August 30, 2018

Apapa gridlock persists one month after Osinbajo’s intervention

File: Gridlock as tankers shut down Apapa road.

By Godwin Oritse

LAGOS — MORE than one month after the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, visited the ports in Lagos State and ordered a 72-hour joint operation by security operatives to clear the gridlock in and around the Apapa, little progress appears to have been achieved.

Prof. Osinbajo, who paid an unscheduled visit to Apapa at the peak of the gridlock on July 20, had directed relevant government agencies to immediately embark on the decongestion of the Wharf Roads and the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway to allow for free flow of traffic.

File: Gridlock as tankers shut down Apapa road.

Less than a week after issuing the directive, the Vice President accompanied by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State and the Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi, on July 26, 2018, held a meeting with relevant stakeholders on the traffic management mechanisms at the Western Naval Command, Apapa.

Cargoes, containers remain trapped

However, a visit to the Lagos Port Complex, LPC, Apapa, yesterday, revealed that several cargoes and containers remain trapped inside the ports despite the deployment of over 1,000 security personnel by the Lagos State Police Command and other relevant agencies in an operation tagged: ‘Operation Restore Sanity’.

Importers, truck drivers lament

The President, Nigerian Importers Integrity Association (NIIA), Godwin Onyekachi, described the Vice President’s order as “cosmetic”, arguing that a lasting solution laid in addressing the core problems that led to the gridlock.

He said: “Deploying security operatives in their large number was an interim measure guaranteed to fail because the major problem has not been addressed by the government yet.

“A major problem is the collapse of the Apapa–Oshodi Expressway, which has been neglected for several years by the Federal Government. The road is the major entry and exit points for the ports and other businesses in the Apapa area.

“The situation on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway forces truckers to use the Apapa-Ijora-Wharf road, which is a very narrow road and which has been under construction for more than a year.

Some truck drivers, who expressed frustration over the perennial gridlock, said if the situation must improve, more effort is required by officials of the Nigerian Navy.

One of the truck drivers, who identified himself as Saheed Ahmed, said he spent four days to move from Costain to Marine Bridge, Apapa – a journey that is less than 15 minutes under normal circumstances.

Speaking with a tinge of frustration, he said: “I have been on this queue for the past four days from Costain to get to the tail end of the Marine Bridge (in Apapa). There are other truck drivers who are still stuck in traffic and they have spent close to two weeks. I also had to part with some money to be able to get here.”

Another truck driver, Abubakar Sanni said: “Since yesterday that I came (into Lagos), I have spent nothing less than N30,000. I was told to turn back from Costain. All the security operatives asked me to part with some money else they will turn me back. The traffic is only moving for truck drivers who part with money but if you don’t have money you will remain there like it is your parking space.”

One of the Naval personnel controlling traffic at Leventis, Apapa, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “There are a lot of trucks parked and idling away on the port access roads without any business in the port and contributing to the traffic gridlock.

“The NPA is yet to live up to its responsibility as managers of the defined port areas, which includes the ports and its access roads.”

NPA needs to support and redirect the Navy in managing the traffic by regulating what trucks should have access to the ports and deploy their tow trucks to remove idle or broken down trucks contributing to the gridlock.”