*Security agents battle drivers to enforce presidential order
By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Olayinka Ajayi and Chris Onuoha
Chaotic scenes pervaded the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway yesterday as security agents engaged tanker drivers in a battle to enforce compliance with President Muhammadu Buhari’s 72-hour ultimatum to articulated vehicles to vacate the major land artery to the Lagos seaport, an order, which expires midnight.
Soldiers and other security operatives supervising compliance with the presidential order, in a chat with Sunday Vanguard, however, vowed to strictly enforce strict compliance.
The ultimatum was issued on Thursday.
One of the security operatives told our reporters yesterday: “As you can see our men are working tirelessly to ensure compliance. We are not here for jokes, the presidential order is sacrosanct and we already gave them till midnight Monday morning, then we begin our work fully. Any of them that fails to enter Wharf by midnight would be turned back to their parks and wherever they come from.”
Many truck drivers were seen struggling to move their trucks away from the Apapa and Tin Can ports access roads in a hurry. The only impediment, according to many of them and security personnel on the ground was controlling the large numbers of the trucks that have already crossed the Mile Two axis towards Berger area connecting Kirikiri loading bay and Apapa.
One Nwankwo, a truck driver said: “I have been here for the past seven days at the middle lane, and my vehicle has not moved an inch. I observe that security officers controlling the traffic at the Mile 2 and Berger axis are not making things easy. They allow certain trucks, who tip them to have an easy passage, leaving others on the middle lane.
Asked what will be his fate after the deadline, he stated: “This is bad business for the exporter, who has expended much on both time and money. “I am carrying goods meant for export at Apapa port. If I couldn’t meet the deadline, I will make a u-turn and return to Ibafo Truck Park at Ogun State and wait till I get another access. But another driver, Usman, echoed Nwankwo’s fears. He said that he has been on the middle lane for weeks and has no option than to reach his destination when the opportunity comes. “I am waiting for any direction they want me to go,” said Usman.
A LASTMA officer, who spoke under condition of anonymity said the situation is under control. “As you can see, the trucks are moving slowly out of the gridlock areas. This will continue till midnight to make sure all the trucks are cleared. We are only allowing those with a valid entry pass to have access.
“By midnight, any other vehicle on sight will be ordered to make a u-turn and move out of the road. We are seriously working and the trucks are equally complying. By Sunday afternoon, we are hopeful all the trucks must have vanished out of sight.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, has commended the Federal Government for the evacuation order, however insisting that more stringent measures were needed to ensure full compliance.
The Director-General, DG of NECA, Mr Timothy Olawale, lamented that the cost of the Apapa Port access roads gridlock on business and human life was unquantifiable contending that the Presidential order was overdue.