As stakeholders speak
By Kingsley Adegboye & Godfrey Bivbere
IT was once a beehive of both commercial and social activities in the 1990s. The reason for this was not far to seek: It was home to Nigeria’s two major seaports and the popular Apapa recreation park. But today, it is a pathetic shadow of its glorious past.
Apapa, Nigeria’s economic gateway, has degenerated into a deplorable state, with its collapsed roads and its residents perpetually ensnared in intractable gridlock on daily basis which has crippled businesses and led to relocation of businesses and residents out of the area.
The two critical roads, Wharf Road and Apapa/Oshodi Expressway which lead to the nation’s major economic gateway have become a sort of nightmare to port operators, commuters, motorists and the general public following daily gridlock on the roads. This situation has been blamed on many years of neglect by both Federal and Lagos State governments.
The story of Apapa in the past few years has remained that of economic losses and business failures linked to loss of quality man-hour on the road leading to low productive capacity.
The estimated loss to the economy has been put at N140 billion, with an average of N20 billion daily. Reports further showed that Apapa accounts for more than 80 per cent of all import and export activities in Nigeria.
Lamenting the gridlock and its implication to the economy, President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, recently noted at a media forum thus: “Apapa is both an embarrassment to the country and a huge loss of close to N140 billion to the government on a weekly basis. The economy loses more than N20 billion daily because the state of the roads affects businesses across the country. All our operations in the hinterlands such as Ilorin, Kano and other areas are operating at 40 per cent maximum capacity”.
Report also has it that in 2016, Nigerian Customs Service generated N898 billion as revenue for the Federal Government, and this was less than the N904 billion generated by NCS in 2015. This reduction, according to a source, was due to difficulty in accessing foreign exchange and the removal of the 41 items which forced down the level of activities within the ports. He pointed out that the bulk of revenue generated by Customs annually comes from the two ports in Apapa.
In fact, Senate’s investigation on Nigeria’s port sector revealed that Nigeria has generated about N37 trillion from the sector over the years. Senate’s investigation further showed that the port sector can actually generate revenues to finance the country’s budget conveniently for six years. According to the Senate, Customs alone generates over N800 billion annually, but the government finds it difficult to deploy N11 billion, which is a meagre fraction of the N800 billion to carry out repair works on these roads leading to the two ports where these revenues are being generated.
Provision of infrastructure
Unfortunately, these revenues being generated by the ports do not reflect in the provision of infrastructure to the ports and environs.
Commenting on the situation, Mr. Adetokunbo Ajayi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Propertygate Development and Investment Plc, said the entire area is regrettably trapped by gridlock on the major roads to the two ports in Apapa which will make any form of investment unattractive there.
Ajayi who noted that developers are always interested in developing housing projects in locations that are attractive for quick returns on investment, disclosed that no developer will be interested in investing in Apapa projects for now, because the place is unattractive with the situation it finds itself. He insisted that investing in the area now will amount to tying down investment.
Describing Apapa’s situation as a tragedy, Mr. Kunle Awobodu, Chief Executive Officer, Reo-Habilis Construction Ltd, a building construction firm based in Lagos, said his firm has built terrace apartments for a client around Point Road, Apapa that are still unoccupied three years after its completion because of the gridlock in and out of Apapa.
According to Awobodu, if the client had borrowed or taken a loan from the bank for the project, believing he would immediately sell the terraces and pay back the loan, the Apapa situation has worsened matters for him. He cannot sell the apartments, and he must look for other means of paying back the loan.
“My brother, the situation in Apapa is so pathetic that people and businesses are relocating from the place to other areas. I have a client who has relocated from Apapa to Ebute-Metta because of the traffic situation there. Investments are being tied down in Apapa because of the gridlock.
“Residential buildings are being abandoned and when buildings are abandoned they become weak with time. For owners or people to go back to the buildings will require their renovations which will cost a lot of money.
“Imported building materials through the ports cannot easily get to their destinations. This results in projects being delayed. There are also situations where some of these products will get destroyed due to accidents on the way. So, the Apapa situation can simply be described as a tragedy,” Awobodu noted.
Chief Boniface Okoye, Managing Director of Bonntex Nigeria Limited, a clearing and forwarding agent, slammed the Federal Government and the National Assembly for abandoning the port access road that has become non-motorable. Okoye explained that the situation of the road was so bad that people are dying daily while going or coming back from work.
He said that the deplorable state of the road would make it impossible for the recent directive by the Acting President on 24 hours port operations to be realised. He observed that even if all the cargo clearing processes in the ports were perfect, the roads would still hinder smooth port operations.
He noted that despite the huge sums generated from the ports annually, government has failed to fix the access road over the years until it has become non-motorable.
Group Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, told Vanguard that infrastructure deficiency at the port would be a hindrance to the recent order by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to government agencies to commence 24 hours port operations.
Afolabi explained that though the Ease of Doing Business initiative by the government was a welcome development due to the needless bottleneck encountered in the service delivery process, the problem of infrastructure deficiency should be urgently addressed to complement the executive order.
Citing the case of the Apapa access roads that have literally broken down and become sources of concern for all business stakeholders, Afolabi said fixing the roads would not only aid the initiative but also bring relief and order to one of the country’s economic gateways.
Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, while speaking on behalf of the state on the alleged neglect of Apapa roads despite the fact that the government is generating revenue from Apapa ports, said the two access roads to Apapa were under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government.
According to him, these are the two major roads creating gridlock in Apapa, pointing out that inner roads are under the state government, and the government is working on them progressively.
“In 2012, however, both Federal and state governments agreed to restore sanity to Apapa. The agreement was a product of a Federal/State Technical Committee the Goodluck Jonathan and Babatunde Fashola administrations jointly constituted to unravel the root causes of challenges facing Apapa and work out strategic initiatives that would end Apapa’s diverse challenges.
“Eventually, the committee came up with some strategies. In its 64-page report, the committee recommended that the Federal Government would solely bear capital expenditure. Also, it recommended that both Federal and state governments would share recurrent expenditures of 50 per cent each.
“In all, it wrapped up the cost of Apapa regeneration plan at N11.60 billion. But experts now said the cost would have gone up by 300 per cent due to the foreign exchange crisis. In its financial breakdown, the committee earmarked a whopping sum of N100.45 million to rehabilitate Kirikiri Trailer Park; N114.40 million to re-establish drainage channels and culverts in Apapa and N6.49 billion to reconstruct roads and Marine Beach service lane. As indicated in the report, all projects would be fully funded and implemented by the Federal Government.
“Also, the committee pegged N56.50 million for bioremediation; N1.42 billion for public lighting solution; N2.11 billion for beautification; N97 million for initial cost of clearing; N585.25 million for procurement of monitoring and heavy duty vehicles; N466.91 million for security personnel; N33.24 million for sanitisation of cleared areas and N108.95 million for wire mesh fencing.
“The technical committee allocated N694.20 million for the erection of fence wall, procurement of heavy duty equipment and other logistics. Of the figure, the state government would pay 25 per cent. It also recommended N38.90 million for monthly sustenance, which it put at N466.91 million for a period of 12 months.
“However, the implementation report revealed that after Apapa gridlock was unlocked and criminal hideouts removed, the federal government did not show any commitment again. On its part, the state government paid the initial cost of N97 billion, which was used mainly to clear criminal hideouts; dismantle shanties and unlock gridlock in April 2012”, the report said.