By Mike Ebonugwo
APPARENTLY disturbed by the albatross that the perennial gridlock around the Lagos Ports, especially the traffic congestion in Apapa, has become, the Presidency has at last taken the bull by the horn in its bid to find a lasting solution to the intractable problem. To this effect, it had on Wednesday issued a 72-hour ultimatum to truck and tanker operators to vacate the Port Access Roads in that axis.
According to a directive from the Presidency, a Presidential Task Force chaired by the Vice President has been established to ensure that the order is carried out.
One should expect that government action in this regard, is sure to elicit sighs of relief from motorists and other road users in the trucks-besieged area. It is an area often described as an axis of unending traffic nightmare and suffering.
But with the benefit of past government interventions that failed woefully to achieve the objective of ending the siege of trucks and tankers in the area, there are strong misgivings that this latest move may only achieve limited or no solution.
Indeed, before now several intermittent interventions by the Federal Government, the Lagos State government and some private stakeholders had provided a ray of hope for an end to the confusion arising from the traffic gridlock in Apapa and environs.
Unfortunately this government/stakeholders partnership to find a lasting solution to the lingering problem consistently failed to achieve its objective.
In the light of this, the question now is: Who will enforce the Presidential directive?
Recall that last July the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway was invaded and seized by 5000 trucks which totally paralysed traffic in the area with attendant untold suffering for motorists, commuters and other road users.
And following public outcry, the Vice President had made an unscheduled visit to the area to assess the situation after which he directed relevant government agencies to immediately embark on the decongestion of the popular road. He had also immediately set up a task force to carry out the order. Vanguard had followed up with a report which put the number of tankers and container-laden trucks illegally parked in Apapa and other parts of Lagos at over 12,337 after on-the-spot counting of these heavy-duty vehicles.
Although Osinbajo’s evacuation order was promptly carried out as the relevant security agencies moved into action by forcefully removing several trucks off the road, but the relief was short-lived.
This is because not quite long after, the entire stretch of the road within that axis, including the inner roads within Apapa and environs, was again invaded and seized by another armada of heavy-duty vehicles. The situation has remained so ever since.
This is because, in spite of repeated warnings by chairman of the Joint Task Force, Rear Admiral Okon Eyo, the drivers of these trucks have continued to park illegally on roads and bridges within the Apapa axis and even beyond.
Different observers have attributed the situation to a conflict of interest among the different security agencies such as the army, navy, police that make up the task force, with some of them alleging that truck drivers only resort to parking indiscriminately after bribing security agents on duty at any particular time.
The allegation is that once a certain amount of money has been paid by the drivers, the security agents look the other way, while trucks are parked illegally, thus obstructing or disrupting the flow of traffic in the process.
The feeling is that since past directives had repeatedly been enforced in the breach, what guarantee is there that a task force made up of operatives of the same security agencies will perform any better this time around?