BY JUDE NJOKU WITH REPORTS FROM VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG, OLASUNKANMI AKONI, MICHAEL EBOH & SEBASTINE OBASI
WHEN Yemi woke up Thursday morning and remembered that he had an appointment at 12 noon with his Shipping company in Apapa, he became apprehensive. Two weeks earlier, he had kept a similar appointment at Apapa and the harrowing experience of that trip to the Port town, is better forgotten than re-lived. He thought of going through Ijora but quickly jettisoned the idea because “if you are trapped in the traffic in that axis, you may stay there throughout that day”.
After navigating his way through the traffic bottleneck around Cele Bus-stop on the ever-busy Oshodi-Apapa express-way, Yemi ran into another gridlock around the Second Rainbow Bus Stop. Before he could navigate through the smoky traffic at Mile Two and Berger Yard, he had spent approximately two hours. The journey to Wharf Road where his shipping company has its office took Yemi another two hours.
Indeed going to Apapa from any part of Lagos has become a commuter’s nightmare due to the perennial traffic jam that spans several kilometres. The reconstruction of the Oshodi-Apapa expressway by Messrs Julius Nigeria Plc which is progressing at a rather snail’s speed and the parlous state of the link roads, have aggravated the already bad situation.
But perhaps, the greatest problem of Apapa which directly and indirectly impacts on the traffic situation in the area, is the location of tank farms and seaports in the neighbourhood. Apapa is the home of two major sea ports -Apapa and Tin-Can Ports and no fewer than 20 tank farms.
Plethora of tank farms: The plethora of tank farms in Apapa became necessary following the collapse of the refineries and the massive importation of refined petroleum products through the seaports. Lagos which enjoys a near monopoly of fuel importation in the country, thus became the preferred destination for fuel dealers who send their tankers from all parts of the country to lift the product.
Functional refineries at Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Warri would have lessened the quantity of fuel imported into the country and the number of tankers that come to Lagos to lift the product.
EIA of tank farms and the unending buck-passing
Vanguard Features, VF learnt that no fewer than 36 tank farms are currently operating from Apapa. But the recurring questions are: Who approved the construction of these tank farms in Apapa and environs? Did the owners carry out the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA, required by the law, to determine the effects of such projects on their neighbourhood and how they would be mitigated before the construction of such projects are commenced? If the EIAs were done, were the reports/recommendations subjected to public scrutiny and open debate as required by the EIA law? What are the measures put in place by the operators of the tank farms to cushion the horrendous impacts of their activities? The Lagos State government which is engaged in a buck-passing game with its Federal counterpart, alleged that it was not carried along by the Federal government on the EIA issue. Special Adviser to Governor Babatunde Fashola on Information and Strategy, Alhaji Lateef Raji maintained thus: “The Lagos State Government was not contacted for Environment Impact Assessment, EIA.
“The question should be asked, who did they contact for EIA before they located the tank farms? The problem is that the Federal Government has refused to see the state government as a coordinating partner in all its ventures in the state. The point is that the Federal Government has failed to realise that they do not have the capability to achieve urban renewal; it rests on the state. They should not just dabble into every department, all in the name of Federal might”.
An operator of one of the tank farms who would not want to be identified, confirmed that they do not have an EIA on their farm. “What do you mean by EIA?” he asked. When VF explained what it meant, he retorted: “No! We didn’t do anything like that. I guess there was nothing like that requirement when we started. But if there was, then the agency of government concerned did not enforce it, because they did not envisage what is happening now”.
Recent calls by both the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government for the relocation of petroleum tank farms from within Apapa have called to question the approval processes and the environmental impact assessment that were conducted before the construction of petroleum storage facilities in the area.
Currently, there are about 20 companies with tank farms and petroleum storage facilities around Apapa, with each storage facility capable of holding between 20 million litres to 50 million litres of petroleum products. According to data of petroleum products’ allocations released by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, Nigeria currently imports about 4.8 billion litres of petroleum products per quarter.
Almost all of these importations are done through the Apapa ports, as about 90 per cent of the tank farms in the country are located around the Apapa area.
To evacuate these 4.5 billion litres of petroleum products from the tank farms in Apapa per quarter, about 136,364 tankers, with an average capacity of about 33,000 litres are required.
This translates to about 1,515 tankers with a capacity of 33,000 litres plying the Apapa axis on a daily basis to lift petroleum products from these tank farms to different parts of the country.
In addition to risks posed by locating these tanks close to the ports and residential areas, the tankers also pose serious risks to road users, the environment and the society.
Worst of all the negative impacts of the tankers, is the perennial traffic situation around the Apapa area. Over the years, the tankers have made life unbearable for other road users and businesses around the area, leading to questions over the approval process of these tank farms in Apapa.
The issues of the approval process for these tank farms were called to question in 2012, when officials of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, LASEPA, sealed the premises of five of the oil tank farms’ owners for violation of the state’s environmental laws.
LASEPA disclosed that the oil companies were shut for siting tank farms less than 200 metres away from residential area and operating tank farms without submission of Environmental Impact Assessment report to the relevant government agencies.
