By John Ivwurie
In a manner of putting the record straight with regards to the role or contribution of the Nigeria Police Force in restoring order and sanity to the traffic jam-plagued Mile 2 to Tin Can axis of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Fatai Owoseni, maintained that the Force have been playing a commendable role in ensuring that the persistent traffic gridlock in the area was effectively tackled. In an interview with Vanguard Metro, the Police boss explained that a collaborative Task Force with significant Police input has largely succeeded in unlocking the jam and maintaining the flow of traffic in the area. Excerpts:
Clearing gridlockin phases
Coming to Lagos, one of the challenges, apart from the crime situation, that I envisaged I would meet on ground is traffic congestion. This, of course, has an impact on police response to distress calls and crime prevention. Having that in mind, I was lucky that at the time the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, was also worried as to how the traffic problem could be solved.
Apapa actually is one of the places we have had this problem. For years, Apapa and environs have been no go areas; some residents even parked out of the area. That is why Apapa that used to be a highbrow area is almost abandoned, properties have lost their value. So as a Police Command we wondered what could be done. I made up my mind to complement the efforts of the other agencies, especially LASTMA. We then decided that at peak periods we would put more police men on the road; officers doing administrative duties in branches, especially those in head office were redeployed for this purpose. So we started with that all over Lagos.
Joint Task Force
In the case of Apapa, the Governor then suggested that we should have a joint task force. So we started with that. With the Governor’s funding by making rations available for the personnel whom we drew from Police, the Military, LASTMA and Civil Defence, we all went on the road and focused attention on Ijora Causeway to the Tin Can end. We were able to make some impact. Sometimes you will see the tanker drivers misbehave and take the whole road. I was determined to do whatever it takes to bring order. There were times that from 8am to 6pm I trekked from the Tin Can end of Apapa to Surulere in order to get these tankers properly placed.
Mile 2 to Liverpool
While this was going on, I saw that there was no movement from Mile 2 to Liverpool and that increased the number of motorcycles plying that road. It also made a lot of the commercial buses to drive against the traffic up to Kirikiri, which they should not have been doing. From the gains we recorded at the Ijora Causeway to Tin Can, my officers and I put heads together to unblock the road.
The first thing we did was to clear the bridge linking Marine Road to Liverpool. I tasked the Area Commander there, giving him 24 hours to clear the link bridge which trucks had taken over. He succeeded and I was happy with him.
In the second phase, we had to make a way for vehicles, other motorists from Mile 2 to Liverpool passing through Tin Can. So we got policemen from different formations; I committed close to 300 policemen to that place. I wanted the police men that would work there to have easy identification, because I discovered all sorts of uniformed persons go there under the guise of clearing traffic to do illegal things, including collecting money from people.
They are currently identified with reflective jacket.
We also discussed with some of the tanker drivers, to solicit their support. In this light, I gave them 48 hours. After the time elapsed, the Area Commander reported that a lane has been cleared for motorists to take from Mile 2, past Tin Can to Liverpool. I went there personally to confirm and discovered that motorists and cyclists didn’t believe the road was cleared. They felt that if they go from Mile 2 up to Forte Oil opposite Berger Yard, it will be blocked; so they were still taking one-way. To tackle this, I set out to enlighten them. I got them together, spoke to them. I also solicited for the drivers and policemen to support in maintaining the flow of traffic.
We got the commitment of the soldiers deployed there to support the police. Those from OP MESA stationed there are to complement our efforts. Some of the commercial bus drivers and bike riders are not just transporters, some are criminals. They hide knives and all sorts of weapons under their shirts. It is all for the safety of the people. There are also military facilities around that place. All is in a bid to sustain what has been done on that road and further improve on it. We still maintain that body of policemen. We change them from time to time, taking into cognisance the ways the drivers can provoke the policemen. So the officers there are not armed, they basically do more of appealing.
I know we are not there yet and more needs to be done. I have been soliciting the support of major stakeholders, people doing business along that axis to set barricades. The plastic barricades will be lined from Mile 2 to Tin Can, Liverpool, so that apart from human directions there is a visual guide to the tanker drivers so they don’t exceed their allotted space. This is because at a point in time those in the Task Force will have to be assigned to other places.
As for continuity, once you have a template, it can be shared with whomever that is coming; the person may even do better. It is about setting a template and who would not want to associate with success? Whoever is coming next would hear of the success story and there is no way he or she would not want to sustain it or even improve on it. I must actually thank all the supervising officers there. It is about supporting them because the bulk of personnel we have taken there are people doing administrative work in headquarters; officers that we know can be put to productive use. It is basically a special duty and we thank God that the officers on ground appreciate the intervention and are making the best use of the personnel we have given them.
Response to duty
You say Area Commander, Area B is always on ground; the DPO Trinity, CSP Mukaila, is always on the road; DPO Kirikiri is always on ground too. The question is: What is driving them?
It is basically about everyone, whether constable, Commissioner, DPO or Area Commander, being conscious of the responsibility that we are to shoulder, that we are obligated to do what the law says we should do as our duty. It could be driven by leadership but at the same time, it is not the Commissioner of Police alone that is into it, it is about getting people to know that they have a duty to perform.