By OLASUNKANMI AKONI
The unending traffic gridlock along Oshodi Apapa Expressway, especially at Mile 2 axis, will linger for a while, as Petroleum Tanker Drivers, PTD, have threatened to withdraw their services if they were forced out of the road.
The axis has remained a nightmare to residents, motorists, commuters and port users, as traffic sometimes keep people on the road for more than 12 hours. The situation, has also forced some businesses within Apapa to relocate, while bandits always have a field day robbing and maiming innocent motorists and residents unhindered.
In May 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan sent federal delegation, led by Minister for Finance and coordinating Minister for Economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala comprising Idris Umar, Minister of Transport and Mike Onolememen, Minister of Works and Sylvester Monye, Chairman of the Ports Monitoring Committee, to Lagos to access necessary repairs on Apapa Oshodi Express Road up to Apapa Seaport.
According to Iweala, a major hurdle to the attainment of the objective had been infrastructure problems, particularly the blocking of Apapa Oshodi Expressway by tankers and trucks.
Mike Onolememen, Minister of Works, speaking also, said efforts were on to gear up the completion of the ongoing construction works on Apapa Oshodi road, His transportation counterpart, Idris Umar, also assured that work on trucks’ parking lot was progressing, and all these were aimed at attaining the overall objective of 48 hour cargo clearing at the Nigerian ports, and to make Apapa a business friendly environment.
Worried by the intractable problems, Governor Babatunde Fashola and members of the state’s Executive Council, last Sunday, conducted an inspection tour of the situation in Apapa axis with a view of finding a solution.
Fashola, however, during an earlier tour, blamed the Federal Government, its agencies and oil companies for what he termed, “environmental degradation” in some parts of the state, saying the sad development was in total disregard for the well being of the people of the state.
He particularly, expressed dismay at the level of environmental degradation at the Marine Beach and Ijora Causeway as a result of the activities of the petrol tankers and oil companies, adding that they were operating without conscience.
“Everybody is talking about degradation. They should come here and see degradation from the activities of the Federal Government and its agencies and the oil companies. They are destroying our land in the name of exploration and transportation of petroleum products. Now, when you create human activity, be sure of providing for degradation.
Comrade Tayo Aboyeji, South West, Public Relations Officer, PTD, has said the only way out of Mile 2 Oshodi Apapa Expressway traffic gridlock is for his group to down tools. A move stakeholders are doing everything possible to avoid.
According to him, last minute plan by PTD to embark on strike last week was prevented following appeals from the presidency and the state government.
Aboyeji, who claimed his members must have lost up to N1.5 billion to despicable traffic situation in the last two weeks said,
“We spent about N2 million to refill some of the bad portions on the road but it won’t help because we still have the problem of parking space within tank farms.
“To worsen the situation, the tank farm owners who were willing to repair the degraded road as palliative measure to the on going reconstruction are afraid of running foul of the law. Because, there is a regulation that states they must obtain permit from the FG before embarking on such venture.” The state government and PTD, had set up a special taskforce to manage traffic at the black spots along the road to allow free flow of traffic. This however is having little effect.
Aboyeji, explained that the union had met with the Governor and Commissioner for Transportation to fashion out better ways of easing the traffic gridlock through special taskforce which had commenced work.
He absolved his members of causing the gridlock on the road, but put the blame on the construction giant, Julius Berger, for slowing down the job which he said had compounded the gridlock.
He also blamed the influx of tankers from across the states to load product at Apapa. “We have over 36 oil depots along that axis and let assume all the depots have products. As am talking to you now all the depots have product to dispense. Ordinarily, the only minimum they’re supposed 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 by 25 depots that will give us about 375 tankers and they are those tankers that line up from Coconut to Mile 2.
“Besides this, there is a problem between Tin Can 1st Gate and Coconut. Where you see container lining up to get to the ports, claiming they don’t have access to the ports, where they were supposed to park .
“We are also worried that both vehicular and human movements have been greatly affected by the high presence of tankers as well as other articulated vehicles, but we are doing our possible best to solve the problem.
“On the special taskforce set up to manage traffic situation, the spokesman, explained that the men are doing two shifts, early in the morning, 5 am to 11 am, and evening shift, 5pm to 8 pm, considered to be peak periods.
“We have met with Julius Berger to fast track the construction of that road and they promised to do so but they said they have their own challenges. We just want to appeal to the 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.
“We also appeal to motorists and other road users to bear with us, as we promise to reduce congestion as soon as possible in Lagos. We are still strategizing on how to further cushion the influx of tankers with the attendant gridlock. We assure that we will continue to impress discipline on our members.”