IN recent weeks the Federal and Lagos State governments have combined forces in a spirited effort to decongest the Lagos highways, bridges and causeways of heavy vehicles.
Progress so far has been very slow and arduous for the task forces mobilised for the assignment. The objective is to get these large vehicles into designated holding bays. Similar efforts in the past did not go far as the truck drivers invariably re-invaded the roads and bridges.
This malaise, which has been going on for much of the past 15 years, is exacting heavy tolls on the roads and bridges in Lagos which are made to bear deadweights not meant for them. They precipitate extreme traffic gridlocks and environmental decrepitude which make life nightmarish for the city’s residents. They have also rendered the Apapa business district derelict for years.
The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has joined in the call for other ports in the eastward parts of the country to be revived to enable them take some of the load off Lagos and make living in the state more bearable for the residents.
We have been at the forefront of this call because we believe it is in the best interest of the nation. It will not only widen the base of the maritime industry and diversify the benefits of shipping for the benefit of the economy; it will also give more Nigerians a sense of belonging to the country.
Apart from the Lagos Ports, there are also seaports at Warri, Koko, Onne, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Ibom Deep Seaport at Ibaka, Akwa Ibom State, which is still at the design stage. There are also numerous inland dry ports and fuel depots. The main problem with these ports is that the river channels leading to them are too narrow to accommodate large vessels. Shipping companies find it more convenient to take their vessels to Lagos.
The situation was worsened after the concession of ports started in 2000. The 30 per cent incentive granted vessel owners to use the eastern ports when the Federal Government controlled the ports were withdrawn. Today, apart from the Onne Port, most of the other ports servicing the South East, South-South and the Eastern flank of the North are virtually idle.
The channels into these ports need to be dredged. Their facilities need to be upgraded and incentives should be provided to enable them take up more of the nation’s maritime business.
Our total dependence on the Lagos Ports is no longer tenable. It is overburdening the city and its amenities, especially roads and bridges. Let us, therefore, endeavour to do the right thing for the overall good of our country.