The port city of Apapa is home to Nigeria’s two foremost ports which are currently being managed by nine terminal operators. Between the two ports called 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 23 tank farms (and still counting). These are in addition to the many shipping companies/agencies, licensed customs offices and 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 several port- related activities.
The port city is sandwiched in between highbrow residential areas like Apapa GRA, Beachland estate, and low income residential areas such as Ajegunle and Ijora, it also shares boundaries with a couple of riverside settlements.
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). Apapa also services as a good link for motorists going to Lagos Island and beyond, serving hundreds of such from many local governments.
There are also scores of articulated trucks which on daily basis freight containers and millions of tonnes of bulk cargoes to different parts of the country.
As for the tank farms, which have become unwelcome co-stakeholders in the port city, they receive several tankers which also daily load petroleum products from different depots to different parts of the country. These trucks also come into Lagos empty, but they leave fully loaded with products, thus contributing their quota to the poor state of the roads and the already debilitating vehicular traffic in and around Apapa and indeed the metropolis.
Apapa expressway is too strategic to the nation’s economy for it also links the port city to the popular Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Ikeja.
Going by the facts highlighted above, there must be heavy vehicular traffic around Apapa , there must be movement of heavy-duty vehicles and persons.
The debilitating vehicular traffic which reared its head about seven years ago and which has since become a regular feature of the ports access roads have lately assumed a frightening dimension so much so that except those who work in Apapa, Lagosians do everything to avoid transiting through Apapa or go there to transact any business.
Almost all the previous ministers of transport (starting with Chief Cornelius Adebayo and later, Mrs. Deizani Allison Madueke have at different times attempted to solve the problem of excruciating traffic situation in Apapa, but it is apparent that their efforts are yet to yield any result.
In fact it appears like the ministers have no solution to the problem. At different times, committees and task forces have been set up to address the issue; there have been two interventionist inter agencies committees and access road task forces; all to no avail.
Some stakeholders have suggested the ridiculous, some the most unacceptable, yet some have proffered workable solutions.
All these can be articulated at a well-thought out gathering of all the concerned stakeholders, top among whom is the Lagos state government which has been collecting the controversial wharf landing fees for a couple of years now.
Although, on paper, the law empowers local governments under whose jurisdiction the cargo passes through to their final destination to collect varied amount on such goods, but in reality, it is not the local government(s) that collect. The state government actually collects the fees through a private firm.
One of the arguments that the Lagos state government advanced as its justification for the fee was that Lagos roads bear the brunt of shipping activities as articulated trucks freight containerized and bulk cargoes and liquid cargoes from the ports and jetties to the consignees’ destinations which (mostly) are outside the state.
If the state government had promised that proceeds from wharf landing fees will be used to provide more infrastructures in the city and especially in areas close to the ports, why is it that virtually all internal road networks in Apapa and of course, the Apapa Oshodi expressway are in a terrible shape. So what happens to the Billions of Naira that would have accrued from the fees since its introduction in 2009?
Even though no one is asking questions, the state government owes Lagosians the responsibility of letting us know how much has accrued as proceeds from Wharf Landing Fees so far and how the proceeds have been expended.
A portion of the revenue should be used to remedy the Apapa-Oshodi expressway in line with the state government’s promise, after all, majority of those who ply the Apapa –Oshodi expressway and Ikorodu Road/Western Avenue to Ijora on to Apapa are members of the shipping community who are stakeholders in the payment of Wharf Landing Fees.
It does not represent the Lagos state government as an accountable government when rather than allocate a percentage of the port generated funds to fix access roads to the ports, it is busy appealing to the Federal Government to repair the Apapa-Oshodi expressway.
As for the federal government, it must accept full responsibilities for the failed roads and the attendant traffic gridlock. Prior to the emergence of tank farms in Apapa, traffic wasn’t as bad. An attestation to this fact is that two former ministers, that is, Adebayo and Madueke had identified the operations of tank farms as being the main cause of the prevailing traffic congestion in and around Apapa.
Another salient reason for increased activities in Apapa is the federal government’s port concession programme which has led to soaring ship traffic and attendant higher cargo throughput and consequently, influx of more articulated trucks into the ports.
As it is, both the Lagos state government and the federal government must seat together to find a workable solution to the daily nightmare on the roads in Apapa. This must be done in conjunction with all stakeholders in the Apapa business.