By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Ikenna Asomba, Esther Onyegbula & Ediri Ejoh
LAGOS—The hectic traffic gridlock along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, has returned fully, following the resurgence of drivers of tankers and articulated vehicles who park indiscriminately on the highway in their bid to lift petroleum products from tank farms within the Apapa and Kirikiri areas of Lagos State.
According to Vanguard’s investigation, the task force put in place by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State to proffer solution to the unending traffic gridlock particularly on the highway, and major roads in the Apapa area has failed to sustain the sanity on the road.
The task force had seized a few trucks in its early days of operation.
It has left a few policemen on the road who the tanker drivers say assist them to park on the roads after allegedly collecting bribes from them.
The gridlock which has become a daily sight on the highway, usually stretches as far as between Tincan Island Port, Apapa to Cele-Bustop, forcing motorists and other road users to be stranded, even as vehicular and commercial activities along the axis have been put on hold.
Tanker drivers, who spoke to Vanguard, alleged that some policemen deployed to the area to control traffic, have abandoned their duty to extort N500 from each tanker driver.
Vanguard gathered that as soon as the tanker drivers had parted with the money, the Policemen turn blind eyes, when they (tanker drivers) heading to the tank farms in Tincan Island and Kirikiri, indiscriminately park on the highway.
One tanker driver, simply identified as Alhaji Abdullahi, who spoke to Vanguard, said he came from Maiduguri to lift petroleum product in Lagos, saying that he has spent almost a week without getting close to the tank farm, where he was to lift petrol from.
Asked why they indiscriminately park along the highway, without recourse to the plight of other road users, Abdullahi alleged that the Police should be blamed for the impunity of his colleagues.
His words: “For me as a person, I’m confused about the whole issue. Most of our colleagues who have not been booked to lift petroleum products are the cause of this traffic menace.
“They are not supposed to come here until they are called to lift products. Even at that, the Policemen, who are supposed to ensure they maintain one lane, as directed by the Lagos State Government, collect N500 from every tanker driver that park on this road.
“When they collect this money, we discover they abscond from their duty post, making it possible for some of these drivers to park indiscriminately on this road.”
Another motorist, who pleaded anonymity, lamented that about three policemen, were yesterday afternoon seen collecting money from tanker drivers.
He said it was unprofessional for them to be extorting the drivers, while looking the other way, as they indiscriminately park along the busy highway.
‘’Now, we are back to the whole mess again, as the tanker drivers have overtaken the highway, leaving all other road users in absolute anguish. We had expected that they would sustain the tempo of their earlier enforcement to rid this road of tanker menace. But with this new development, we are all finished,” she lamented.
While gridlock marks the Oshodi-Apapa side of the expressway, going to Oshodi from Berger Under Bridge is a different kettle of fish.
One-way driving is the order there. Many lives have been lost with mini-buses (danfos) being the major culprits.
Governor Ambode while commenting on the latest development through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Habib Aruna, said the task force was intact and its funding paramount to the governor.
He said: “The governor is looking beyond palliative measures which prompted him to meet owners of tank farms in that axis last week.
“Efforts are also on to complete and expand the Orile trailers park which will take off the pressure from parking on the roads.
“Again he has called on the Federal Government to ensure that contractors working on the road leading to the trailer park return to site immediately.”
Vanguard reported on Tuesday, June 30, that the traffic enforcement team, comprising most of the security agencies, including the Police, set up by Ambode, after his Thursday, June 25 unscheduled visit to major traffic points in the Apapa area, to get first-hand information of the problem, was paying off.
Between Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28, the taskforce team had swooped on recalcitrant articulated vehicle drivers that parked indiscriminately along the Berger Yard-Sanya Bus-Stop of the highway, forcing them to stay clear.
After some of the articulated vehicles were impounded by the taskforce team, the drivers were said to have scampered for safety.
Eyewitness accounts said beginning from Saturday afternoon, the recalcitrant trucks and tanker drivers exited the ever-busy highway for fear of having their vehicles impounded.
NUPENG expresses surprise
NIGERIA Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, yesterday, expressed surprise that gridlock has returned to Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, blaming law enforcement agencies for failing to enforce the Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, signed by stakeholders.
While saying NUPENG was cooperating with the Taskforce set up by the Lagos State Government and other stakeholders to ensure free flow of traffic on the road, Lagos Zonal Chairman of NUPENG, Tokunbo Korodo, said last Monday, all the stakeholders signed a communiqué which mandated the law enforcement agents to ensure that tanker drivers not billed to load on a particular day were off the road.
Though Korodo tried to dismiss the allegation that tanker drivers were bribing law enforcement agents to cause the gridlock, he insisted that if it was true, then the law enforcement agents should be held responsible.
He said they should do their work without compromise.
According to him, “we are working with the Taskforce, the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC and others to ensure free flow of traffic. I am surprised that there is a traffic build up on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.
“Just yesterday (Monday), all the stakeholders signed a communiqué that tanker drivers who are not billed to load on a particular day must not be on the road. It is the responsibility of the security agents to enforce the agreement. If they decide not to do their job, or some of them because of corruption decide to compromise, you cannot hold NUPENG responsible.
“We have allegiance to the Lagos State government and we are cooperating with the Taskforce, the FRSC and others to ensure free flow of traffic. But if those who are supposed to enforce the law, fail to do so, it is not the problem of NUPENG. On that road, you also have other heavy duty trucks like containerised trucks.
“We have no control over them. But for our members, we are cooperating with the government and the taskforce to ensure free flow of traffic. “
Meanwhile, reacting, the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP, Kenneth Nwosu, said: “Police has a policy of zero tolerance for extortion and corruption. We have adequate mechanism to sanction anyone caught in the act.
“We urge members of the public to assist us to identify erring personnel.”
Also, Vanguard gathered that most of the tanker drivers who throng the Oshodi-Apapa expressway to lift petroleum products, were coming from nearby and far states because of the scarcity of the products in those states.