***To inaugurate special team next week
***Summons stakeholders’ meeting with NPA, unions, others
***Vows to eliminate extortionist cabal, corruption by port operators
***As truck drivers protest alleged extortion by police
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday, announced the setting up of a special team by the state government to takeover traffic management of Apapa from the disbanded Presidential Task Team, PTT, with the aim of restoring sanity to the perennial gridlock in the area.
Sanwo-Olu, said a stakeholders’ meeting, involving representatives of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, haulage transport unions, port operators among others will be convened next week to work out means of solving the protracted traffic gridlock in Apapa as well as having a more efficient, effective port operations in the general interest of the publics.
The Governor made the remarks, when he led delegation of the state Executive Council members and stakeholders on a first hand assessment of traffic situation in Apapa ports and environ which lasted for about two hours.
He inspected places such as: Lilypond truck terminal, Wharf Road, Apapa Port, and Tincan Port, Truck Park, all within Apapa environ.
The inspection followed the disbandment of PTT by the Federal Government, as well as several outcries by members of the public over perennial traffic gridlock which has left residents and workers in the area hapless.
Hoodlums and traffic armed robbers have always cash in on the situation to unleash their nefarious activities on innocent citizens by dispossessing them of their valuables and sometimes maiming their victims.
The disturbing gridlock created along Apapa corridor has day died all known logic, even with the setting up of the PTT, chaired by Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibajo and Vice-chaired, Comrade Kayode Opeifa, with the mandate to restore law and order to Apapa ports and environ.
Sanwo-Olu, while addressing the media and a hordes of truck drivers at Tincan Port, in the newly constructed Truck Park, decried the level of indiscipline among port players with the promise to tackle head-on and eliminate the cabal behind series of extortions been perpetrated by some officials and security personnel in Apapa environ.
The Governor, said as part of efforts to resolve the knotty issues around Apapa gridlock, a stakeholders meeting has been slated for next week.
According to him, “This is not the first time, certainly not the second and infact this is about the third or the fourth time in my Government that we are trying to see how we bring better solution to Apapa gridlock.
”On all of the time we have come, we knew that we are having a road construction but you can see now that inside Apapa, there is significant progress in this area particularly on the road construction site. A lot of road has been done.
“Today (Monday) even being the public holiday it is even difficult for us to say that we have achieved a 100 per cent traffic free flow into Apapa.
“And we have all heard all the complaints from the various stakeholders, the unions, freight forwarders, drivers, everyone has said there own side of the story and you can see that it is multifaceted.
“There has been accusations around cabal collecting money from operators and accusations around being hijacked by some people and there are also counter accusation.
“What are we solving at the end of the day. We are trying to bring about a cohesive metrics where all the stakeholders in Apapa understand and appreciate the various role that everybody needs to play and let everybody identify and solve it.
“You’re are aware that since last year the PTT had been working. Now, there is a process that is starting in which the State Government need to take over that task force. One of the reason for this trip is to start that process, to see things for myself.
“The state government is to set up a seamless operation to have a team of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, about 400 to 500, dedicated to Apapa gridlock; have a team of police men from Area B dedicated to the same gridlock. We understand what the port police command is doing, because they are also part of the problem.
“More importantly, to be able to speak to all the big men in the office, the ship owners, the port terminal operators, freight forwarders, who are not here with the port drivers who we see that they are the one carrying the brunt.
“So, when somebody is supposed to deliver a container and he is being charged a demurrage, that can not be a working operations, it’s not fair.
“When it takes eight to ten hours for operation to handover to another team. For that whole eight to 10 hours the ports are locked, the trucks cannot come in because someone is just trying to take over
“For me, is to be in the heart of it, be inside and understand what the issues are and I have seen it again and will go back to see and plot a template.”
Sanwo-Olu gave assurance to escalate some of the issues to the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Muhammed Adamu, and have a conversation with the Minister of Transport, Ritimi Ameachi and get NPA to understand what their roles are.
He continued: “As a government, we don’t own the port, but we have a responsibility to our citizens. The turn around here is the most expensive turn around port that you have.
“I am hoping that this trip will give us another opportunity to resolve this issue, identify the roadblocks.”
On extortion allegations against the police, Sanwo-Olu said, “I have said to them, give me the evidence of those people that are collecting money from you. That is also important.
“We are determined to make people scape goats. It is part of ensuring that we reduce the ease of doing process of businesses.
“It is a process and we can not say we have all the solutions but we have seen the process again we have seen that we can improve this process and we have identified the stakeholders.
“We need to also go back and see how we can normalize those things and understand that we have a problem here and we have to solve the problem.”