March 19, 2021

DAY 4 OF APAPA GRIDLOCK: Confusion as touts hijack e-Call-Up system

  • Lagos traffic team yet to commence enforcement

  • Truncated road project, tank farm operations ground movement

  • Customs, touts clash in Mile-2, Ijora

  • Council raises alarm over spike in criminalities in Apapa

  • Seeks stakeholders’ cooperation on new system

By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Kingsley Adeboye, Godwin Oritse, Godfrey Bivbere, Bose Adelaja & Esther Onyegbula

THE chaotic traffic situation on Oshodi-Apapa Expressway got worse, yesterday, as motorists and commuters were trapped in the gridlock for several hours following indiscriminate parking of trucks along the road.

There was, however, strong indication that the on-going dual port access road construction is responsible for the current chaotic gridlock in the area.

The road construction is being undertaken by the Federal Government, in collaboration with Dangote Group and Messers HITECH Construction Company.

Unfortunately, the construction has been halted at Sunrise area.

As a result of this, miscreants and touts have also cashed in on the situation to extort truckers trying to access the depots and the port.

Hijack of e-Call-Up system

The traffic build-up extended from Berger Yard area beyond Ijesha Bus stop along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway yesterday.

Residents and commuters were in anguish as activities of truck and tanker drivers paralysed traffic movement along the axis, despite the introduction of an electronic Call-Up System in the port operation.

The trucks had on Monday stormed Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and Ijora-Apapa highways, following report of failure of e-Call up a system to accommodate all stakeholders and crash of software, resulting in total gridlock.

The situation got worse as law enforcement agents abandoned traffic control to miscreants and officials of port unions.

It was observed that no official of the newly created Lagos State Special Traffic Management Enforcement Team was seen at the gridlock points.

Abandoned road construction 

Speaking at Apapa Stakeholders’ Forum on Traffic and Security, being organized by Apapa Local Government, held on Thursday, participants blamed the gridlock on Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, on abandoned portion of the road at Sunrise and the improvised intersection at Otto Wolf area as part of hindrances on the road.

“The road construction by Dangote Group from the Liverpool has been halted at the Sunrise area, making the rest of the road inward Mile-2 impassable to trucks. Any truck driver who dares to venture to ply the road risk been stuck or have the truck overturned,” stated by Mr. Austin George, a haulage worker.

Section 2, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway yet to be awarded—Investigation

Investigations by  Vanguard  revealed that section 2 of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, between SunRise and Cele which has not been awarded for reconstruction by the Federal Government in partnership with Dangote Group has been identified as the major cause of the gridlock in the axis.

When the dual carriageway, which comprises sections 1, 2 and 3 was awarded to Dangote Group, section 2 was not included in the contract.

The sections awarded to Dangote, were 1 which begins from Liverpool axis to Sun Rise, and 3 which starts from Cele down to Oshodi, Gbagada and ends at the old toll gate by 7-Up along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

However, explaining why section 2 had been neglected till the moment, the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos State, Engr. Olukayode Popoola, said work was yet to begin on the section because the section was under procurement and had not been awarded. But he disclosed that papers for the award of the section were being worked on.

Earlier, in continuation of efforts to find a solution to ports activities that have plagued Apapa and its environs with daily traffic gridlock, the Lagos State Government, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Nigeria Police Force, NPF, and Truck Transit Park,TTP, had resolved to adopt the new e-call up a system for truck operations in and out of Apapa.

Why we adopted e-call up system—Lagos govt

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation and Chairman, Special Traffic Management Enforcement Team, Mr. Oluwatoyin Fayinka, said the resolution was reached, after thorough consideration by all parties to effectively eliminate the traffic congestion experienced in the state through ports activities.

Fayinka said: “During the meeting, held at Lilypond Terminal, the parties agreed to commence e-call up the system from Saturday, February 27, 2021, as the existing call up for trucks will be discontinued due to its inefficiency to manage truckers operations in and out of the ports.

“It was also jointly agreed upon that by Friday, February 26, 2021, all articulated vehicles will be prevented from entering Apapa and its environs and subsequently by Saturday, February 27, 2021, trucks in and around the ports access roads are all expected to have vacated the corridors, with strong warnings for truck owners and drivers to adhere to the resolutions to prevent punitive measures from the government which include impoundment.”

