By Godwin Oritse & Godfrey Bivbere
The Presidency and stakeholders at Apapa ports have disagreed over the pace of work in the area.
While the Presidency commended the pace of work by contractors handling the roads leading to and from Apapa ports and its environment, the stakeholders said it wasn’t true, insisting gridlock was still very much around in the area.
However, a statement by the Presidency after a virtual meeting attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and other stakeholders, noted the stages of critical road infrastructure.
Some of the roads include Apapa Wharf Road, completed; 1.4km Liverpool Road, almost completed but open for public use; 2.9km Creek Road, almost completed, but open for public use; Apapa-Oshodi Expressway from Tin Can Port Gate 1 to Mile 2, at advanced stage of completion, and Tin Can Island Transit Truck Park, completed and now in use.
The statement, signed by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity in the Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, noted that besides the issue of road constructions, other development includes the adoption of a call-up system for trucks at Lagos ports, which is at advanced stage and would soon be deployed.
Akande noted that while responding to the Vice President’s inquiry about the renovation of the rail line to the port, Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, who was also at the meeting, said the COVID-19 pandemic had altered the pace of work, but that work would resume soon on the rail line.
On the efficiency of cargo inspection at the ports, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali(retd), said three scanners approved by the Federal Government would soon be procured and installed at Apapa Port to improve the service’s efficiency.
The presidential spokesman pointed out that the Customs boss added that plans were underway to have over 300 more scanners installed at other critical entry points of the country, when the National Single Trade Window comes into full swing.
Meanwhile, the Shippers’ Association Lagos State, SALS, has said that the ongoing road construction and provision of truck parks would not solve the traffic gridlock in and around the port town of Apapa, noting that government’s action was like scratching the surface as they neglected the major cause of the traffic.
The Association attributed the cause of the gridlock to the refusal of shipping lines to take back empty containers.
Speaking with Vanguard, President of the Association, Jonathan Nicol, said the traffic situation would be solved when the shipping lines begin to take back their empty containers.
He stated: “Construction of these roads will not solve the problem. They have not really got to the cause of the traffic and until they have got that, they have not done anything.
”They should go and find out why they have not taken delivery of containers. If you like get 200 truck parks, as long as the shipping lines refuse to take their containers, it will not work.
“If you do not evacuate empty containers, you will still have the problem.”
On Truck Transit Parks, TTP, Nicol said the only way it could work as well as reduce cost is to make provision for the empty containers to be discharged at the port terminals.
He added that as long as the trucks continued to pay demurrage on empty containers they carry, they would continue to avoid making use of the transit parks.
Similarly, President of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMATO, Remi Ogungbemi, said whatever the government has said about the smooth access into the ports through Mile 2 to Tin Can Island Port and Apapa Ports in Lagos was just their opinion.
Ogungbemi told Vanguard that what the Presidency said about access to the ports without hitches, was a far cry from what truckers experience on daily basis.
Ogungbemi said he was tired of talking about the problem, adding that he would rather find and talk about the solutions which his group was already working on.
He said: “It is their opinion; everybody is entitled to his or her opinion. From my own perspective, and from all that have been happening, we do not want to talk about the problem anymore.
“Right now, we have resolved to talk about the solution and we have got the solution, but those that are benefitting from the mess will always say everything is in order.
“But all I know is that things are not in order. I want to be more concerned about the solution.”
In his reaction, Mr. Leye Thompson, President of Amalgamated Container Truck Owners, said the Wharf end of the road leading into the port was not completely free, as snail pace construction work was still going on.
Thompson said accessing the ports through Wharf Road was not 100 percent okay yet, due to slow pace of construction work.