Apapa is home to Nigeria’s two foremost ports that are divided into and being managed by nine terminal operators. Between these two ports, 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 22 tank farms. These are in addition to the numerous other businesses that are located in this port city. On a normal day, Apapa is a busy city, with heavy vehicular and human traffic; this is in addition to other human endeavours that take place there. The port city of Apapa equally plays host to countless number of banks and port related activities.
For the ports, there are scores of articulated trucks which on daily basis freight containers and assorted bulk cargoes to different parts of the country. For the tank farms, there are tankers which also load petroleum products from the different depots to different parts of the country.
Apapa is linked to the rest of the city by two roads; 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).
Going by the operational realities highlighted above, there must be heavy vehicular traffic around Apapa and indeed all port locations. There must be movement of heavy-duty vehicles and including trucks.
The debilitating vehicular traffic which reared its head about four years ago and which has since become a regular feature of the ports have lately assumed a frightening dimension so much so that, except for those who work in Apapa, Lagosians now dread transiting through the city or going there for business or any other endeavours.
Two former ministers of transportation (Chief Cornelius Adebayo and Mrs. Deizani Allison Madueke had, at different times attempted to solve the problem of excruciating traffic situation in Apapa, but it is apparent that their efforts did not yield any appreciable result.
Both Adebayo and Madueke did not achieve much because their efforts were targeted at the vehicle-induced traffic problems that were prevalent at that time. While Adebayo caused investigations into the causes of traffic, his successor focused on harassment of owners of tank farms. Their efforts actually created some sanity, especially on the two approaches to Apapa.
Chief Adebayo’s intervention led to the setting up of a committee which eventually identified indiscriminate parking of vehicles, indiscriminate construction of tank farms along the expressway and close to the ports as well as use of rickety trucks which often break down thereby causing obstruction as some of the causes of the debilitating traffic situation in Apapa and environs.
It was the committee’s recommendation that gave rise to the creation of the inter agency task force code named: Lagos Ports Access Roads Monitoring Unit, which to some extent was able to tackle the problems of indiscriminate parking of vehicles along the Apapa end of the Apapa-Oshodi expressway and the Apapa end of the Apapa-Ijora highway.
Similarly, Mrs. Allison Madueke took the battle to free the access roads to the door step of owners of tank farms whom she ordered to create holding bays for trucks coming into their facilities to load petroleum products. This also worked as most of the depot owners no longer allow queues by tankers to spill over to the expressway.
But the present cause of the terrible traffic is not caused by indiscriminate parking of vehicles by drivers of petroleum product tankers and container-laden trucks; it is caused in the main, by the collapse of the ever busy Apapa- Oshodi expressway.
This road has failed in different portions, such that it is really difficult to say which portion is worst. Is it at Ibafon (Coconut Bus-stop to Sunrise) where there is a high concentration of tank farms, or is it the now notorious Rainbow Bus Stop from where the vehicular queue spread towards Sanya bus stop and sometimes to Cele Bus stop?
The agony is so severe that twice in the last two weeks; some Lagosians who closed from work actually spent the night behind their steering wheels. Those who could afford have relocated to hotels around Apapa, coming home to see their families only on weekends.
Government may not quite appreciate the losses, until it begins to affect fuel supply. We are told that tanker drivers have started having a rethink about coming to Lagos and precisely to Apapa to lift the all important petroleum products for the same reasons that Nigerians who can not run away from it have resorted to taking temporary residence in the various hotels in Apapa; choosing (painfully) to see their families on weekends pending when the nightmare will end.
We think that the failure of Apapa – Oshodi expressway is a re-confirmation of what we all have come to know as the failure of the government to maintain infrastructures.
Pending when the rains will stop, the Federal Road Maintenance Agency should mobilize to bring temporary relieve to members of the Apapa business community by fixing all the failed portions of this road.
Apapa is too strategic to the nation’s economy for this expressway which also links the port city to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Ikeja.
It is our hope that the President’s directive would be taken seriously and that repair works will commence immediately.