gradually setting in on the part of all stakeholders, who had endured years of pains and business losses on account of the terrible vehicular traffic.
Even though a few things were not done right, while certain things were taken for granted when the e-call up system was being planned, this is not the time to give up.
Even though, the Nigerian Ports Authourity believed it had done all that needed to be done in the build up to the flag-off of the electronic call –up, unfolding events confirm that the agency did not do enough in the area of sensitization and enlightenment of the truck drivers who are the foot soldiers in the use of the eto app.
Rather than buckle under the stress attendant to the commencement of e-call up, both the Lagos state government and the NPA should face the challenges head-on.
On its part, the Lagos State Government must step up its enforcement capabilities without capitulating to the powers behind road haulage business in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Ports Authourity should impress it on the operators of the e-call up system; Messrs Truck Transit Park Limited to increase the capacity of its internet service providers, because one of the main complaints is the speed of the e-call up service. It is also important that the NPA engages road haulage providers more seriously.
We can not but stress here that, for the e-call up to succeed, there is need to hasten the ongoing reconstruction of the expressway leading to Tin Can port, especially from the Mile 2 axis to the port.
We are optimistic that the e-call up of trucks will work. The challenges which reared their heads last week are simply what they are- teething problems.
There is no alternative to free vehicular traffic in Apapa and now that the solution has been found in electronic call-up, all hands must be on deck to ensure that it succeeds.