IN apparent reaction to the intense media advocacy mounted by Vanguard Newspapers in the past week, the Federal and Lagos State Governments are taking steps to tackle the Apapa gridlock head-on.
While Vice President Yemi Osinbajo met with private sector stakeholders and gave the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing (MPWH) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) clear directives towards clearing the traffic quagmire, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, also swung into action, directing the heads of security agencies to deploy adequate personnel to implement the traffic laws.
It is a major hallmark of a functional democracy for government to be responsive to public outcries, particularly when the media, which are constitutionally mandated to hold government to account, raise issues for urgent attention. We emphasise this point in view of our history of government impunity and total lack of regard for the openly expressed yearnings and aspirations of the public. Quick government response to the needs of the people is, for us, a sign of positive change, and we encourage this to continue even in other spheres of our national life.
Now roused to action, we expect the state and federal governments to consign the Apapa gridlock to the dumpsite of history once and for all. The reason for this is simple: as earlier stated Apapa is the nation’s second revenue cash-cow after crude oil and gas.
The ports in Apapa and Tin Can Island serve as the major conduits of our imports and exports, including such essential commodities as petroleum products. Apapa is also a major industrial and commercial zone. These gridlocks, which for over a decade have blocked the road arteries from Apapa into the hinterland, have led to the closure of businesses and made life in Apapa a nightmare for residents and visitors alike.
The lack of political will to confront the problem owes much to the selfish interests of people in high places. Apart from the poor road network within and around Apapa, the armada of trucks, trailers and tankers which bear down from all corners of the country belong to highly-placed and well-connected politicians, security chiefs, top bureaucrats, people in royal circles and wealthy individuals who make it difficult to implement the law.
We call on the Federal Government to cooperate with the Lagos State Government to fully implement the Lagos Traffic Law in Apapa, while efforts to reconstruct the broken-down roads must kick into a higher gear. The Apapa-Ebute Meta rail line should immediately be activated, while efforts to relocate petroleum tank farms to the suburbs of Lagos should commence. Our ports elsewhere should also be fully developed to absorb more of the traffic load.
Unravelling the Apapa gridlock is not rocket science, but requires cast-iron political will by governments.