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Outrage over continued neglect, degeneration of Apapa

We are now orphans — Monarch, residents
As councils sets up Task force on environment, erring truck operators

 

A failed section of the road at Berger Cement

By Monsuru Olowoopejo

IN the days when Apapa was the toast and popular destination of residents and visitors to Lagos, many families spent their weekends visiting the place to experience the serenity that characterised the Apapa Government Residential Area and the popular Apapa Amusement Park.

Then it was also a thing of pride among the elite to own a property in Apapa due to its attractive location and the many public facilities and social amenities present there. Those who could not afford the cost of property at the heart of Apapa left for adjoining towns like Ajegunle in Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government.

But years after, the narrative has unfortunately changed as living in Apapa or visiting the axis has become a nightmare. The reason for this is that the port town has in recent years been invaded and seized by trailers and tankers either heading to the ports or the tank farms located in the area. With this development, all the roads are often in traffic lock down, apart from creating other serious environmental issues that have forced many families and firms to relocate.

The unabating gridlock has left monarchs and residents with no other option than to rail against the painful situation, especially the seeming inability of both the Federal and the Lagos State governments to fashion out a solution to the problem. In the forefront of this agitation for a timely intervention to rescue Apapa and environs is the Ojora of Ijora, Oba Fatai Aromire. Indeed, the monarch had at different fora made a strong case for government to urgently introduce measures that could relieve the pains and agonies that  the residents suffer on a daily basis due to the problem.

Vanguard gathered that the royal father also strongly made his sentiments in this regard known during the quarterly town hall meeting held in Apapa, where the State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, assured residents that plans were underway to address the gridlock and other environmental challenges confronting the axis.

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Aromire, in an interview with Vanguard, stressed that both the Federal and Lagos State governments, which he described as parties that were also responsible for the problem, would have a rethink and inaugurate a think-tank that would bring a holistic solution to challenges confronting Apapa. “Both the Federal and state governments cannot be exonerated from the causes of traffic and other environmental challenges in Apapa today. Besides, you can see that soldiers and officers of the Navy are also contributing to the trafficand this is responsible for why residents continue to spend several hours in traffic.

“When you visit the bridge linking the ports, you will see what I am saying. The bridges will be empty but movement in other axis will be difficult. It is only during public holidays or when President Muhammadu Buhari is visiting Lagos State that the roads will be free of gridlock; that’s when you will see free flow of traffic,” the monarch said.

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He noted that they sometimes experience a slight relief during the weekends, adding: “But immediately it is Tuesday, the entire roads become blocked. Movement will be restricted. There is nothing we can do to address the issue. We are tired of this challenge.”

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While lamenting that several lives have been lost to the traffic, Aromire informed that leaving and returning home has become a nightmare to them, saying: “It is sad that we spend several hours leaving and returning home. It is sad that this has been left to continue for a long time”.

He noted that when Dangote, the industrial conglomerate, commenced construction of the road to ease vehicular movement within Apapa, residents rejoiced that their suffering was at last coming to an end. As an expression of their appreciation at the development, he said the community released several acres of land in two phases in support of that gesture. But to their dismay nothing good came out of it all.

“We have contributed immensely to ensure that the gridlock is resolved once and for all. We have given the government land to build tanker and trailer parks within the axis. I do not think that there should be anything left to disturb vehicular movement within Apapa. But since then, nothing has changed,” he submitted forlornly.

Environmental  decadence

Aside the unending traffic gridlock, the monarch, who could not hide his anguish, noted that a visit to Ijora axis, especially from the Lagos State Water Corporation office at Ijora to Ijora Causeway and other environs would sure elicit shock, considering the level of environmental decadence that had affected the area saying: “Go there and see for yourself how bad the situation is.”

Kehinde Ayinla, an artisan resident in the area, told Vanguard that Apapa needs total regeneration as it has already become a shadow of its old self. According to him, the presence of the trucks has brought nothing but pain and suffering to the communities there. “Aside the traffic nightmare, the life span of our roads has been shortened. That is why you now see dilapidated roads everywhere here,” he said.

Ayinla said one of the most affected of these roads was Otto-Wolfe/Awodi-Ora road which links his community to the ever-busy Oshodi/Apapa Expressway that has for long been in a bad shape due the daily convergence of heavy-duty trucks there. He noted that the road, despite linking the secretariat of the Ajeromi-Ifelodun local government council, collapsed months after its rehabilitation.

Another resident, Ms Chinwe Okey, argued that the time has come for Apapa to undergo complete regeneration to restore it to its former status. She said: “Anything short of that is sheer waste of resources”.