He advised all stakeholders involved, especially truck owners, to cooperate with the state government as it makes consolidated efforts to create ease of movement for the citizenry as well as enhance business activities in the axis.

NARTO blames tank farm owners

Vice-Chairman, National Association of Road Transport Owners,  NARTO, in Lagos State,  Abdullahi Inuwa, also blamed the gridlock, around the Cocoanut–Mile 2 end of the port access road, to the activities of the tank farms, tanker drivers, and the slow pace of the road construction along that route.

Speaking with Vanguard, Inuwa said that the e-call system seemed to be failing because the tanker drivers heading for the various tank farms in that axis are presently not part of the e-call up system.

He noted that the problem is mostly around the Cocoanut–Mile 2, stressing that it does not affect the Tin-can port directly.

The NARTO boss stressed that the Lagos traffic team in the last two weeks has visited the Tin-can axis about three times.

On why the team is not taking its operation to the Cocoanut–Mile 2 axis, he said it is as a result of the construction presently going-on.

On why the tanker drivers are not part of the e-call up system, Inuwa said: “It is the duty of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, who are the initiators of the e-call up system to involve the tanker drivers.”

Similarly, the  President of the Council of Maritime Transport Unions and Associations,  COMTUA, Olaleye Thompson told  Vanguard  that there was a meeting of all the relevant associations and unions at the port yesterday to address the problem.

Thompson said: “We are holding a meeting concerning that area you are talking about because the team has been disbanded; we just want to set up a new team to start work.

“The committee will comprise all the unions and associations that are operating in the port, so that they can all work together, including  the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas, NUPENG, Workers. The team is expected to commence work on Monday.”

Miscreants hijack system

Meanwhile, some community boys have taken over traffic management on the Mile to Cocoa-nut end of the Apapa–Oshodi Expressway, thereby, compounding the chaotic traffic situation.

Speaking to  Vanguard, the Managing Director of the MOB integrated Services Limited, operators of the Tin-Can Truck Park, Mr. Tokunbo Ezekwe, said that the community boys, called “Touts” do not recognize the e-call tickets issued to drivers to get into the ports to pick up containers.

Ezekwe said: “Until the Lagos State Government makes a scapegoat of some people on that axis, these community boys that have turned themselves to illegal traffic managers, the situation will remain the same.”

Besides, he said: “There are Brawal Community boys, we have the Cocoanut Community Boys that have taken charge of traffic control in that axis. That has brought untold hardship on both residents and commuters in and around Apapa city.”

Truckers pay N150,000 to get access

It was gathered that the least at least truckers pay N150,000 to get access.

The touts were alleged to be working for policemen, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, and other security agents who  often sit under a canopy at strategic points between Fatgbems Filling Station and Berger Yard area.

President of the Association of Maritime Transport Owners, AMATO, Mr. Remi Ogungbemi, lamented the return of the gridlock,  saying: “The management Transit Truck Park Limited, TTP, is trying to perfect the Wharf road of Apapa port access before moving to the Mile -2 side of the road.”

Ogungbemi said: “Until the Wharf road end is resolved, there is nothing that can be done by the traffic team about the Mile- 2 side of the road for now.”

He admitted that some challenges were facing the new system, adding that arrangements were ongoing on how to address the challenges.

“No system is perfect but the e-call-up is being managed, these challenges will be taken care of overtime.

“I know that the Transit Truck Park want to conquer Apapa axis totally before moving to Tin-Can axis and arrangement to do that is ongoing because they cannot do everything at once.”

Investigation also showed that the containerised trucks have moved from Oshodi-Apapa Expressway to Abule Ado, Mile-2 Expressway.

They have taken over the entire service lane, making it difficult for private vehicle owners and other road users going to Oshodi, Apapa to have smooth access.

Concerned motorists lamented that: “Often, times, the truck drivers connive with touts immediately after Alakija, towards Agboju to extort motorists.

“The truck drivers deliberately block the other lane trapping other motorists for hours.

