· “Enforcement architecture has been compromised”—Truckers
· “Organized crime contributing t the chaos”—-Freight forwarders
Stakeholders and the motoring public have confirmed that the Mile 2 to Apapa end of the Apapa-Oshodi expressway is indeed completed, but currently impassable
They identified a myriad of issues such as non-operational truck terminals, enforcement failures, and tanker operators’ challenges as major contributors to the road’s persistent state despite government’s huge expenditure on its repair.
Shipping Position Daily notes that despite the full completion of the Mile 2 – Tin-Can port access road in June 2023, it continues to be a source of frustration for those seeking access to Lagos ports in Lagos.
Our correspondent who took a tour along this road last week observed that the inbound lane to the Tin Can port is totally congested with the heavy presence of articulated vehicles, from Mile 2 down to the Tin Can port gate.
Motorists going to the port are forced to drive against traffic using the service lanes at intervals where several heaps of dirt as well as indiscriminate parking of trucks on the road still dot the landscape.
In a chat with Shipping Position Daily, the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Mrs. Olukorede Keisha, had earlier stated that the Mile 2-Tin Can road construction has been fully completed and is now open to traffic on both carriageways. She emphasized that the traffic challenges faced by motorists along the road are not caused by the Ministry of Works or the contractors, but by the obstruction of the traffic flow by petroleum products tankers, for which she fingered the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Lagos State Ministry of Transportation as being responsible.
However, the Vice President of the National Association of Maritime Transport Operators (NAMTOP); Mr Rilwan Bello highlighted that the core problem lies in the lack of enforcement and the existence of illegal truck parks on the Mile 2 to Tin Can port axis.
Bello asserted that the foundation for change lies in rigorous enforcement. According to him, truck transit parks designed to accommodate large number of vehicles, situated further away from the port, could alleviate the road congestion along the Mile 2 – Tin-Can port access road.
He also suggested that the Nigerian Ports Authority should establish pre-gate facilities and holding bays, which would reduce the strain on the Tin Can port and lead to more efficient traffic management.
While addressing these issues, Bello called for a mobile enforcement team, arguing that the enforcement officers currently manning the road are more susceptible to corruption. He emphasized the need for swift sanctions for rule violations to maintain order and discipline on the road.
In his words: “I think the major problem now is enforcement. I read in the news about two weeks ago, that the Governor himself went there to issue a notice to trucks parked indiscriminately at that axis. How many recognised truck parks do we have along that axis? Many of the parks are illegal parks.
“What will make the road more motorable is if the foundation which Eto is laid upon, is enforced. This simply means all trucks must have a park and from there they go to a pre-gate. That is the design we have around Apapa that is why the place looks saner than Tin Can. We need a big truck park like Lillypond that is a bit away from the port.
“The way Tin Can is designed, the MOB truck pack is just in front of the port. We need a park that is a bit far away from the Tin Can port, which will serve as holding bays for the trucks where they will be held for some time before they go out in batches. They don’t have to disturb other road users. The way Tin Can port is designed, we have such facility on the left which is outbound and the port on the right.
“What NPA can do is to use some of their land which they use as terminals at Kirikiri as pre-gate and holding bays for flatbed trucks and from there they can now pass them out to MOB and not directly into the port while exports and other containers can be directed to MOB. Flatbeds that have containers at the port can go directly to the port, while trucks with empty containers or export can go to MOB park. If we have this process on ground, I think it will make sense and ease the traffic along that side” Bello stated.
Also speaking, the administrative secretary of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO); Bala Muhammed pointed out that the major problem on the Mile 2 –Tin- Can axis lies within the terminal operators, adding that they are not operating at their full capacity.
He explained that even when Truck Transit Park (TTP), operators of the e-call-up system, releases trucks to the route, the terminals will not be able to handle the volume of trucks due to a lack of holding bays for trucks, causing immense traffic congestion on the road.
Muhammed emphasized that these terminals must expedite their operations and create a fair intermodal system to ease the strain on the road. He also demanded the establishment of a formalized call-up system for tanker operators, similar to the one used for containerized trucks.
The AMATO scribe alleged that hoodlums are collaborating with enforcement officers, and exacerbating the problems by damaging trucks and harassing drivers for illicit financial gain. According to him, this toxic combination of compromised enforcement and criminal activity has created severe traffic gridlock on the Mile 2 – Tin–Can port access road.
“The major problems we have on that axis are the terminals. The terminals are not operating at optimal capacity, even if TTP releases trucks to the route and the terminal is not working well, the road will still remain jam-packed with trucks. These terminals don’t have holding bays where trucks will park, pending when they will service them and request another batch from TTP.
“The terminals can request for about 500 trucks and I believe TTP cannot release 500 because the whole stretch of the road is too small to accommodate 500 trucks. By the time TTP releases, let’s say 250, everywhere will be jam-packed. So the terminal needs to increase the speed of their operations so that it can accommodate more trucks. They also need to balance their intermodal system to be fair to the trucks coming by road because most of them are focusing on servicing the barge and rail without considering those that are coming by road. So let them balance the equation. It should be a 50:50 ratio so that the line on the road will be moving.
“The enforcement aspect is also very important. We need to encapsulate the security and traffic. Sadly, the enforcement architecture has been compromised. The people that are supposed to ensure the free flow of traffic between pre-gates and terminals are the ones intercepting these trucks in the name of extortion. If you don’t give them money, they will not allow you to go. We also have the hoodlums that are working together with the enforcement on the road damaging trucks and harassing drivers just to collect money. If you don’t pay, they won’t allow you to go and when you overstay they will invite LASTMA to come and tow away your trucks.
“The government needs to have political will. It is because lack of political will to calibrate all this enforcement on the road is the reason why we are having all this traffic anarchy in that terrain. If there is political will to wield the big stick, everybody will sit up” Muhammed said.
On his part, the Tin Can Chapter Public Relations Officer of the African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (APFFLON), Mr Clinton Okoro pointed out the possibility of organized crime contributing to the persistent chaos. He argued that even the government seems aware of the issues, but has been unable to address them effectively.
Okoro singled out shipping companies for not establishing holding bays for containers, even as they continued to collect container deposits. He suggested that decentralizing depots and terminals from Lagos could alleviate the congestion.
“I feel there is an organized crime going on. If you check out about two weeks ago, the Governor of Lagos State was on that axis scent. He gave some strong warnings that all the vehicles that are parked on the road should be evacuated. All the security agents such as the LASTMA, Police, Army and touts are all aware of what is going on and taking off those vehicles from the road is just like taking food away from their table.
“If our government cannot go to shipping companies and tell them that they should provide themselves a place where they can store their containers which is called holding bays. It is an organized crime in the sense that even the government is aware that shipping companies still collect container deposits even with the condition of that road. Shipping companies are supposed to have a holding bay where immediately after you take delivery of the container, you return it to that place”.