By OLASUNKANMI AKONI
LAGOS—AS motorists, other road users, residents among others continue to suffer the intractable gridlock on ever busy Apapa/Oshodi Expressway, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, today, vowed that his administration would continue to pursue efforts aimed at solving the chaotic traffic situation.
Fashola, who spoke during his third inspection of the nightmarish expressway in two weeks, insisted that while the state was committed to solving the Apapa traffic, the Federal Government must take responsibility for its facilities within Apapa; the ports and major roads which at the moment were grossly mismanaged resulting to untold hardship and pain for residents, businesses and motorists in Lagos.
According to the governor, “This is clearly a multi-agency problem. Probably, many agencies of the Federal Government are not talking to one another or not coordinating. As a result, people in Lagos, particularly in Apapa, are at the receiving end.
It has been very uncomfortable experiences in their various offices and homes. As you can see, it has become difficult to remove refuse. I do not know why a country can treat its commercial capital like this. I do not know what kind of leadership continues to allow this kind of eyesore in Apapa and its environs.
“But clearly, we have heard from those who know the business that if NNPC, for example, pumps to Ibadan and oil depots, this place will decongest. So, why are they not doing it?
That is one issue. If the federal ministry of works comes to take over and repair its roads like Creek Road, Apapa-Oshodi and TinCan Island, clearly people living and working in this area will feel some relief.
The reality is that once there is congestion in one part, it falls back and locks everybody in. The problem is not what is in Apapa. It is also about what is on TinCan Island as well.
”You will see even the bridge coming into Apapa now is threatened. It is just incomprehensible to me. I have never seen a country that behaves like this in its commercial capital.
But I am here because we will not give up. This is our job. This is why we are in government here. A citizen sent a text last week that the Apapa problems cannot be remedied. I sent text back to him that it was a problem created by men, and it will also take men and women to solve it.
We will not give up, but we will continue. We are working on inner roads. About seven or eight roads are under construction. It is now a problem even for our contractor to get equipment in, to supply materials and construct inner-city roads that we are committed. It is a problem, simply because of the failure of the Federal Government.
So, we will not surrender. We will not abdicate our responsibilities. We will continue to work with the stakeholders. We hope the Federal Government will listen or understand that the concession and the management of the ports requires much more than signing an agreement.
“Concessioning of the ports is more than signing papers. It requires people to make investment.
We have heard some of the problems. For example, the cargo-handling equipment is absolutely in short supply. What they have are only two cargo handling equipment to about 40 trucks.
We have heard that it will be easier to do spot checking and clearance for all the trucks so that they go in batches of 20. Certainly, somebody in NPA or in the ports prefers to do it one at a time at the gate.
”There are, perhaps, some financial benefits in doing that. But why will anybody not make things efficient except there is a personal benefit? These are all federal representatives, who manage the ports; who manage distribution of fuel from the ports and who manage the Tin Can Island.
Clearly, this is a government that is losing touch and that is not showing empathy for the pains the people of Lagos are going through under its watch. We will continue to bring to their attention the pains they are inflicting on our people here.”
Meeting with LASTMA
Fashola, who later met and addressed men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA and Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, at the Secretariat Auditorium, Alausa Ikeja, urged them to stop extorting residents, “your primary job is to ensure smooth free flow of traffic and not extortion.”
He admonished them not to allow the fifth columnist to infiltrate their ranks by spoiling their good work.
NNPC, PPMC, failure on agreement
Meanwhile, Nigeria Association of Roads Transport Owners, NARTO, has accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC and the Petroleum Pipeline and Marketing Company, PPMC, of not complying with stakeholders’ agreement to regulate petroleum products’ distribution to private jetties outside Apapa especially Mosimi, Ejigbo, Ibadan and Ilorin, from where tankers would lift fuel.
NARTO’s General Manager Administration, Mr. Aloga Ogbogbo, who met with the representatives of federal and Lagos State government during last Thursday, accused port operators, particularly a major terminal operator of promoting congestion at Apapa port.
Ogbogbo alleged that the operator’s inadequate cargo handling equipment, resulting in hundreds of trucks heading to the port having to queue up on the roads due to long delays in its operations.
He said NNPC was yet to comply with the position reached at the meeting, as a way of ameliorating the pain caused by congestion and its negative impact on the economy.
Stakeholders, including Petroleum Tanker Drivers, PTD, a branch of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, NNPC, PPMC, NARTO, port operators and business managers in Apapa had agreed on a number of resolut ions during last Thursday’s meeting.
These include the repair of failed sections of the Trinity-Tin Can-Apapa road, removal of hundreds of fuel tankers along the road, immediate mobilisation of contractors to site to fix failed portions of the road.
In the meeting chaired by Sylvester Monye, chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Monitoring, Performance and Evaluation, stakeholders had agreed that NNPC, in the interim, should stop pumping of fuel to tank farms located along Trinity-Tin Can-Creek road axis pending the repair of the road.
Ogbogbo, told governor Fashola that AP Moller was operating with only two cargo handling equipment meant to handle 20 to 50 containers, adding that system breakdown within the ports from time to time was another major contributor to Apapa road gridlock as hundreds of trucks, in the absence of parking lots, were forced to stay on the roads.
Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, who also spoke during the governor’s visit, lamented the non compliance with an earlier agreement three years ago for trucks entering Apapa to utilize one lane of the roads.