“Once they see many trapped vehicles, the touts come, convince the drivers to climb the  section meant for but you will have to pay between N500 and N1000 to escape traffic.

Chaos as clearing agents, Custom officers clash in Apapa

To compound the gridlock, there was total breakdown of law and order in Apapa area yesterday, as workers, residents and road users scampered for safety, following violent clash between Nigerian Customs, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, and clearing agents.

The situation was said to have turned violent as miscreants later hijacked the situation to unleash terror on innocent people.

The clash was said to have started at Mile- 2, on Wednesday, when some Customs officers from FOU, Strike Force and Controller-General Squad attempted to impound a Toyota Corolla 2019 model.

This, however, turned violent as one person sustained gunshot injuries and was hospitalised.

According to eyewitness, the aftermath of the gunshots led to the victim’s leg being amputated on Thursday.

A worker in Apapa Tincan, Mr. Olutade Oye said “as soon as information of the amputated leg spread, some colleagues of the victim stormed the PTML Terminals, disrupted the day’s activities and chased the Customs officers present out of the offices.”

He said in retaliation, the Customs officers invited Mobile Policemen to the scene which worsened the situation. The situation was later hijacked by street urchins popularly called “Area Boys.”

He said: “We have not done any work as we were all running in different directions. The situation in Apapa is threatening our source of livelihood.”

The situation was said to have escalated and extended to Ijora, Wharf, Tincan and other places.

Similarly, commercial and vehicular activities in the axis were disrupted for hours due to gunshots.

As at the time of this report, some miscreants, armed with machetes, broken bottles and cutlasses, were spotted on Ijora Bridge.

Customs reacts

When contacted, the Deputy Superintendent of Customs, Theophilus Duniya said he could only react to the Wednesday clash while the Thursday clash did not fall under his jurisdiction.

In a statement titled: ‘Obstruction of officers on duty’, Duniya said: “At about 1338hrs of Wednesday, 16/03/2021. One of our patrol teams intercepted a Toyota SUV .On their way to the office, some hoodlums organized themselves, blocked the driver in an attempt to obstruct the movement of the vehicle to the office. They started stoning the officers and also struggled to disarm one of them.

“While acting in self defense, one of the hoodlums got injured. The team was able to demobilize the hoodlums and moved the vehicle to the office. Investigation had since commenced into the incident as directed by the Unit Controller.

Members of the public, especially the youths are once again advised not to allow themselves to be used by economic saboteurs,”

Efforts to reach the FOU spokesperson, Mr. Usman, proved abortive.

Also, efforts to get the reaction of the leader of the clearing agents, Alhaji K. Amuni was unsuccessful as he did not respond to several calls on his mobile phone.

Apapa LGA seeks stakeholders’ collaboration

Meanwhile, chairman of the Apapa Local Government Aread has urged residents, business owners and other stakeholders in Apapa to ensure that the new system put in place to ease traffic congestion in the area, works.

The council boss, Adele Elijah said this at the second stakeholders’ forum on how to find solution to traffic bottlenecks in Apapa and environs.

Elijah said: “The glaring facts are that this congestion had adversely affected the socio-economic life of our people and slow down our efforts at infrastructural development and poverty alleviation. Therefore, our goal is to make movement around Apapa stress-free.

“This is because as a team so that we can continue to discharge our responsibilities with the ultimate goal of meeting the yearnings and aspirations of our people. We therefore, seek for the cooperation of all stakeholders at this period to make the new system work by restoring order to Apapa.

He, however, said life is gradually returning to Apapa as some businesses shut down and buildings abandoned due to years of traffic logjam have stated coming back to life.

Lagos deputy gov laments truck menace

Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat has stressed the need for Nigeria to have a uniform “Combustible Standard Law” guiding tankers and articulated vehicles to protect lives and property of the citizens, loss to fire and accidents involving such vehicles.

Speaking at the commissioning of the Aerial Hydraulic Platform Mercedes Benz Fire Truck of 54 metres working height, in Lagos, yesterday, Hamzat, representing Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, noted that 45 percent of petroleum products come to Lagos, with the consequence of trucks catching fire destroying lives and properties.

Vanguard News Nigeria