By Our Reporters
Despite efforts by the government to rid Apapa and its environs of gridlock, the traffic situation particularly on Apapa/Oshodi Expressway, has remained unabated. Why? Because those who have been assigned the role of controlling the expressway that has been completely taken over by truck and tanker drivers without consideration for other roads users, have taken the advantage of the gridlock to enrich themselves, hence it is their prayer that the situation lingers in order for them to continue to exploit it.
Simply put, it is the exploitation of the gridlock task team officials for pecuniary reasons that is responsible for the aberration everybody plying the ever busy road is suffering today.
Vanguard investigations revealed that the task team officials have converted the sordid situation into a bribe taking venture. Subsequently, a number of check points have reportedly been set up from the Mile 2 Bridge for the task team officials to extort money from these frustrated truck and tanker drivers. A number of these extortion points have been identified from the Mile 2 Bridge. At these extortion points, task team officials collect between N10,000 and N15,000 from each truck driver to allow them to park around the area. Otto Wolfe bus-stop, inward Apapa, is another point of extortion by these officials. As a result, they allow truck drivers to park illegally between Berger Suya and Otto Wolfe. Berger Yard by UBA junction is another extortion point by these officials who are often clad in Military camouflage but use agents who look like miscreants who openly collect this money before truck and tanker drivers are allowed to move forward, and they are expected to park at any available space on the service lane which is the only servicing everybody on the road.
Why Mile2 inward Apapa will remain congested
Our investigation further revealed that the high level extortion which was the case during the time of Naval personnel controlling traffic at Mile 2 inward Apapa end of the Apapa/Oshodi expressway has worsened.
On the spot assessment showed that exchange of bribe between tanker drivers and proxies of the traffic controllers starts at the foot of Mile 2 bridge from Orile inward Apapa where the drivers are expected to park before the checkpoint for payment of the illegal toll.
For parking along the express before the checkpoint, the driver pays N1,000 to the agents for the period he stays to settle at the checkpoint where he is expected to part with between N7,000 and N15,000 depending on the time of the day.
The task team officials have proxies at the various checkpoints that negotiate between them and truck as well as tanker drivers. From observations and discussions with some drivers and road side hawkers, it was gathered that from the first checkpoint, a driver (some of them who are accompanied by truck owners or supervisors) pay between N10,000 and N20,000 at the checkpoint at Mile 2 Oke. It is the same thing at Port and Terminal Multi-Service Limited, PTML, at the entrance to Vanguard Media Limited, the one at the foot of the bridge leading to Berger Suya and all the way to Tin-Can Island port.
Recalled that Vanguard had exclusively reported that truck drivers had complained that they paid about N150,000 as bribe to security agents posted to control traffic between Mile 2 and Tin Can Second Gate to be allowed passage when Naval officials were posted to control traffic.
In an exclusive chat with Vanguard in Lagos, a truck manager, Ikechukwu Amago, had said there are about 10 to 12 security checkpoints between Mile 2 and Tin Can Second gate where each truck is expected to part with some amount of money before they are allowed passage.
He said the amount ranges from N10,000 to N20,000 at each security checkpoint. It was further revealed that there are cases where truck drivers are given an account number to deposit the amount for all the security checkpoints from where the money is then wired to each checkpoint. On several occasions, it has been observed that trucks are escorted by military men on motorbikes popularly referred to as “Okada” to avoid payment at the checkpoints.
At each of the checkpoints, there are civilian accomplices who take records of every truck that gets access through the point.
A source close to the leadership of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMATO, who spoke to Vanguard about the record keeping, stressed that at the end of each day it helps them reconcile and determine the sharing formula. The source revealed that each security checkpoint makes between N150,000 to N300,000 daily and that those who pay N10,000 to N20,000 are the ones that get express passage.
According to him, “There are others who follow the queue and part with N500 to N2,000. The reason the road gets blocked most of the time is that in an attempt to pilot these trucks across, too many trucks are allowed passage, resulting in the traffic logjam”.
Palliative measures not helping matters
The Apapa gridlock seems like a problem that has no end as the situation has defied every applicable solution.
From the Tin-Can Second gate end of the road, trucks have taken over every available space including the newly opened Tin-Can truck park.
From the truck call up system to the restoration of order and sanity in the axis by the Presidential Task Team headed by Mr. Kayode Opeifa to the construction of private truck parks have all failed to find solution to the gridlock .
Apart from the fact that accessing the ports has become a herculean task due to bad roads, the palliatives measures by the task team at Sun Rise seem not to have any positive effect on the gridlock. Subsequently, the work of the Task Team has come under attack as stakeholders have called for a review of the work because its effect is not felt.
NUPENG defends members
However, Lagos Zonal Chairman of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Mr. Tayo Aboyeji, has dismissed report that members of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers, PTD, branch of the union have compounded gridlock between Mile 2 and Tin Can port with their nefarious activities.
Members of the PTD have been accused of among others, of extortion and taking over of traffic management from security operatives, as well as creating several check points, or extortion points, thereby hindering the free flow of traffic.
But Aboyeji said “Yes, we have some of our task force members who assisting in easing traffic and to ensure our members obey the rules, cooperate with others to ensure free flow of traffic. They are not traffic officers and they cannot engage in extortion. Those engaging in extortion are definitely not our members. The security operatives have a duty to arrest those engaging in extortion. Those involved in the unwholesome or corrupt activities are definitely not our members”.
Stakeholders differ on the situation
Meanwhile, stakeholders have differed over solution to the gridlock, saying that lack of infrastructure within the ports became pronounced after the concessioning of the various terminals in the nation’s seaports following the abandonment of the old system which had space in the two leading ports of Apapa and Tin-Can Island for parking for trucks waiting to load.
They said each of the concessionaires fenced out their allocated areas which completely killed the old system leaving the trucks to seek parking space outside the port environment.
Some operators who spoke with Vanguard on the issue also blamed government’s lack of foresight for the current traffic problem around the port.
They noted that government failed to be futuristic in matters concerning the port, as they are only interested in collecting the huge revenue accruing from the maritime industry yearly.
They also wondered why the two truck parks at Tin-Can 2nd gate and Lilypond are not being fully utilized by the truckers and why the relevant government agencies are not enforcing their use.