BY GODFREY BIVBERE
THE action of the truck drivers and their trailer counterpart has shown how helpless government seem to be, as the group of persons have continued to hinder traffic flow along the Mile2- Apapa expressway, resulting in loss of valuable man hours and huge resources that would have gone into the government coffers.
The nightmarish stress which road and port users undergo daily is better imagined than experienced. They spend between four to six hours daily to and fro work. From Mile2 to Apapa, the traffic sometimes stretches from Cocoa-nut bus stop up to Mile2, a trip of about 30 minutes now takes about two and a half to three and a half hours. After passing through that, every road user would have to face the second phase between Cocoa-nut bus stop and Tin-can second gate an spend some more time than the first phase. The return trip from Apapa to Mile2 is also not free from bad traffic caused by trailer drivers, although it is not as bad as the trip as the one from Mile2.
The worse offenders are the petroleum truck drivers who park their trucks along the highway in some cases occupying two lanes and leaving other road users with just a lane. The trailer drivers also constitute their own obstruction in their bid to gain access into the port.
The concessioning of the port which resulted in the partitioning of the various terminals in the port has made it difficult for trailers to gain access to the port.
Bolaji Akinola. spokesman for private terminal operators (Concessionaires) in the country, told VF that the effect of the traffic congestion can not be quantified but explained that it would definitely run into hundreds of millions of naira daily.
Akinola warned that would the current situation be left unchecked, it may lead to congestion at the ports. He pointed out that traffic jam makes it difficult for consignment already cleared from the ports to be moved out.
Continuing, he said that such cargoes are left much longer at the port to occupy space that new ones would have occupied. Akinola said that all efforts being made by the private terminal operators presently seem to be meaningless as long as there is difficulty in the clearance of goods.
According to him, “it is like winking in the dark.”
General Manager in charge of Public Affairs of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Michael Ajayi, said the traffic jam experienced daily in and around Apapa is costing the nation unquantifiable loss of revenue.
Ajayi explained that when the revenue lost daily by the Concessionaires, importers, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), clearing agents and all the other businesses in Apapa are put together, we should be looking at several millions of naira daily.
The NPA spokesman pointed out that the port access road is supposed to be free but noted that the “recalcitrant” tanker drivers who are becoming more powerful by the day, have become a law unto themselves.
He noted that they have continually frustrated every effort made in the past to bring sanity to the access road. The Lagos State government had tried several times to control these tanker drivers. One such attempt is the provision of a parking space for them around Orile. But they have refused to use the park.
Ajayi said each time the Lagos state government responds to complains of Lagosians, the tanker drivers embark on a strike action and withdraw their tankers from the supply of petroleum products to fuel stations across the country.
He also explained that apart from the experience of those who have business in Apapa, they are those who use the port town as a connecting route to get to other parts of the state but end up spending un-necessary mann hours on that road.
He warned that unless urgent steps are taken to curb this problem, the consequences that would result from it would not only affect the state but the entire country.
In his opinion, Chairman of Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), Alhaji Hakeem Olarinwaju, said the presence of these facilities in Apapa does not only affect infrastructure in the area but the environment and the lives of the people living and working in the port town.
He explained that the level of pollution from these trucks is unprecedented and there is need for government to take action aimed at addressing the issue of pollution. He further noted that the expansion so far witnessed in the area is not matched by similar development of infrastructure and needed facilities.
Olarinwaju pointed out that the danger for those working and living around the area is so great that he prays daily on his way to and from work that there is no repeat of the incident that occurred around the old toll gate along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
He noted that the problem is not caused by tank farms and the port alone but also the activities of Bonded Terminal.
The CRFFN Chairman noted that since most of the Bonded Terminals and Tank Farms are concentrated around Cocoa-nut and Mile2 end of the Apapa, it is right for government to consider the construction of a rail line from the port to that axis to ease traffic along that area and ease the pressure on the infrastructure.