FG releases three-year plan for upgrade of roads
The dislodgement of tankers and container-carrying trailers from the Mile 2 to Tin Can axis of the Apapa/Oshodi Expressway in Lagos by the Task Force on Port Reforms and other state agencies, elicited much needed sighs of relief and excitement from Lagosians. The success of the operation, May last year, was also attributed to the fact that the task force was backed by heavily armed mobile policemen and military personnel. The operation which was carried out in the night, saw to the seizure of over 80 illegally parked trucks from the road, paving way for the free flow of traffic thereafter.
But less than a year after, it is lamentations galore once again as trucks have taken over the entire stretch of the dual carriageway beginning from Berger Cement to Tin Can Port.
The trailers and petroleum tankers are fully back on the highway, making vehicular movement between Berger Cement and Tin Can Port gate pretty difficult. This is because the illegal parking has reduced the carriage capacity of the road,causing traffic congestion, a situation which has been worsened by flooding which has consequently created gullies and craters on the ever-busy road.
Terrible state ofdegradation
A visit to Tin Can Island last week revealed the pitiable state of the highway between Coconut Bus-stop and Tin Can Port second gate. The entire stretch of the road was in a terrible state of degradation due to several years of neglect, with gullies and deep potholes on the road.
The menacing presence of the petroleum products tankers and trailers on the road is the reason why Apapa-bound motorists and commuters spend several hours to get to their destinations on daily basis. Those who have targets to meet now use the services of commercial motorcycle operators popularly called Okada riders despite the obvious risk. In fact, most commercial drivers and motorists now navigate through Olodi-Apapa through Boundary, Ajegunle, to access Apapa, a longer route but a better alternative.
Prior to the last Eid-el-Kabir celebration, users of the highway 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 holidays. The indiscriminate parking of these trucks worsened the already chaotic traffic situation in the area.
Lamenting the situation, a commuter who pleaded an anonymity said: ‘’Now, we are back to the whole mess again as the tanker drivers have taken over the highway, leaving all other road users in anguish. We had expected that the task force team will sustain the tempo of their earlier enforcement to rid this road of the tankers. But the current situation shows that the government cannot be taken for its word”.
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 location 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.
According to Vanguard Features, VF, 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 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 between Tin can Island Port, Apapa and Mile 2, often leaving motorists and other road users stranded.
Tanker drivers, who spoke to VF, alleged that some policemen deployed to the area to control traffic, have abandoned their duty to extort N500 from each tanker driver.
VF gathered that as soon as the tanker drivers had parted with the money, they are permitted by the policemen to head to the tank farms in Tin can Island and Kirikiri and end up parking indiscriminately on the highway. One tanker driver, simply identified as Alhaji Abdullahi, who spoke to VF, said he came from Maiduguri to lift petroleum product in Lagos, saying that he had 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 consideration for 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.”
Lagos Zonal Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Comrade Tokunbo Korodo told VF 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.
Free flow of traffic
“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.
Apapa infrastructural decay in 2017 budget— Fashola
Meantime, relief, it would appear, may be in the offing as the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, had assured of a timely completion of the rehabilitation of access roads to Apapa/Tin Can Island Port-Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Depot (Atlas-Cove), including the construction of a new bridge running parallel to the existing bridge from Liverpool Roundabout across Port Novo Creek in Lagos.
One of the projects, 800-capacity trailer park being constructed opposite Tincan Island Port in Apapa, it was gathered, would be funded with the 2017 budget.
The contract of the facility was awarded in 2009 by the Federal Ministry of Works, but abandoned two years ago, as the contractor, Borini Prono, left site due to inadequate funding.
Curiously, the project was awarded without provision in its original design, for the shoreline protection, meaning that even when completed, the facility will be subjected to threat from the lagoon surge, a development he described as ‘poor engineering work.’
Fashola, on recent inspection tour of the area, said the project had been delayed because for two years, the previous government failed to fund it, even when oil sold for $100 per barrel, thereby defeating the purpose for which it was conceived almost eight years ago. The minister said he was at the site to assess the level of work done, and what remained to be done, so as to be armed with necessary facts when preparing for the 2017 appropriation. “The project was not captured in 2016 budget; but I am here to see what is left to be done so that I can seek funding for it in the 2017 appropriation,” said Fashola.
The minister, who acknowledged the deterioration of facilities within Apapa, attributed it to years of neglect and abandonment of the rail system. He said that the Federal Government was working on plans to revitalise the rail system for haulage, stressing the movement of heavy goods on roads is not sustainable.
Fashola was conducted round the trailer park by Mrs. Osarieme Osakue, acting Federal Controller of Works, South-West, who told the minister that the project was at over 90 percent completion stage.
Osakue said a fresh proposal had, however, been forwarded to the government to undertake the shoreline protection not captured in the first contract, but was yet to be approved.
However, he said in order to ensure equitable development of road infrastructure across the country, the Federal Government has evolved a three-year plan for Federal roads that will ensure that year on year, major road projects are implemented fairly in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country.
Fashola, who announced the plan at the National Council on Works Meeting in Katsina, said the plan which would be implemented between 2017 and 2019 was already being shared with the Ministry of Budget and Planning for inclusion in the 2017 budget and future national planning data.
The Minister who said the plan was meant to connect states within each zone and across the country, however, pointed out that because the government’s resources were limited; it had to make choices which, according to him, border on priority and economic expediency.
According to him, roads leading to and from fuel depots would be high on the priority of choices because of the need to develop mining business and evacuate mining products and petroleum cargo to fuel the nation’s energy need adding that government has also given priority to roads leading to and from the nation’s major sea and airports because of the need to support the business of traders and importers.
The Minister said government was also giving priority to roads that carry very heavy traffic in order to reach more people with its limited resources because of the need to move large numbers of commuters adding that while government could not build all roads in one year, a faithful implementation of the plan would ensure equitable delivery of better roads across the country.
Better road experience
He declared: “Therefore, while it is true that we cannot build all roads in one year or even in three years, we are convinced that a faithful implementation of our plan, and the rational basis of our choices will deliver a better road experience, improved journey times and aid economic recovery in the short to medium term”.
Fashola also announced that Government has set in motion moves to form partnership and build synergy with state governments in order to deliver safe and motorable roads across the country adding, however, that success of the moves would depend on a number of factors, some of which were in the control of the states and some of which were in the control of the Federal Government.
He said on the part of the Federal Government, it has challenged and would empower the controllers to be more effective and responsive to the states and communities they are posted to and to hold them to account for the quality of federal roads within their states. He added that all federal controllers have agreed to take on the responsibility.
According to him: “The Controllers have been briefed to recognise their roles as ambassadors of the Federal Government in their states of posting and have also been mandated to develop closer working relationships with the state governments, the governors, the commissioners responsible for road works and infrastructure, the local government representatives because federal roads traverse local governments, and also the traditional rulers and community leaders through whose domains federal roads traverse”.
Urging the states to develop closer working relationships with the federal controllers in their domains, Fashola added thus: “They must share with you the information about federal roads in your state, while I expect that you will share with them, your individual state development plans, in order to establish critical interfaces and build lasting partnerships for development.
“For want of a better example, let me urge you to treat and welcome our Controllers with the same warmth and hospitality that you usually extend to Ambassadors from other countries, and to promptly report difficulties to us in the Ministry whenever they occur”.