Revisiting report on Apapa regeneration

Ms Okey may by her suggestion have been referring to the comprehensive report submitted by a Federal/Lagos State Governments Technical Committee inaugurated before 2015 that mapped out strategies to put an end to the intractable crises of traffic congestion, worsening insecurity and infrastructure collapse in Apapa. It would be recalled that the committee, which was co-chaired by former Minister for Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the present Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Olatunji Bello, in its report put the cost of restoring Apapa at a whooping N11.60 billion.

Rehabilitation  of roads

It also recommended procurement of monitoring and heavy-duty vehicles, sanitisation of cleared areas, review of ports operations, provision of vehicle inspection terminal, security personnel and patrol and provision of trailer parks.

The committee at the time of submitting its report earmarked N100.45 million for rehabilitation of Kirikiri trailer park; N114.40 million for rehabilitation of drainage channels and culverts and N6.49 billion for rehabilitation of roads and Marine Beach service lane, all of which would be fully funded and implemented by the Federal Government.

It recommended N56.50 million for bio-remediation of degraded areas; N1.42 billion for public lighting solution; N2.11 billion for landscaping and beautification; N97 million for initial cost of clearing; N585.25 million for procurement of monitoring & heavy duty vehicles; N466.91 million for security personnel; N33.24 million for sanitisation of cleared areas and N108.95 million for wire mesh fencing.

Councils sets up task force

Although the situation appears to have defied several measures introduced to arrest it, some relevant groups and individuals have not given up trying. For instance, the chairman of Ifelodun Local Council Development Area, LCDA, Mr. Fatai Ajidagba, told Vanguard that a Task Force on truck and waste menace within the council has been constituted. Explaining the duties of the Task Force, Ajidagba said that it was expected to assist the Private Support Partnership, PSP, operators in the ongoing cleaning exercise within the council.

He also said an enforcement team of the Task Force has been deployed to ensure that operators of trucks do not abuse the drainage which their continued stay within the council often lead to.  “And where they have been abused, we ensure that the council’s flood abatement gang visits the place and remove the waste blocking the drainage. We have also scaled up our orientation exercise, sensitising traders and residents on the need not to trade on the road. If they leave the road, the vehicle will have free access to movement in the council,” he added.

Aside the waste generation, Ajidagba, who expressed concerns on the life span of the inner city roads within the council, disclosed that a measure has been put up to prevent the trucks from gaining access to the roads. “The inner roads belong to the councils and we do not want any gridlock on the inner roads. We are trying to avoid them through the use of barricades. We believe that through this, many of the trucks will not have access into the council’s inner roads,” he informed.

He also disclosed that a Task force to prevent conversion of any portion of land within the councils has  been inaugurated, with its operatives already patrolling to reduce influx of trucks, especially those without containers. “The aim of the Task Force is to ensure that none of the trucks converts any part of the council into parking lots. And the strategy we use is to take photograph of it showing the number plate and try to locate the owner, asking him to come and remove his truck. Specifically for security reasons, we need to be careful with some of the trucks because we don’t know their contents. We are monitoring everything that comes into the council,” the chairman added.

…Another mulls towing articulated vehicles

Worried by conversion of streets to parking lots by articulated trucks, officials of Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government are considering plans to procure towing vehicles for trucks from locations that constitute threat to residents. The plan became necessary following complaints from residents over the danger posed by the articulated trucks to their safety in the council.

The council Vice Chairman, Nkem Igwe, in an interview with Vanguard, assured the residents that the plan is at an advanced stage and is being introduced to ensure that their safety is sustained. Igwe, who also doubles as Supervisory Councillor on Environment, noted that soon, the issue would be solved by the council.

“Without hesitation, we are working on it. Even recently, after listening to the agitations of the residents, we ordered for towing vehicles to help rescue the situation. We are looking at it and will act very soon. As the Vice Chairman and Supervisor on Environment, I can tell you that we are working on it.”

Reduction in IGR a big problem

Meanwhile, another vice chairman disclosed to Vanguard that the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of the councils within Apapa axis have depreciated following  the relocation of some companies, with others also planning to do the same.

The vice chairman, who did not want his name mentioned, noted that the problem did not emanate from the council. He said the Federal Government and other stakeholders in the ports should be held responsible for it. “The traffic has affected the revenue that was expected to come to us because some of the companies that should have served as source of revenue have relocated to other councils. The traffic has dealt a huge blow on the councils IGR,” he affirmed.

He, however, informed how his council had been able to reduce travel time into and from  Apapa. According to him, they have deployed staff to assist in traffic management which has reduced travel time “because presently, we have worked on the traffic that if one leaves Ikoyi for Apapa, all he would spend on the wheel is just 25 minutes.”

This measure, he explained, has lasted for over three months and there were plans to sustain it for additional months. “We have been able to reduce the traffic to a reasonable standard. And at this time, one can leave Ikoyi and arrive at  Apapa  within 25 minutes. And that was in the last three months. This was not the issue before now. We are aiming to achieve better traffic time for the residents in the state.”

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