By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief, Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor, Olasunkanmi Akoni & Wahab Abdulah
Gridlock hindering int’l trade— Port operators
LAGOS—THE Lagos State Government, yesterday, suspended approval for development of tank farms in Apapa as part of its renewed effort to restore sanity to the area as well as fashion out immediate and long-term solution to gridlock on the Oshodi-Apapa corridor.
The state government also issued a 30-day ultimatum to owners of tank farms without adequate loading bays.
These were some of the decisions taken at a closed-door meeting with stakeholders in the maritime and transport sectors, including Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, Shippers Council, Tank Farm Owners, Department of Petroleum Resources, Security agencies, Clearing and Forwarding agents, at Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja.
At the meeting chaired by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, the state government also resolved to accelerate and complete work on the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Trailer Park in Orile.
The State Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Ladi Lawanson, who briefed newsmen on the resolutions reached at the meeting that lasted for over three hours, said all stakeholders had resolved to work together to bring sanity on the Apapa axis and would, therefore, not hesitate to sanction recalcitrant operators, who flout the resolutions.
Lawanson, who was joined at the briefing by the Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman; Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello and other stakeholders, said a Security Task Force has been constituted by the Federal and Lagos State governments.
He said the task force would work continuously for 30 days to bring sanity to the roads, while shipping companies, sanctioned for non-compliance with utilisation of holding bays at the ports, have been given five days to comply.
Lawanson said: “The Department of Petroleum Resource, DPR, is to ensure that Tank Farm owners comply with holding bay requirements, while trailers not called upon and found trampling will be impounded and sanctioned in Lagos. With immediate effect, the Lagos State Government has suspended the approval of Tank Farms and the government is going to accelerate the completion of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Trailer Park and it should be ready within a month.”
The state government also directed that all truck and tanker owners must be duly registered and well regulated by their unions, adding that the unions would be held accountable for their adherence to extant rules and regulations.
“The Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) in collaboration with the Lagos State Government will licence trailer parks whereby only trucks housed in those designated parks will be granted access. Furthermore, tank farms without adequate loading bays within the next 30 days will be sanctioned.
“These resolutions were arrived at and agreed by all parties and they have resolved to jointly implement these resolutions and the effects will be seen by Nigerians very shortly,” the Commissioner added.
Taskforce resumes duty
Meanwhile, investigations showed that members of the task force made up of security agencies and concerned parastatals have taken up positions at strategic portions of Oshodi-Apapa expressway.
They were seen stationed at major intersections on the expressway to service lanes while gates to loading bays which were formerly locked, remained open for evacuated trucks.
Traffic was noticeably flowing freely along the corridor created on the service lanes.
However, heavy-duty trucks and containerized vehicles were conspicuously seen parked on the single lane at the expressway thus creating room for vehicles to also ply the expressway.
However, the free flow of traffic on the expressway corridor terminated at Fatgbems bus stop where vehicles were directed into the service lanes.
Unfortunately, movement from Fatgbems filling station on the expressway towards Berger Yard bus stop, Kirikiri town, Trinity and Coconut areas, remained difficult as trucks blocked the expressway completely.
Investigations showed that it was due to bad portions of the road on account of craters and huge holes.
Meanwhile, the much awaited special mobile court planned by the Lagos State government to try traffic offences on Oshodi-Apapa expressway may not come on board immediately.
Vanguard gathered, yesterday, that reports only mentioned that the government was considering the mobile court as one of the options opened to it to check the menace of truck drivers, who drive against traffic as well as park on unauthorised areas along the expressway causing unbearable gridlock.
When our correspondent approached the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, authorised to give directives to the modus of such mobile courts and prosecute offenders, it was gathered that the government is awaiting the outcome of the present measures being put together by both the federal and state governments to find a lasting solution to the problem.
An official of the ministry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said: “Offences and punishment cannot take precedent, until and unless the offenders or defaulters fail in obeying the laid down rules. So, we have to ensure that all measures put in place work perfectly before you can start blaming the drivers. Some of them are not within the jurisdiction since last week. I believe when they come to Lagos and see the changes, they have to comply.
“If one becomes recalcitrant, then the law will take its course. The government does not expect anyone to disobey the directives but if anyone chooses to do that, there will be no hesitation to deal with such a person as a common criminal.”
Asked whether there will be a special traffic rule to be used by the mobile court, the source said: “There is more than enough traffic laws in Lagos State to address the situation.”
Apapa gridlock hindering int’l trade—Port operators
Meanwhile, operators of the Apapa Port, APM Terminals, have expressed worry that the gridlock on the Oshodi-Apapa Road is negatively affecting international trade.
The General Manager, Government Relations, of the company, Mr. Augustine Fischer, said this at the Bureau of Public Enterprises Investors/Stakeholders Forum, in Abuja, yesterday.
Fischer said: “Imagine if you have fish being exported and then due to the congestion on the Apapa Access Road you can’t get to the port and then your fish goes bad, you lose about N20 million. So there is a ripple effect on what happens in the international trade in the port business.
“We cannot over-emphasise the need to quickly clear the access road. If you cannot decongest the access road, then you cannot decongest the ports. If we cannot have a situation where vehicles can go in and out of the ports easily, then we are going to return to the pre-privatisation era when vessels had to wait for many days before they can be discharged. If the port yard is full because we cannot evacuate cargo, we cannot discharge new vessels.
“Remember we have only 51,000 slots in Lagos ports, while throughput is over 1 million. If we stock 51, 000 containers in the yard, we cannot discharge any other vessel.
“It is, therefore, critical for the government to look into the access road into the ports because that is not just how we feel but because it has a ripple effect on international trade.”
Mr. Fischer also called for investments in ports infrastructure to attract bigger vessels, which according to him, would reduce freight rate.
His words: “We need to attract bigger vessels to Nigerian ports. If the APM Terminals today decides to invest in ship-to-shore cranes, we can’t use them in Apapa. The quay is not strong enough to withstand that equipment.
“If bigger vessels come to Nigeria freight rate will drop. The total transport and logistics cost will drop. Nigeria will become a big hub. The West African hub today, is Lome, Togo. So Nigeria has the opportunity to invest in the key and attract larger vessels.”
He regretted that the Nigeria Customs Service is still undertaking a physical examination of containers, thereby delaying the clearing of goods.
He said: “Currently the Nigeria Customs physically exams 98 percent of all containers that come into Nigeria and it takes about 4 hours to examine one container. It does not make us efficient like other ports across the globe. We need to invest in scanners so that we can reduce drastically, the time cargo spend in the yard.”
BPE seeks capital, fresh ideas for non-performing enterprises
In his address, the Director-General of the BPE, Mr. Alex Okoh, said that the forum had become important in order to find solutions to the problems that have made some privatized not to perform or under-perform.
Okoh said: “The objective of this forum is to create a platform where the public and private sector stakeholders are able to engage meaningfully and attract potential investors that would be able to inject a new lease of life into these key sub-sectors of the nation’s economy.
“This forum is also aimed at further opening the enterprises for potential investors to inject fresh ideas, capital, and expertise into rejuvenating these enterprises.