By Charles Kumolu & Bose Adelaja

For the first time in a very long while, the Oshodi-Apapa expressway was on Monday free from chaos occasioned by traffic jam. Indeed it was quite a surprise for commuters and motorists plying this road, especially as haulage and tanker drivers were conspicuously missing on the ever-busy expressway.

Some had initially attributed the development to the day being a public holiday to mark the May 1 Workers Day which fell on a Sunday. But on reflection, it dawned on many that this could be a prelude to the long anticipated respite in the event of the hated tanker drivers observing a pact they earlier signed with the Lagos State government to vacate the road yesterday.

Recently, representatives of the National Union and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Petroleum Tanker Drivers’ Association, PTD, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, among other stakeholders in the oil industry signed an agreement with the Lagos State Government to evacuate all tankers currently parked along the Oshodi-Apapa Epressway on or before yesterday.

This became necessary as the chaotic traffic situation has continued to cause unbearable hardship to residents and road users as a result of indiscriminate parking of tankers along the road, particularly the Mile 2 axis that leads into and outside the nation’s major seaport, the TinCan Ports.

When Vanguard Metro visited the area, there was a welcome absence of the usual gridlock on the road. “Ha! Do you believe the road can be free like this? Well, let us wait till tomorrow and see. All of us were surprised when we came out today and found that the stubborn tanker drivers were not in sight. The government has really done well if it has eventually succeeded in taming them,” said a motorcyclist.

Complaints, curses and regrets are usually the reactions of motorists driving on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. Their daily experience is better described as a nightmare.

As the major gateway to Nigeria’s main sea ports, the Apapa and Tincan Island Ports which are revenue spinners for the country, the cost implication of traffic gridlock, which has perhaps, paralysed activities at the ports, has remained alarmingly high. Businesses are suffering while the nation’s economy has been at the reciving end.

While those using the road in the day time could wriggle’out of the blocked path after spending some agonising time in the traffic, some unlucky commercial bus drivers and private car owners often got trapped.

Certainly, this informed the collective agreement between the Lagos State government and stakeholders on how best to put an end to the indiscrimate parking of tankers on the highways.

This resulted to the order to evacuate all tankers currently parked along Oshodi-Apapa, Epressway on or before May 3, 2011.

However, VanguardMetro gatherd that few days to end of the ultimatum, tankers still randomly parked on the highway. This resulted to concerns on whether the tanker drivers would heed to the call.

A trip by our reporters on the highway, a day to May 3, revealed the near absence of tankers on the road. While this probably suggested that the tanker drivers could be complying with the order, Vanguard Metro gathered that the public holiday being observed by Lagosians could be responsible. But it however, left the impression that the drivers, who were hitherto defiant, are poised to comply.

Therefore, the measure was to ensure immediate decongestion that would allow for free vehicular and human movements as well as ensure the safety of lives and property along the axis. Before now, travelling on this road is usually associated with pains as the tanker drivers turned the entire service lane and the covered drains into parking lots because they could not secure any space within the premises of the MRS Park located in the area.

In the day time, the expressway is usually a difficult route for motorists and commuters who had to contend with parked trucks on the service lane of the road, as the drivers wait for calls from far away Apapa deport to load petroleum products.

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