By Emma Nnadozie, Udeme Akpan, Godfrey Bivbere, Prince Okafor
THE lingering gridlock along Oshodi , Apapa Express way has taken a turn for the worse as heavy duty trucks and fuel tanks have totally blocked passage on the road.
The situation is such that both motorists and commuters now trek to their respective destinations.
Investigations showed that the situation is worsened by the directive on intake of empty containers to the port by the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, thus resulting in complete shutdown of traffic along the Tin-can/ Cele axis of the Oshodi-Apapa expressway.
Recall that the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman had directed Port managers to stop receiving containers directly from importers and their agents from this week.
Specifically, Shipping companies were asked to provide holding bays for their empty containers while Port Managers were asked to receive empty containers coming from each shipping company’s holding bay to be allowed access into the port from this week.
Assistant General Manager in charge of Corporate and Strategic Communications of NPA, Isa Suwaid, told Vanguard that he is not aware of the effect of the directive of the Mile2 axis of the Oshodi-Apapa expressway.
Suwaid said that the shipping companies have been told long ago and they claimed to have started using their holding bay.
The situation is worsened by the near absence of traffic control officials on the ever-busy expressway.
Interestingly, the few traffic control officials and policemen including officials of the Federal Road Safety corps, FRSC, seen on the road are busy openly collecting monies in various denominations from the recalcitrant truck and commercial bus drivers thus abandoning their duties.
In the past one week, the road has been permanently blocked from second rainbow to Trinity bus stop forcing road users to not only ply the opposite lane but, drive freely against traffic thereby endangering lives of pedestrians and other motorists.
Worse still, the congestion at Berger yard and Berger Suya axis towards Kirikiri town has continued unabated to the extent that motorists are forced to ply the only single lane in the opposite direction.
Unfortunately, this single lane is always blocked at night making it impossible for road users to drive freely.
Following this development, it was gathered that Lagos state Commissioner of Police, yesterday, summoned all the Area commanders and Divisional Police officers in charge of the area and gave them matching orders to clear the gridlock by creating free passage way on the service lanes in order to ensure that the suffering of motorists and commuters was abated.
Police sources said that the Commissioner of Police who recognised the lingering gridlock along the expressway also assured that the efforts of security agencies involved in clearing the traffic congestion will soon pay off while anybody caught compromising in his duties will be seriously dealt with.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the police boss also directed that security be strengthened in the area.
As at 5.30pm, All the Divisional police Officers along the route and their team were seen patrolling the area and clearing traffic as directed by the commissioner of police.
Their quick intervention paid off as the roads were cleared for free flow of traffic.
Speaking with Vanguard over the phone later, the state police boss, Imohimi Edgal assured that the momentum will be sustained.
Consequently, many stakeholders, including workers, transporters, business owners and business owners disclosed to Vanguard in different interviews that they have lost billions of naira.
Tank farms, owners
It was gathered as many as 36 tank farms are located in the area, including A – Z Petroleum Products Limited, owned by businessman, Dr. Alexander Okafor, Acorn Plc, owned by Mr. Kolapo Lawson, Chairman, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) and Vice Chairman, Vitamalt Plc, MRS Oil and Gas Limited, whose Chairman is Sayyu Dantata, Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote’s cousin.
Others include Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan, the traditional ruler of Ugbo Kingdom, a town in Ilaje Local Government, Ondo State, is the founder of Obat Oil. Olajide Omokore while Igho Charles Sanomi, is believed to be the face behind Taleveras Group of Companies.
Bovas Group has Bamidele O. Samson, an architect, as a co-founder. Fatgbems Petroleum Company Limited has Fatai Gbemisola as its founder.
Folawiyo Energy Limited is owned by late business mogul, Wahab Iyanda Folawiyo, while Heyden Petroleum Limited has Dapo Abiodun, Senatorial candidate in the 2015 election in Ogun East, as its Chairman.
Honeywell Oil and Gas Limited, has Oba Otudeko, Chairman of Honeywell Group, as founder.
The late patriarch of the Ibru family, Michael Ibru was the founder of Ibafon Oil Limited.
Ibeto Petrochemicals Industries Limited is the brainchild of businessman, Cletus Ibeto, who is also into cement production.
Integrated Oil and Gas Limited, is owned by Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho, former Minister of Internal Affairs.
