By our reporters
…Hoodlums take advantage; rob stranded motorists, pedestrians, by day and night
Against the back drop of the intractable Apapa-Oshodi gridlock, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said he was saddened by the chaotic situation.
President Buhari had two months ago given an order that the Apapa gridlock which has become a nightmare be immediately cleared.
Also on May 22, this year, the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, issued an order directing a special task team to, within two weeks, clear the gridlock that had made Apapa ports and its environs difficult to access.
The directive according to a statement by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, was after a meeting the Vice-President earlier had with relevant stakeholders on April 25, this year.
However, more than four weeks after the directive was issued,the gridlock still persisted, prompting the Presidency to extend the directive by another two weeks.
But speaking while receiving members of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Buhari lamented the development, observing that the situation remains a challenge.
He said the Federal Government was working with Lagos State Government to end the menace.
According to him, “I must admit the Apapa gridlock still remains a challenge. It saddens me that businesses have had to suffer as a result of this. We are doing our very best working with the Lagos State Government to bring an end to this issue.”
President Buhari assured of the Federal Government’s continuous support to the private sector, stressing that in the last four years, the government had invested heavily in infrastructure and also supported banks to provide loans to traders.
He also said the government signed executive orders to support local content and had focused on ease of doing business with a view to aiding investments.
Meanwhile, the unending gridlock on the busy expressway has degenerated into an unbearable situation, with motorists remaining in a standstill position for the better part of yesterday. The situation which has evidently overwhelmed the Presidential Task Team led by Mr Kayode Opeifa, with CP Hakeem Odumosu leading the enforcement, saw motorists abandoning their vehicles and trekking right from Jakande bus-stop, to as far as Sunrise Bus Stop. Chauffeur-driven motorists also do same.
This is because the only accessible service lane had been blocked by trucks. Commercial motorcycles popularly called okada, which turned out to be the only means of movement along the route were also trapped.
In a bid to make quick turn over, commercial motorcyclists, make use of the available pedestrian pavement, thereby worsening the matter for the already exhausted pedestrians, who were forced to wait at one end for the line of motorcycles to pass.
A pedestrian’s attempt to break the chain of motorcycle movement having waited for a while, caused an accident at Otto Wolff, inward Apapa, as one of the oncoming motorcyclists lost balance and fell, in an attempt to avoid hitting the pedestrian. This caused an altercation that would have degenerated into an ethnic fight, but for the timely intervention of passers-by.
Truck drivers blame task team
Some aggrieved truck drivers blamed members of the task team as the cause of the worsening traffic situation.
One of them, Segun Timileyin, said: “ Task team is the cause of this situation. Before this new task team came up, the queue was moving. But since this set assumed duty, they would collect money from several trucks at once, and when it is time to release them, they allow them to come out at the same time.
“That is not to say that the previous task force was not collecting money from us. But what they did was to coordinate us well by giving us cards with number. Thereafter, they would allow us to come batch by batch. But in this case, there is no coordination.
“At times, some drivers would not get access into the ports or tank farms, the same day they paid. By the next day, the number of trucks and tankers would have accumulated, and before you know it, everyone would be rushing to take his turn in front.
“It is even worse as from 6pm because these drivers would park right on the walkway , thereby depriving other road users access. At this point, there is nothing you would tell them to pacify them to leave that place because money had been collected from them. Yes, I am also a driver and same thing applies to me”, he said.
Some truck drivers also called for the need for the task team to be scrapped. One of them, Adamu Hassan, who claimed to have been at a spot at Second Rainbow for over a week, said: “The Task Team should be scrapped for all I care. I have been at a spot for over one week without any movement because the owner of the truck did not give me money to pay the task team officials, whereas , those behind have long left because they did the needful.
“It was this same task force that made the soldiers to be driven away from here, so as to have time to milk us dry. Unfortunately, they do not have the magic wand to solve the problem. So, the task force should also be scrapped.”
Robbers hijack situation
Stranded commuters are further grieved by activities of robbers who have hijacked the traffic situation, especially between Otto Wharf and Mile 2.
These hoodlums, some of who are armed, attack motorists both in the day and at night , dispossessing them of cash, mobile phones and other valuables. Some motorists had their windscreens shattered by these ruthless hoodlums in a bid to gain access into their vehicles. Most commuters had their phones snatched while making calls.
As at yesterday, over 30 persons had been attacked on that route in one week. Among them were some staff of Vanguard. For instance, Vanguard’s Education Correspondent, Mr Dayo Adesulu, had his phone snatched from him last week Thursday at Mile 2.
Investigation shows that these hoodlums usually sit on the pavement by the walkway at Mile 2, waiting for the slightest opportunity to attack their victims. They also accost commuters standing or walking towards commercial buses, dispossessing them of their valuables.
After snatching valuables from victims, the hoodlums would escape through the parked trucks. These parked trucks also served as haven for them as unsuspecting persons attempting to cross to the other side to board buses to their respective destinations, were attacked.
A female Vanguard‘s Health Correspondent, Chioma Obinna, was also victim, as her phone was snatched while she attempted to pass through the trucks to Otto Wolff. In her confused state, she chased the thief, shouting at the same time, to alert passers-by. But on second thought, she retreated, on realising that the path between the trucks was dark.
Another victim of these recalcitrant thieves was one of Vanguard’s lawyers. In his case, he was accosted by three strange faces as he attempted to cross through the parked trucks from the Berger yard end. In his case, these hoodlums ordered him to be calm and bring out everything in his pocket, threatening to deal ruthlessly with him if he acted otherwise.
However, investigation showed that about 30 suspected traffic robbers operating along the route had been arrested by the Police, in two weeks. But the arrest seemed not to have stopped the hoodlums from doing what they know how to do best.
coordinate us well by giving us cards with number. Thereafter, they would allow us to come batch by batch. But in this case, there is no coordination.
At times, some drivers would not get access into the port or tank farms, same day they paid. By the next day, the number of trucks and tanks would have accumulated . before you know it, everyone would be rushing to take his turn in front. It is even worse as from 6pm because these drivers would pack right on the walkway , thereby depriving other road users access. At this point, there is nothing you would tell them to pacify them to leave that place because money had been collected from them. Yes, I am also a driver and same thing applies to me”.
Some truck drivers also called for the need for the task force to be scrapped. Another truck driver, Adamu Hassan, who claimed to have been at same spot at Second Rainbow, said, “ The Task Force should be scrapped for all I care. I have been at a spot for over one week without any movement because owner of the truck did not give me money to pay the taskforce members, whereas , those behind have long left because they did the needful.
It was this same task force that made the soldiers to be driven away from here, so as to have time to milk us dry. Unfortunately, they do not have the magic wand to solve the problem. So, the task team should also be scrapped “.