By Jude Njoku & Kingsley Adegboye
‘WHAT kind of country is this”! An exasperated Bidemi yelled at nobody in particular. Bidemi who has his forwarding and clearing business in Apapa, was trapped in the traffic gridlock that stretched from Sanya Bus Stop to Apapa for over five hours last Tuesday.
At the end of the day’s business, Bidemi who lives in Shogunle, ran into another horrible traffic jam between Berliet Bus Stop and Ilasamaja, also on the ever-busy Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.
He is not alone in this desperation. Indeed, motorists and commuters plying the Lagos – Badagry and Oshodi/Apapa expressways, have on several occasions, been subjected to untold hardship occasioned by perennial traffic gridlocks that have become the recurring decimal along these roads.
Last week in particular, users of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway literally went through hell as a result of the traffic snarl allegedly caused by the last minute efforts by petrol tanker drivers to load petroleum products from the farm tanks before the long Sallah holidays. The indiscriminate parking of these trucks worsened the already chaotic traffic situation in the area.
Those who attributed the traffic logjam to the last minute rush for the Sallah may not be altogether correct, going by the fact that the gridlock returned shortly after the long holiday. Yesterday, (Wednesday) the traffic along the axis assumed a rather frightening dimension as motorists spent several hours without accessing their destinations. A middle-aged man who simply identified himself as Lamidi told Vanguard that he spent more than five hours from Orile Iganmu to Kirikiri. “The traffic from Orile to Mile Two started before Orile Bus Stop. After spending more than two hours to reach Mile Two, I discovered that Julius Berger had blocked the interchange that leads motorists to Apapa. I had to drive to Festac Town before coming out at 2nd Rainbow to continue my journey to Kirikiri,” he said.
On the other side of the expressway, precisely between Cele Bus Stop and Ilasamaja, commuters went through another traffic nightmare. This time, the “go-slow” was caused by the deep craters that had taken over several portions of the ever-busy dual carriageway. The traffic gridlock on this axis usually starts after Cele Bus Stop where the second phase of the reconstruction of the expressway stopped and terminates around Iyana Isolo. The worst affected area is between Berliet and Ilasamaja which have developed deep gullies and craters.
The scenario becomes very terrible whenever it rains. On such days, traffic will stretch from Ijesha to Ilasamaja. A classic example was what transpired during the just concluded Sallah festival when the road became very busy because of the last minute business closures.
Controller directs Julius Berger to carry out palliative repairs
Commenting on the poor state of the road and the resultant traffic snarl, the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Mr. Godwin Eke, an engineer, admitted that the Berliet axis of the road has become very bad, thereby impeding free flow of vehicular movement. Eke said he has directed the construction company handling the reconstruction of the Oshodi-Apapa expressway, Messrs Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, to move into the area to carry out palliative repairs. Hopefully, he said, the company will undertake the assignment this weekend.
The Controller explained that the contract for the reconstruction of the expressway from Cele Bus Stop to Oshodi which falls under the third phase of the reconstruction, has not been awarded to any contractor. According to him, Phase Two of the reconstruction being handled by Julius Berger terminates at Cele Bus Stop. Eke noted that inadequate budgetary allocation to the road sector is hampering the fixing of some federal roads, not only in Lagos state, but other parts of the country.
Also reacting to the poor state of the road, officials of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency FERMA, denied neglecting this side of the expressway. According to them, routine maintenance is carried out generally on the dual carriageway whenever the need arises.
FERMA Engineer in charge of Lagos 2 West which comprises Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, Mr. Afolabi Oladele, said that portion of the road is under the third phase of the reconstruction of the entire expressway which begins from Cele down to the end of Oshodi.
The FERMA official noted that his Agency has been intervening on the expressway even before the idea of reconstructing the entire stretch of the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway was muted. According to him, the Agency in a bid to make the road useable, has carried boulders and stone base materials to the bad spots for palliative repairs. He gave reasons why the bad portions have not been worked on. According to him, the water that percolated on the the bad spots have not dried up and whatever is done now that the rain is still falling, will be washed away. Oladele said as soon as the water that percolated on the road dries off, palliative work will commence immediately.
“FERMA has been carrying out routine maintenance on those spots by applying boulders and stone base materials as well as cleaning of drainage channels and culverts around Berliet and Ilasamaja. This is still ongoing before permanent reinstatement of the expressway by the Federal Ministry of Works . The problem with that part of the road is that it is the low point of the road. This explains why that part of the dual carriageway is usually flooded whenever it rains”, the FERMA official noted.
Strategic nature of Apapa
There is no disputing the fact that the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway is one road that is very strategic as a major gateway to the country’s sea ports. The major share of government’s revenues come from both the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports.
The expressway is noted for endless traffic jams that keep motorists for hours as they try to navigate through the tankers and trailers mindlessly parked on the expressway by their drivers.
Apart from this menace of tanker drivers, the reconstruction of the Oshodi-Apapa expressway by Messrs Julius Nigeria Plc is believed to be progressing at a rather snail’s speed. The parlous state of the link roads have also 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.
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.
The Lagos Zonal Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Comrade Tokunbo Korodo told Vanguard in an earlier interview that the union, in collaboration with the Lagos State government, is doing everything within its power to ensure free flow of traffic in the Apapa axis.
“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.