Lister Oil Limited is owned by Independent petroleum marketers, while Swift Oil Limited and Techno Oil Limited are owned by entrepreneurs, Tunji Durosinmi Etti and Nkechi Obi, respectively.
Businessman Ifeanyi Patrick Uba, is the founder of Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited.
Some other companies that have tank farms in Lagos include Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solutions Limited, Dee Jones Petroleum and Gas Limited, Energy Destinations Limited, Eterna Plc, Eurafric Oil and Coastal Services, First Deepwater Discovery Limited, First Nigeria Independent Oil Company Limited, Gulf Treasures Limited, Hensmor Nigeria Limited, Index Petrolube Africa Limited, Integrated Oil and Gas Limited.
Lister Oil Limited, Oil Force Nigeria Limited, Rahamaniyya Oil and Gas Limited, Sahara Energy Resources Limited, Sea Petroleum and Gas Company Limited, Star Synergy Petroleum Limited, Valeska BV Limited, West African Bitumen Company Limited and Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, owned by Femi Otedola also have tank farms in the area.
Investigations by Vanguard showed that some tank farm owners, including NIPCo have since established holding bays or parking spaces for tankers coming to lift fuel from their premises, others do not.
The Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, had in an email to Vanguard stated that the tank farms were duly issued with licences to establish their facilities in the area.
The Department indicated that EIA is a requirement for approval to construct a depot anywhere in the country and that the downstream investors were not exempted from it.
DPR also stated that there was no indication in the EIA that the operations of jetties and depots would culminate in the blockage of roads.
Consequently, it noted that measures were not put in place to mitigate such impact on roads.
It stated that: ‘’While the DPR makes sure that depots have the facilities and space to carter for trucks in their premises, it is not responsible for traffic management and control on the roads.
‘’There are organisations at local, state and federal levels that have the statutory responsibility for traffic control and management. The issues of tankers or any other vehicle violating traffic regulations should be, rightfully directed to them.
‘’We have resident representatives in most of the depots. We conduct risk-based inspections at regular intervals in addition to the annual comprehensive inspection for renewal of every operational depot’s licence.”
The Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners, Chief Remi Ogungbemi, expressed dissatisfaction over the continuous gridlock on the Apapa port access road stressing that the issue is increasing and negatively affecting transportation of goods.
Ogungbemi noted that many directives by government agencies in controlling the gridlock had not helped the situation at all, adding, “The traffic congestion has become a national embarrassment and a solution to it should be the priority of all port users right now.
“Apapa traffic has become a perennial problem with no solution in sight. We have had orders from the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Shippers’ Council and other agencies, to no avail.
“The trucks are still there for days and weeks; either waiting to be loaded or to drop empty containers. My members are the ones at the receiving end; as they waste several man-hours daily. Their trucks could no longer make several trips a week as they manage to go only a trip per week.”
In addition, he stated that the situation was affecting the Presidential directive on Ease of Doing Business at ports.
Enforcement and attitudinal change
“Solutions to the traffic problem would be enforcement and attitudinal change on the part of all port users, if all agencies and stakeholders at ports can come together and brainstorm, there will be lasting solutions to the traffic problem.”
However, Tokunbo Korodo, Petroleum Tanker Drivers, PTD, (NUPENG) absolved members from the blame.
He said: “Nobody should blame us for the gridlock or the chaotic traffic situation on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. We are just doing our normal job, which is to lift petroleum products and supply to Nigerians. We did not locate the tank farms in Apapa. In fact, we were never consulted before the siting of tank farms. You will see tanker drivers anywhere you have petroleum products.
“If you like, locate the tank farms in the forest; once we are aware that there are products there, we will go there, get the products and distribute to Nigerians. We are tired of this blame game.
“This thing is not easy. We are dealing with a situation where tanker drivers come from all parts of the country to Lagos to lift fuel. Tankers are not what you park in your car garage and there are no parks for these tankers.
“If you know the number of trucks that come to Lagos on daily basis, you will be amazed. If we start parking on one lane, it will stretch beyond Ibadan in Oyo State. Sincerely, it is the responsibility of government to provide parking space for these trucks. It is also the responsibility of government to manage the traffic situation. If the government has no solution or alternative, they should relocate the tank farms.”