•Oshodi-Apapa Expressway on permanent shutdown
•As NPA, shipping companies, truck drivers flex muscles over parking spaces, holding bays
•Motorists, stranded commuters narrate ordeal
By Our Reporters
LAGOS — Over 12,337 tankers and container-laden trucks are at present illegally parked in different parts of Lagos, just as the entire stretch of the dual carriage Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, inward Tin Can/Apapa, has been invaded and seized by over 5,000 articulated trucks. Consequently, traffic on the ever-busy road has been totally paralysed with attendant untold suffering for motorists, commuters and other road users.
Vanguard’s on-the-spot counting of illegally-parked trucks and tankers on roads and bridges within Apapa and environs, including far-flung places in Lagos, shows that no fewer than 12,337 of them are scattered in different locations in the areas visited. A breakdown of this shows that from Iyana Isolo to Tin Can, there are 3,200 trucks parked on the road; Ijora to Palmgrove, 3,485; from Marine Bridge to Ijora, 1850 and down the bridge, 1050; from Stadium to Eko Bridge, 874; from Costain—Stadium-Alaka—Fadeyi, 865; from Berger Suya to Kirikiri Road(New Road Bus stop, 678; from Wilmer Bridge to Awodiora(Ajegunle), 187; from Coker to Costain Bridge, 63. The entire Berger area has 671 of these articulated vehicles of which 210 are parked on the bridge.
Invasion, seizure of Oshodi-Apapa Expressway
The permanent shutdown of traffic on the expressway began on Monday when the articulated vehicles descended on the road in seeming vengeful fury, forming tight-parking queues that stretched all the way to Coker Bus stop, denying other motorists and road users going to Mile Two, Berger and beyond access to the road. By Tuesday, it extended to Ilasa and got to Iyana Isolo yesterday. And with no official reaction to check the trend, many worried road users have expressed the fear that the siege of trucks was sure to get to Oshodi by today.
Cause of gridlock, NPA’s suspension of shipping companies
The unfortunate situation which seemingly reached its excruciating climax yesterday has been linked to the recent suspension for 10 days of four major shipping lines by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA. The companies which suspension which took effect from July 14, 2018, are Maersk, Cosco Shipping, APS and Lansal.
Although NPA had indicated that the suspension was part of efforts to resolve a protest by truck drivers at the Lagos Ports Complex and the Tin Can Island Port, Mr Isah Suwaid, Assistant General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications Division of NPA, had in a statement also informed that following investigations by the Authority, it was found that the four companies failed to fully comply with the directive to acquire and operate holding bays. According to him, their shortcoming in this regard implied that they have either failed to utilize their holding bays or do not have adequate capacity to handle the volume of containers that they deal with. He did not stop there.
“Some of these companies have also been found to import a larger number of containers than empty containers exported thereby, making the country a dumping ground for empties.
“This has contributed to the persistent congestion around the Lagos Port Complex and the Tin Can Island Port spreading to other parts of Lagos metropolis where truck drivers with no immediate business at the ports now park their trucks on the expressways.
“Stakeholders have agreed that while the call-up system through the ports management as advised by shipping companies will remain in force, personnel of the Nigerian Navy will discontinue the issuance of call ups, even though they will remain on the traffic management team.”
But rather than solve the problem, the NPA action has instead complicated it as the suspended companies had no choice but to unleash their horde of trucks on the expressway and surrounding roads, causing horrendous traffic congestion. With NPA adamant and still threatening that the companies can only be permitted further use of the port area after review of the level of compliance to its directives and to determine further actions at the expiration of their 10-day suspension, the situation is likely to remain dire and may get worse as the days go by. AMATO’s reaction
But reacting to the alarming gridlock of articulated vehicles on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway, the President of the Association of Maritime Transport Owners, AMATO, Chief Remi Ogungbemi blamed the development on the deplorable roads leading to the port, coupled with the closure of the Wharf bridge from Apapa to Ijora.
Ogungbemi also said the situation will remain the same for some time so as to allow for the repairs of the closed bridge. The AMATO boss suggested that the only way out of the current quagmire is for the government to move away from the current analogue system of port operation and replace with a digital system. He further explained that for 50 years since the ports were built, there has not been a corresponding expansion of infrastructure despite increase in population and businesses.
He said : “The roads cannot accommodate the traffic of vehicles that call at the ports daily. We need to go digital. We need to move out of the current analogue stage we currently operate.We need to put in place a modern technology that will monitor and regulate the movement of trucks that enter and exit the ports.There is no way all the terminals can accommodate the numbers of trucks that call at the port at once.”
Speaking on the situation and the harrowing experience most motorists and commuters suffer, an NGO, Leadership Watch, said it could only happen because truck drivers believe they are untouchable since owners of the businesses are highly connected in government. “They are untouchable and if you’re going to do anything you have to take permission from the powers that be in Abuja. I saw what happened Tuesday and Wednesday. People trekked for hours to get to their places of business and other destinations because of that traffic gridlock on Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. I know Lagos State government is not happy about it, but there’s nothing they can do as things stand right now. The situation can be reversed only if Abuja is interested in finding a solution to it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the suffering of motorists and commuters continue as they are now being forced to use alternative routes which are few and far between. Most of those heading to Mile Two and beyond have resorted to driving against the traffic with the attendant risks of accidents resulting in fatalities in some cases. But with no better option, one-way driving as it is popularly known, appears to have come to stay.
Commuters too scared to board buses and motorcycles, aka Okada, plying the one-way route took to trekking long distances to get their destinations. “My brother, what else could I do,” a lady trekking from the Cele Bus-stop to Second Rainbow told our reporter adding “The only thing I can do is trek. I’m too scared to board these buses driving one-way because the many accidents I have witnessed on this road were caused by them”.
Another unfortunate fallout of the trucks invasion was that it provided hoodlums the opportunity to attack stranded motorists and commuters. This was the case in the Alakija axis of Lagos/Badagry Expressway and Satellite Town.
Many vehicles that were trapped in the attendant traffic gridlock had their windscreen shattered by the robbers. At the same time, many lost valuables to the traffic robbers.
Also, traders and residents in Satellite Town, now live in fear as a result of trucks and tankers that now occupy every available space. Many traders have been forced to close shop while residents have since resigned to their fate.
Meanwhile, the General Manager of Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, LASTMA, Wale Musa, who spoke through his Public Relations Officer, Mamud Hassan said moves were on to restore sanity in the area.
“In the wake of the present situation, a special squad to be led by General Manager Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, LASTMA, has been dispatched. Since Tuesday, we have commenced 24 hours operation.
“The task of the squad is to complement and create at least a corridor in the interim for other motorists to have movement. I can assure you that by tomorrow(today), we should have about 50 per cent sanity in that area.
“Though, the problem was created by the failure of the management of the Ports Authorities and depots, it is beyond our control but our responsibility is to ensure free movement of vehicular and human traffic. Let me assure you that plans are on to ensure sanity returns to the area,” he said. Efforts to reach Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Ladi Lawanson, for comment was unsuccessful as he was unavailable at press time but a source in the ministry said efforts were on to address the situation.”I can assure you that we are aware of the situation, the ministry is on top of the situation and will make comment at the appropriate time,” the source stated.