However, the premises of the tank farms owners were reopened after one week, after the companies signed a memorandum of understanding, MOU, with the Lagos State Government.
LASEPA agreed with the oil companies that a consultant will be employed to conduct a post-impact assessment of the area to ascertain the extent of environmental pollutions that may have been impacted.
The Lagos State Government also mandated the oil companies, as part of numerous safety measures, to construct water hydrant in front of their depots and purchase fire engines to fight any outbreak of fire in the area.
However, nothing else was heard about the issue ever since, despite the fact that the oil companies have failed to abide by the spirit and letters of the MOU.
A couple of months ago, when a tanker discharging fuel went up in flames, at Emordi Street in Olodi-Apapa area of Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government, near the vicinity of the tank farms, it took divine intervention to save the entire community from been gutted by fire.
The International Association for Impact Assessment, IAIA, defines an environmental impact assessment as the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made. In his own view, a lecturer at the University of Lagos, Abdullahi Sobola, said: “EIAs are unique in that they do not require adherence to a predetermined environmental outcome, but rather they require decision makers to account for environmental values in their decisions and to justify those decisions in light of detailed environmental studies and public comments on the potential environmental impacts of the proposal.”
In the light of these facts, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, called for the relocation of all the tank farms from within the Apapa area.
He said: “Government must understand that its business is the welfare of its people and it cannot deliver that by amateurish standard. This place was not designed for fuel discharge, but they have converted it for that, with all sorts of permits given by regulatory agencies, such as the DPR and the PPMC.
“I think that agencies of the Federal Government must step up their safety compliance levels. Everybody must do his/her job and that is short term. The long term is to relocate all these facilities away from residential areas. Lagos state is ready to provide these facilities.”
Fashola urged the Federal Government to take advantage of the Oil and Gas Section at the Lekki Free Trade Zone in its relocation plan.
FG plans to relocate tank farms: The Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, however, recently disclosed that there were plans to relocate the tank farms along the Oshodi/Apapa expressway as a way of finding a lasting solution to the unending gridlock.
Obanikoro, who disclosed this during his visit to Oshodi/Apapa expressway also urged the Lagos State Government to provide a permanent parking bay for trucks, from where drivers could be reached. Obanikoro, explained that the visit became pertinent following the security implication of allowing trucks to use the road as a park. He, however, applauded steps taken by the Western Naval Command, WNC, to ease the flow of traffic along the expressway, including other areas witnessing gridlock but added that the WNC’s effort might not be a permanent one since it was not its constitutional duty to control traffic.
According to him: “I am here to familiarise myself with the activities of the Nigeria Navy around the Ports area because I know that for some time now, we have been looking at the security implication of allowing trailers and trucks to use the road as a park.
“There are plans and we are also working with all stakeholders to ensure that the threat to this corridor is kept under check. It is not easy to just close all these tank farms overnight. What is important now is to call for more vigilance on the part of all the operators.
We are doing our best to ensure free flow of traffic—NUPENG
The Lagos Zonal Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Comrade Tokunbo Korodo told VF that the union, in collaboration with the Lagos State government, is doing everything within its power to ensure free flow of traffic.
According to him: “If you go there now, you will see our officials on ground controlling the traffic and ensuring that tankers no longer park indiscriminately on the road.
“We are also working in partnership with LASTMA officials in that area to ensure less traffic congestion. Our monitoring officials are working on shift basis: morning, afternoon and night to ensure orderliness and ensure that Nigerians and Lagosians, in particular, get fuel. If we fail to handle the situation with caution, it may affect fuel distribution in the country. This is what we are trying to avoid. For your information, most of the tankers you see are not Lagos- based. But that is not an excuse and like I said, our officials are on ground to ensure there is order. We are not hooligans; we are not lawless and we are law-abiding and a disciplined organisation,” he said.
On the dangers motorists and other road users are exposed to because of the chaotic situation created, Korodo said: “Let me be frank with you. Part of the responsibilities of both the Federal and State governments is to protect lives and property of citizens. We cannot encroach on their duty. Our own is to get fuel distributed to everybody. In as much as we are doing our legitimate job, we also expect them to do their own. If you must know, we have been victims of the lapses of the security situation.
Today, armed robbers hardly snatch cars again, but tankers. A lot of our members have been pushed out of moving tankers on the high ways while their trucks are hijacked on motion. Many of them have died in the process while others are incapacitated. It could take up to three or four days before we find the empty truck. This is one major reason why night movement of products is unattractive.
As we speak, most of NNPC depots have no products. It is only the private depots that have products as at today. The way government is focusing on tanker drivers, they should do the same to containers and other articulated vehicles. The issue of products distribution is very critical and has to be handled with care for it not to boomerang.”
Navy wades in: As part of efforts to find a lasting solution to the perennial traffic gridlock in its area of operation, the Nigerian Naval Services, NNS, Beecroft, Yard Apapa, inaugurated a special committee of stakeholders to identify causes of the traffic snarl with a view to finding workable common solutions. Addressing newsmen at the end of a closed door meeting that lasted for three hours, the Commander of NNS Beecroft, Commodore Ovenseri Uwadiae, who presided over the meeting, said the traffic gridlock in the area is causing a colossal economic loss to the nation due to the several man- hours lost, closure of businesses and threat to the general security.
