*We need federal assistance- Lagos
*We have no where to pack our tankers to load fuel – NUPENG
By our reporters
APAPA /OSHODI expressway has literally been shutdown since Friday with yesterday being the most agonizing for motorists. The shutdown was caused by tankers and trailers that seized the major economic artery of the country. All law enforcement agencies pleaded helplessness yesterday with the policemen disappearing from the roads completely leaving trapped motorists at the mercy of thieves.
The situation was compounded by the ongoing slow paced construction work on the road by Julius Berger. The mayhem was justified by the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, yesterday. A source told Vanguard that the blockade was caused partly by a directive from the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, who reportedly gave a 48-hour deadline to Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, PPMC, and oil marketers to clear the long queues at filling stations and end the lingering fuel shortages.
To meet the deadline, PPMC, said it will inject additional 110 million litres of petrol into the market this week.
Lagos State government, in its reaction to the development, urged motorists and residents of the area to be patient, admitting it lacked the wherewithal to enforce the law to the letter on the axis without federal agencies’ support. This came as NUPENG blamed the development on the fact that tanker drivers from all parts of the country converged on Apapa to take delivery of the product, as that was the only place in the country fuel was available.
Naval authorities give assurance
Although the naval authorities assured last night that its personnel were on their way to clear the tankers off the road, the situation at press time, remained the same with no respite for motorists and other road users. The expressway was completely shut down, Friday, as movement was brought to a halt. The tanker drivers abandoned their vehicles on the road as late as 1.00am. The situation grew worse yesterday.
When contacted, the Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Kayode Opeifa, lamented the situation, saying the federal agencies had to do the needful to help traffic situation at Apapa.
Opeifa said, “We have called several stakeholders meetings on how to keep Apapa moving even during scarcity but the oil unions have not kept to their own side of the bargain. The problem with Apapa has to do with the influx of articulated vehicles, both tankers and containers, heading for the port to load goods.
“We were made to understand that Apapa ports were the only ports discharging PMS in the country, hence, the high influx to the area. And not until the situation improves, we will continue to have the same problem recurring. I think we need the collaboration of the Nigeria Police and the Navy to help sanitize the area which the only federal government can do. But we are doing our best despite the inadequate manpower, to keep the traffic going in the area and we will continue to mobilize our men to manage traffic situation.”
It will be recalled that, disturbed by the traffic gridlock experienced by motorists as a result of the indiscriminate parking of tankers and other articulated vehicles on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway, especially around the Lagos sea ports and Tank Farm locations, the state government summoned the leadership of the various transport operators working in the corridor to fashion out strategies to resolve the present gridlock and put smiles back on the faces of Lagos commuters and motorists.
The meeting, chaired by the commissioner and representatives of National Union for Petroleum and Natural Gas, NUPENG, and Association of Maritime Transport Owners, AMATO, agreed to call their members to order by moving out of the road and staying within the designated areas assigned to them.
According to one of the tanker drivers, Alhaji Ahmed Mustapha, “I have no option now, the road to Apapa is blocked and I have to load my tanker. I came from Kogi State for the past three days. I have not got supply and there is no parking space for us.”
NUPENG regrets hardship
Meanwhile, NUPENG, while regretting the pain and hardship caused Nigerians, promised that it would do all within its powers to ensure that members, especially tanker drivers, respect the right of other road users.
Lagos Zonal Chairman of NUPENG, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, who oversees NUPENG in South-West States and Ilorin, Kwara State, attributed the chaotic situation on the road to tanker drivers’ rush to load product and reduce the scarcity of fuel that Nigerians had been going through for about three weeks.
He lamented that it was only tank farms in the Apapa axis that had fuel, prompting tanker drivers from all parts of the country to load fuel. Korodo said tank farm owners asked tanker drivers to come and load on Sunday to ensure Nigerians got petrol from today.
Korodo said, “It is only in the Apapa axis that we have fuel and tanker drivers came from all parts of the country to Lagos to load. Tank owners called the tanker drivers to come and load on Sunday to ensure that from Monday (today) and lessen the hardship and suffering Nigerians have been going through for nearly three weeks now. We will immediately move in to ensure that our members respect the right of other road users.”
Explaining why tanker drivers park on the highway, Korodo in an earlier interview, had said: “When the tanker drivers are told to come and load and there is no free passage, there will be traffic on the road. One of the major reasons for this chaos is lack of parking space. We have in Orile, known as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Truck Terminal.