By Jude Njoku
LAGOS State Governor, Mr.Babatunde Raji Fashola, has complained to the Federal Government about the worsening condition of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, a major highway that links the nation’s busiest sea ports to other parts of the country. In separate letters to President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Nemadi Sambo, the Governor also drew attention to the horrific traffic congestion on the expressway and the need to take urgent steps to fix the ever-busy road.
But the pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears and the result is that once again, the ever-busy expressway has been plunged into an eyesore and a commuter’s nightmare. Specifically, Governor Fashola had on September, 17, 2012 forwarded a detailed presentation of what should be done to fix the road and ease the traffic congestion to Vice President Namadi Sambo. In the letter entitled “Re: Report of the Deterioration and Regeneration of Apapa, Lagos,” Fashola sought to make a presentation on the state of the road and what the restoration would take, to the National Economic Council.
Proposed presentation to NEC
The letter read in parts: “Further to your Excellency’s indication of no objection to our request to make presentation to the National Economic Council, NEC, on the above subject matter, please find attached for your information, a copy of our proposed presentation to NEC. All necessary copies of the presentation have been forwarded to the NEC Secretariat for listing and further action as may be necessary. We are hopeful that the matter can be listed for the next meeting of NEC and will follow up with the Secretariat in this regard”.
Apparently overwhelmed by the contents of the presentation, the Vice President wrote back to the Governor, suggesting that the matter should be brought to the attention of President Jonathan. In the reply dated October 3, 2013, the Vice President through his Deputy Chief of Staff, Engr. M.A.K Abubakar, stated that in appreciation of the detailed nature of the presentation, which is reckoned to be beyond the consideration of the National Economic Council, NEC, the matter should be brought to the attention of the President for his consideration.
Heeding the counsel, Fashola on November 1, 2013, wrote to President Jonathan stressing the need to follow up on the initial successes that were achieved in bringing sanity on the ever-busy road. The letter read in parts: “Your Excellency will recall the deterioration and congestion of vehicular traffic that characterised the Apapa area and Tin-Can Island which host the two largest sea-ports in Nigeria.
“Apart from the congestion and deterioration, the social and economic impacts of closure of businesses and devaluation of real estate values prompted me to direct the commencement of a clean-up and a clear out with a view to commencing a restoration. Because the congestion and deterioration were connected to the operations of the ports and activities of persons dealing with the operations and some Federal Government agencies, we were delighted to get the cooperation of the Federal Government through a delegation led by the Honourable Minister of Finance, who visited us on your directive.
“In a bid to follow up the initial successes that were achieved by the clear-out, our Government developed a restoration plan and a budget. I had written to His Excellency, the Vice President to seek permission to present the plan and the budget at the National Economic Council because of my view of national importance and implication of the consequences if we failed to take further action”.
Vanguard investigations show that deep craters and gully-like potholes have resurfaced at several sections along the expressway, causing unprecedented traffic gridlock. The palliative repairs by the Federal Ministry of Works and its agency, the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, which involved pouring laterite and granite on the bad spots, lasted only a few weeks before they were washed away by floods.
Commuters who plied the road a few days to the Christmas, literally went through hell as a result of the traffic snarl which was aggravated by the worsening state of the road and the rush by importers to clear their goods from the ports before the public holidays declared by the Federal Government to mark the festival.
Vanguard gathered that the road would not have gone into its present state of disrepair if the Federal Government which rakes in over a trillion Naira as revenue from the ports, had reacted promptly to various pleas by the Lagos State Government.
The situation, it was learnt, was exacerbated by an apparent disagreement between the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Federal Ministry of Works. The Transport Ministry which rakes about N1.3 trillion from the Apapa and Tin-can ports yearly, allegedly wants to carry out major rehabilitation works on the road but this was rejected by the Works Ministry which wants to be given the funds to do the repairs since it is statutorily empowered to do so.
Restoration plans by Lagos
The restoration plan which Fashola wrote about in the letters were fashioned out by a Lagos State Executive Council committee headed by the Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello. The committee was mandated to work on problems such as the traffic gridlock, business paralysis and environmental degradation currently plaguing the Oshodi-Apapa axis.
The nine-man committee which was set up after the State’s executive council visited the area on April 29, 2012, said it has reduced the traffic gridlock by 70 percent although there are still occasional bottlenecks particularly in the evenings. This gridlock is caused by tankers/trailers as a result of the delay at the entrance to the ports. The Committee said it has also succeeded in dislodging miscreants from under bridges even as all illegal structures have been pulled down.
The Apapa regeneration agenda covers Marine Beach, Ijora 7Up, Costain, Ijora Olopa and their environs. Previous efforts to restore sanity along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway
Vanguard recalls that on May 7, 2012, the Presidential Task Force on Ports Reforms collaborated with the Lagos State Government to dislodge tankers and trailers parked indiscriminately along the ever-busy expressway.
Officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA and the Kick Against Indiscipline KAI also participated in the enforcement. The operation which was carried out in the night, saw to the seizure of over 80 illegally parked trucks from the road, paving way for the free flow of traffic thereafter.
Impressed with the return of orderliness along the road, the Federal Government sent a delegation led by the Finance Minister to Lagos. Receiving the Federal Government delegation, Governor Fashola vowed that the state government would stay on the road for as long as it would take to prevent the dislodged trailers and tankers from returning.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala, together with the Minister of Transport, Idris Umar, and Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, at a meeting with Fashola, had praised the joint efforts of the Federal and Lagos State governments in restoring sanity to the road. She said the clearing of the road would reduce travel time and cost of doing business at the ports, as goods emanating from the ports would get to their destinations faster and safer.