By Kingsley Adegboye & Olasunkanmi Akoni

Tthe effort of the federal government in conjunction with Lagos state government to sanitise Apapa and its environs, and ensure free flow of traffic into and out of Apapa, the economic nerve centre and financial hub of Nigeria, may drag longer than expected, and this why commuters, motorists and residents of Apapa cannot heave a sigh of relief yet.

This is because Vanguard’s visit to Apapa, starting from Berger Yard of the Oahodi-Apapa Expressway yesterday, showed the terrible state of the ever busy expressway into and out of Apapa as a result of neglect of decades.

Our findings revealed that the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway which links the Murtala Muhammed International Airport with two of the nation’s busiest seaports of Apapa Wharf and Tin Can Island has failed beyond imagination at several locations which now causes pools of stagnant ‘lagoons’ on the dual carriageway.

The craters on the express have caused truck drivers, commuters, motorists and cyclists to make use of the service lane which condition is not as deplorable as the express. This is why vehicular movement into Apapa is sluggish and takes hours to navigate the chaotic traffic.

The condition of the road appears worsen as one moves more into Apapa, because after Coconut area, a truck driver can wait for over an hour before he can move for a few second and stop. This situation is like this to Tin Can port. For the trucks going to Apapa port through Creek Road, the situation is even worse, as Creek Road is being reconstructed to Tin Can Island.

The worst portions are Berger Yard under bridge, Sunrise, Coconut area and Tin Can. These failed sections have particularly worsened the agonies of motorists and commuters on the expressway in the last few days, with traffic stretching several kilometres and lasting throughout the day.

With the increasing flood, the road has become a no-go area for smaller cars and buses which could not wade through the flood. Even the failed parts of the road have also continued to increase in size as the flood washes off most parts of the road.

As it is now, only trailers and heavy trucks with big tyres and axles could afford to wade through the road and it takes them over six hours or more to go through the distance of about one kilometre. The effect of the flood however has taken a toll on businesses along the axis as many shop owners had to close down.

Meanwhile, the Federal task team on the restoration of law and order as well as clean-up Apapa environs ended it’s two-week operation last Friday, with some level of sanity recorded, eventhough truckers are still holding sway on the ever busy Apapa/Oshodi Expressway.

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Vice-Chairman of the team, comrade Kayode Opeifa, who briefed the media shortly after the media tour of Apapa ports access roads and environs to assess the work of the task team after two weeks of operation, expressed satisfaction with the operation.

Opeifa, who expressed satisfaction over the performance of the team in the last two weeks, called on stakeholders and the public for their support and cooperation in order to engender sustainable sanity, and free flow of traffic in the axis.

Recall that, following persistent gridlock around Apapa axis, particularly, Apapa/Oshodi Expressway, President Muhammadu Buhari issued a 72 hour ultimatum for removal of all trucks and trailers off the roads and two weeks for restoration of law and order around Apapa Ports and environs.

He enumerated terms of reference of the task team to include: Restoration of law and order to Apapa Ports and environs, decongestion of all impediments in the axis, elimination of extortionist tendencies among security operatives and port operators, ensure removal of trucks from bridges and road and creation of access roads for other motorists, introduction of electronic call up system for truckers, building of more capacity to serve as loading bays for Apapa Port and Tin-Can Port, among others.

He said the team was able to achieve about 100 per cent of terms of reference which included short, medium and long term solutions.

According to him, “We have been able to eliminate the issue of extortion levelled against the military task force earlier set up for management of traffic in the axis. You can take a check round and ask the truckers and port operators, they will tell you things have changed for the good. The achievement was however, due to support and cooperation of all stakeholders of which I can’t practically mention because they are numerous.

“Therefore, I am using this opportunity to appeal to stakeholders and members of the public to sustain and even improve on the present sanity, orderliness, and free flow of traffic in Apapa and environs in the interest of Lagosians, general public and Nigeria as a whole”, Opeifa said.

Acknowledging the fact that there were still some challenges facing traffic situation along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, which he attributed to poor condition of access roads as well as portions of the dual carriageway, Opeifa added that some unscrupulous group of individuals he described as saboteurs were equally responsible for the chaos experienced on the expressway, as they used the traffic situation to benefit themselves.

According to him, “From Ijora- Olopa to Apapa Ports, we were able to achieve 100 percent compliance of what we were expected to achieve in terms of  eliminating extortion,  removal of trucks from the bridges, deployment of effective traffic management plan, giving an effective and efficient transport management direction as well as deploying appropriate call up system.

“It is predicated upon the availability and full operation of Lilypond from terminal. Lilypond truck terminal is available, courtesy of NPA, which is now used as call-up centre. However, we have not been able to operate 24 hours from Lilypond for now because they are still fixing the flood light and security, and as soon as that is completed, we will be able to operate 24 hours. This is just a matter of days.

“Now, from top of Marine Bridge to Lilypond, empty containers can be moved there. We have identified some truck parks around the port areas which we call approved truck parks where truck drivers can sleep with maximum capacity of 300 trucks. The charges range between N1,000 and N3,000 per day with all facilities of conveniences. This is better than the extortion that we had before now.

“We noticed that we still have trucks from Marine Bridge to ports. That is a port access road. The ideal thing is not to allow any truck now but for the period we are now, we are pushing trucks faster so that Lilypond does not run out of capacity. If we do not push those trucks out, it will get out of capacity and no other trucks will be able to enter. These are some of the effective traffic management direction. The trucks you see there are to keep left lane.

“Some of them are going to Apapa Port, while some are going to Tin-Can Port. Those going to Apapa Port will use Creek road access, which is under reconstruction. Creek road to Tin Can Port is also under construction. Tin-Can port will accommodate about 1,000 empty containers and they told us they cannot strain themselves beyond it.

“But beyond that, we also have other port terminals which are handling other goods like ABTL and Apapa port terminals which are used to service Folawiyo products. They bring in raw material to produce finished products and sell to Nigerians. That port is operating on its own and all its operation go through the same port gate. It is like a border post, you can’t create too many gates.

“We also have Green Deal, GDNL, servicing Dangote sugar, flour, salt and others. They are not having issues of trucks on the road because they have their trucks in Ogere and move en-mass to their own terminal.

“The trucks we are still seeing on the roads are the empty container returning trucks. And one of our terms of references is to work with NPA to develop an arrangement on return of empty containers handling policy. The major reason truckers stay on the road is that the truck drivers are working for freight forwarders and operators, and they want beat demurrage from demurrage collectors who are the shipping companies.

“The Shippers Council, Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, and office of the Vice President are working on that to make sure that the demurrage is reduced so that it will no longer put operators under any pressure.

“So, it’s a holistic approach. Federal Ministry of Works is working on the bad portions of the road to make it motorable. And Lagos State Government has graciously, released the full potential of LASTMA men through executive order by the governor who himself had visited the area.

“Also, with the release of Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps, LSNSC, we have been able to clear illegal occupiers under the Marine Bridge for restoration of sanity. All these are captured under the ease of doing business by all stakeholders including, realtors, hoteliers, residents, motorists and others to be able to run their businesses and make good returns on their investments.

“We once had wharf rats, they used to create problems at the ports, and Nigerian government has solved that, how come we will not solve the menace of truckers. We will solve it in a way that every stakeholder and Nigerians will be happy at the end of the day”, Opeifa assured.

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