He assured that with commitment and support of stakeholders, traffic gridlock in the area would soon become a thing of the past. Observing that the solutions are both long and short term, he explained thus: “For now, the stakeholders have resolved to focus on immediate solutions capable of bringing relief to motorists using Apapa Mile Two Express way”.
The stakeholders, according to Uwadiae, agreed to set up a special committee that would implement all the decisions taken at the meeting.
“The NPA will lead other members of the committee to inspect and ensure that shipping companies are operating loading bays in order to reduce the number of trucks around the area and only trucks that have been marked for loading are within Apapa vicinity. Furthermore, the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, Police, NPA and other stakeholders would fashion out routes for trailers and tankers coming to the Apapa Mile Two area for business in a way that they will only occupy a dedicated section of the service lane. This will restore orderliness on the road. I am confident that with support of everybody motorists will soon begin to experience stress- free driving in the area very soon,” he said.
He directed the management of NPA, to ensure that the concessionaire operating at the port improves on its facilities so as to reduce the time being spent by trucks at the ports entrance. According to him, the spill-over from the entrance aggravates the traffic jam.
Uwadiae said that from information he gathered from representatives of the Federal Ministry of Works, the contractor handing the reconstruction of the road, Messrs Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, will move in soon to fix all the identified bad portions of the express way. Also, speaking at the end of the meeting, the General Manager of LASTMA, Mr. Babatunde Edu solicited the support and cooperation of other stakeholders in the task of ensuring that traffic flows smoothly.
Other stakeholders at the meeting which is expected to reconvene in two weeks time, were leaders and representatives of National Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria. RTEAN, Police, NPA, Federal Ministry of Works and Nigerian Navy.
Endless controversies between FG and LASG
The Federal Government had in 2012, expressed its readiness to accelerate the reconstruction of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and its environs. This followed the successful clearing of the axis by the Joint Presidential Committee on Ports Reform and the Lagos State government.
In May 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan sent high-powered delegation, led by Minister for Finance and coordinating minister for Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to Lagos to assess progress of work on the ongoing repairs. Other members of the delegation were Idris Umar, Minister of Transport, Mike Onolememen, Minister of Works and Sylvester Monye, Chairman of the Ports Monitoring Committee. Dr Iweala noted that Mr. President was passionate about attaining the objective of the port reform especially the clearing of goods within 48 hours.
Vanguard Features checks showed 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, according to our checks was exacerbated by an apparent disagreement between the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Federal Ministry of Works. The Transport Ministry which makes about N1.3 trillion from the Apapa and Tin-can ports yearly, allegedly wanted to carry out major rehabilitation works on the road but this was rejected by the Works Ministry which insisted that the funds should be given to it to do the repairs since it is statutorily empowered to do so.
Provisions of EIA Act 86 of 1992
The Environmental Impact Assessment,
EIA Act 86 of 1992 (formerly Decree 86 of 1986) outlines what individuals and corporate organisations wishing to set up projects of the magnitude of a tank farm should do. Excerpts
The objectives of any environmental Impact assessment (hereafter in this Decree referred to as “the Assessment”) shall be -
*to establish before a decision taken by any person, authority corporate body or unincorporated body including the Government of the Federation, State or Local Government intending to undertake or authorise the undertaking of any activity that may likely or to a significant extent affect the environment or have environmental effects on those activities shall first be taken into account;
* to promote the implementation of appropriate policy in all Federal Lands (however acquired) States and Local Government Areas consistent with all laws and decision making processes through which the goal and objective in paragraph (a) of this section may be realised;
*to encourage the development of procedures for information exchange, notification and consultation between organs and persons when proposed activities are likely to have significant environmental affects on
*The public or private sector of the economy shall not undertake or embark on public or authorise projects or activities without prior consideration, at an early stages, or their environmental effects.
*Where the extent, nature or location of a proposed project or activity is such that is likely to significantly affect the environment, its environmental impact assessment shall be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of this Decree. •The criterion and procedure under this Decree shall be used to determine whether an activity is likely to significantly affect the environment and is therefore subject to an environmental impact assessment
project before the commencement of the project the environmental assessment process may include * a screening or mandatory study and the preparation of a screening report;
An environmental impact assessment shall include at least the following minimum matters, that is -
* a description of the proposed activities;
* a description of the potential affected environment including specific information necessary to identify and assess the environmental effects of the proposed activities;
* a description of the practical activities, as appropriate;
* an assessment of the likely or potential environmental impacts on the proposed activity and the alternatives, including the direct or indirect cumulative, short-term and tong-term effects:
* an identification and description of measures available to mitigate adverse environmental impacts of proposed activity and assessment of those measures; *an indication of gaps in knowledge and uncertainly which may be encountered in computing the required information: *an indication of whether the environment of any other State, Local Government Area or areas outside Nigeria is likely to be affected by the proposed activity or its alternatives;
*a brief and non technical summary of the information provided under paragraph (a) to (g) of this section.