…As former PTT vice-chairman, Opeifa, bags PhD in transport and logistics
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Barring any last-minute changes in plans, Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu is expected to conduct an inspection in Apapa port area on Monday, December 28, 2020, to assess the chaotic traffic gridlock which has paralyzed both human and vehicular activities in the axis for several years.
However, the inspection which is expected to proffer solution with succour to road users is coming after 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 in Lagos State by heavy-duty trucks clogging the major highways may have been on for several years without solution even with the setting up of the recently disbanded Presidential Task Team, PTT, chaired by Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibajo and Vice-chair, Comrade Kayode Opeifa, with the mandate to restore law and order to Apapa ports and environ.
Recall that since assumption of office Sanwo-Olu had visited the area twice with the view to find solution to chaotic gridlock in the area occasioned by activities of truckers accessing the ports.
Vanguard gathered on Sunday from the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Gboyega Akosile, that Sanwo-Olu, will be conducting an inspection tour of the area with the view to finding a practical solution to the chaotic gridlock in the area.
The last time Sanwo-Olu visited the area was on August 9, 2020, where he set out on a five-hour tour of projects and infrastructure being developed on the Apapa corridor to ease traffic congestion in the area.
During the tour, a poser raised by the Governor on why container-laden trucks usually disregard the State’s traffic laws and park on roads generated heated arguments among terminal operators, Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) and Maritime Transport Unions and Associations (COMTUA).
In the ensuing blame game, Sanwo-Olu expressed disapproval of the truck drivers’ action and the failure of the NPA to enforce extant regulations preventing trucks not yet approved for loading to park indiscriminately on the highways.
The Governor stressed the need to overhaul the terminal system at the ports, noting that there was no reason for the trucks to park on the highways if their dedicated terminals were operational.
He disclosed that the State Government had made a request to the Federal Government to prevail on the concessionaire that will be operating the 700-truck capacity Lilypond Terminal at Apapa to open the facility for use without further delay.
Sanwo-Olu also during the last tour revealed that the State Government had donated additional 30 hectares of land in Ijora area as part of the solutions initiated to address the problem, noting that the land would expand the holding capacity of the Lilypond terminal.
However, apparently, due to COVID-19 outbreak and Endsars saga, the plan has not materialized until this moment.
Sanwo-Olu said then: “Today, I have taken time to personally inspect some projects being developed both by the Federal and State governments to improve traffic around Constain, Iganmu, Apapa and Mile areas. The projects are initiated specifically to address the chaos created mainly by indiscriminate parking of trailers along the routes.
“Already, there is an ongoing rehabilitation work on Marine Bridge, where a stretch has completely been scarified.
“There is also a Lilypond Terminal, a major holding bay for heavy-duty trucks, which has not been operated after it was transferred to a concessionaire. We are aware that the concessionaire is meant to complete an agreement with NPA on the transfer of the facility. But, while this is being done, the Lagos Government has donated 30 hectares of land in Ijora to raise the capacity of the Lilypond Terminal.
“These steps will be part of the solution of taking the trucks off the Apapa highways. When the rehabilitation work on Marine Bridge is completed in another four months, there will be an improvement in journey time towards Apapa.
“We will also be having a meeting with various stakeholders operating at the port, including the truck owners. The system needs a total overhaul. We need to agree and formalise the matrix of the trucks’ movement in and out of the port.”
The Governor also decried the failure of the truck drivers to make use of over 30 holding bays around the port area, including the 320-capacity Tin Can Transit Park.
He stressed that the gridlock created by the indiscriminate parking of trailers had impacted negatively on the businesses environment on the axis, stressing that the menace had endangered the lives of people living on the corridor.
Sanwo-Olu observed that the volume of maritime business being carried out in Apapa and Tin Can Island ports had outgrown their capacities. He said the State Government had started building another port in Lekki in collaboration with the NPA to serve as an alternative and ease the pressure on the two ports in Apapa.
The Governor who admitted that the Apapa needed a complete regeneration, said, he had responded to the challenge with the re-construction work currently going on in the area.
He said: “We need to set out our activities in a methodical order and see how we redevelop Apapa. There is massive road construction that is going on in Apapa and the work is extensive.
“We are using concrete for roads that are being rebuilt. Liverpool and Creek roads have already been completed. By October 2019, all the road network leading in and out of the port area would be opened up for public use.
“My message to our citizens residing and working on this corridor is that, we have assessed the issues and we will be meeting with various operators and stakeholders.
“We will fashion out how we will all work collaboratively to bring about an efficient system that will deliver permanent solution and diffuse the gridlock. This, we hope, will bring life back to Apapa.”
Unfortunately, residents are still waiting for the fulfilment of the promises.
The Governor moved to inspect a failed section of Mile 2 Interchange along Lagos-Badagry Expressway, where the State Government cleared 70 trucks of waste materials from the road drainage.
Sanwo-Olu promised that repair work would commence on it soon, while he appealed to residents to desist from clogging the drainage with waste.
Instructively, Sanwo-Olu had earlier on May 30, 2019, during inspection to Apapa noted that the traffic problem in Apapa and environs it’s multi-faceted and required the joint efforts by the Federal, State and stakeholders to find a lasting solution.
Sanwo-Olu who had earlier promised to tackle the Apapa traffic gridlock in the first 60 days of assumption, assured residents that short term solution was, however, around the corner then.
According to him, “We have met with security officers and operators on ground. We have seen the problem is multi-faceted. It is more than one company that can bring solution to it.”
Opeifa bags PhD on transportation and logistics
Meantime, the Vice chairman of the recently disbanded PTT, Opeifa has bagged a Doctorate Degree, PhD from the Lagos State University LASU, School of Transport on Transportation and Logistics.
Dr Opeifa who confirmed this to Vanguard gave God the glory and expressed gratitude to Federal and State Governments for the support in achieving successes at restoring sanity to Apapa and it’s environs.
While given an assessment on the current traffic situation in Apapa as compared to what it was 12 months back Dr. Opeifa said, “Government has achieved a lot.”
“Also, we achieved a lot more, in terms of understanding”, Opeifa stated, noting that the desired positive response from stakeholders actually became better, especially only later.
Asked to comment on a recent media report that he carpeted both the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council over inefficiency and extortion, Dr Opeifa totally discountenanced it.
“God forbid. It is not true at all!. Not only the fact that I enjoy access to both the NPA Managing Director, Hadiza Bala and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council Chief Executive Officer, Hassan Bello; but they are my personal friends.
According to him, when he read the report he declined to write a rebuttal because those concerned would also not believe it.
Asked if he was aware that the PTT inability to enter the port to manage gridlock often resulted into challenges that elongated to the roads, he insisted that he was satisfied with the ways the PTT officials managed the spillover.
“Expectedly, but we managed the spillover effect and never allowed it to get to gridlock situation. We have a traffic management plan that resolves such; or any traffic incidence or gridlock situation within 2 hours; and at most six hours, assuming a serious recovery operation is required.
“We are not expected to get into issues outside our mandate even though on many occasions we have to move into the Port to get APMT, TICT, Port, and Cargo up to speed”, Dr Opeifa maintained.