BY OLASUNKANMI AKONI
LAGOS — Piqued by the gruelling traffic gridlock that had shut down businesses in Apapa axis of Lagos for almost a week, the state government and Petroleum Tanker Drivers, PTD, have resolved to create a special taskforce to manage traffic in the area.
Tanker drivers also blamed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, for refusing to build a loading park for their vehicles, saying the state government had been stretched to the limit in providing such facility.
Motorists and other road users have been subjected to harrowing experiences traversing the expressway, compelling workers in companies along the axis to pass the night in their offices, while those who summoned the courage to wade through the gridlock are attacked by hoodlums.
Comrade Tayo Aboyeji, South-West, Public Relations Officer of PTD, who disclosed news of the taskforce during an inspection tour of the affected area yesterday, assured that the measure would make traffic flow in the interim, pending the disappearance of all the tankers.
He explained that the union had met with the state Transport Ministry to fashion out fresh ways of easing the gridlock through the special taskforce which would commence work immediately.
Aboyeji, while absolving his members of intentionally causing the gridlock, blamed Berger Julius, the contractor constructing the road, for compounding the situation.
He said: “The gridlock in Apapa is not caused by tanker drivers; it is as a result of ongoing construction of the road and the bad portion of the road and the major factor is the large concentration of depots in Apapa.
“If you look from Mile 2 down to Coconut, Julius Berger is constructing and prior to that time, tanker drivers are consigned to service lane but when the construction started, Julius Berger blocked the main express road, meaning that tanker drivers and other motorists and road users will make use of the only service lane.
“That has caused a lot of delays and gridlock. We have met with Julius Berger to fast track the construction of that road; they promised to do it but they said they have their own challenges.
“But because of this, the petroleum tanker drivers union set up a taskforce, in conjunction with Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA.
“The taskforce does operate as early as 4.30 am, especially at Coconut, to make sure there is free flow of vehicle and LASTMA will get there as early as 5 am to patrol together. But not until the contractor finishes the construction of the road, there will still be congestion.
“Another factor for the large concentration of tankers in Apapa are the depots, we have over 36 oil depots along that axis and let’s assume all the depots have products. As am talking to you now, all the depots have product to dispense.
“Ordinarily, the only minimum they suppose to bring to the state is hundred trucks per day but because of the current problem, we only release 10 to 15 trucks, if we multiply the 15 trucks to 25 depots that is about 375 tankers and that is the tankers that lined up from Coconut to Mile- 2.
“We said there is queue at the filling stations and we want this product to get to the public. Those at the headquarters are working 24 hours just because we want the queue to disappear and we do not want to be seen as sabotaging the economy or the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
Most of the stations in the north don’t have product, they come to Lagos State.
“The NNPC is now doing the massive movement of this product to different parts of the country. The depots as today, have issued over 1,000 tickets and all these tankers are coming to Apapa, if not because we (unions) are managing it, the situation would have been worse. The NNPC issues the tickets.
“Besides this, there is a problem between TinCan 1st Gate and Coconut. Where you see containers lining up to get to the ports, claiming they don’t have access to the port. Where they are suppose to park has been concession to some private investors. Most times, we use that axis as our access road to the depots.
“The solution is, there is a large portion at Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area that can be developed and it can contain at least 1,000 tankers. Some people have met us and said they want to develop it. If we have such facility any where, it will go a long way in reducing congestion at Apapa. It is expected that within one week, the rush would have subsided.
“But in the meantime, we will set up a special taskforce; including reinforcement of LASTMA, to manage traffic on some knotty spots along the expressway to, at least, create movement for smaller vehicles as from today.
“We just want to appeal to Julius Berger to fast track construction and open up the express. We have been using service lane for the past one year without any problem. They said they can only finish the work by October this year. We appeal to government to do the right thing.
“The Lagos tanker garage at Orile is over filled because half of the portion has been taken by rail line construction, remaining only a quarter to be used by tanker drivers. That is why you see those drivers that do not have chance inside the garage park on the road.
“The park at Capital Oil at First Rainbow is also filled-up, we have been appealing to NNPC authorities to construct a big parking lot, they can do it. State government has tried. They know the situation we are facing everyday.”