ICYMI

March 6, 2024

Apapa gridlock returns as trucks shun Sanwo-Olu’s directive

APAPA GRIDLOCK

File: Gridlock as tankers shut down Apapa road.

By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Udeme Akpan

THE Oshodi-Apapa expressway and environs were yesterday, blocked, while motorists and road users were stranded for several hours because of indiscriminate parking by oil tankers and container drivers.

Motorists spent several hours in traffic from Second Rainbow down to Berger Yard, inward Coconut, and ports axis.
The development was in apparent defiance to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s vacation order against indiscriminate parking by trucks, tankers and articulated vehicles along highways and bridges in the state.

Tanker drivers practically shut down the Oshodi-Apapa expressway, causing untold pain to motorists and residents.
The Special Joint Traffic Team, recently established to manage the traffic on the directive of Governor Sanwo-Olu, as well as men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, as of 5 pm, yesterday, were not on ground to manage the situation.

Construction hindering traffic flow —Adviser, others

The Special Adviser to the Governor, on Transportation, Mr. Sola Giwa, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, General Manager, Mr. Olalekan Bakare-Oki, and Director Operations, LASTMA, Mr Peter Gbejemede, attributed the gridlock to road construction and oil depots operating.

According to Giwa, “We have directed relevant agencies, particularly, LASTMA, to henceforth ensure tankers give at least a lane as an access road for other users to allow for seamless flow of traffic.

“Therefore, any tanker or truck blocking and impeding the free flow of traffic would be impounded.”

Also, commenting on the cause of the latest traffic, Gbejemede, said, “The cause of traffic at Mile-2 axis is as a result of road construction by Hitech at Agofure inward Oshodi.

“As a result, the traffic has been diverted to Signal Barrack for those coming from Maza-Maza and for those coming from Festac, Fagbems are to follow Berger Bridge.”

However, one of the motorists, Mr Akeem Abdullah, lamented, “I was in the gridlock for several hours. I got to Second Rainbow and I spent three hours from there to Mile-2.”

Also, another motorist, Mr John Alloh, lamented, “Are these truck drivers bigger than the government? I spent over two hours from a distance that was supposed to take just five minutes from Second Rainbow to Mile-2.
“Why would they block the entire road without law enforcement officers doing their jobs? This is an indiscipline and insubordination to the Governor’s directive.”

Businesses lose over N100bn monthly

In a telephone interview with Vanguard, the National President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, who based his estimation of losses on the turnaround time of tankers and the cost of personnel involved in different transactions, said: “It is not an easy problem. The losses are huge and can be estimated at over N100 billion monthly. Some interventions have been made, but sadly, the petrol tankers and containers continue to occupy the roads.

“The situation is worsened by the huge presence of tank farms in Apapa. We are an oil-producing nation that should not only export crude oil but also process our petroleum products. If everything is working well, we would not need tank farms.”

Similarly, another operator, who pleaded anonymity, said: “The turnaround trip should be about 72 hours. But it takes many days and weeks to transact business. More so, we also pay a lot as welfare cost in servicing vehicles and welfare of drivers, among others.”

Operators bribe agencies, park on roads —Observers

The checks by Vanguard further indicated that while many tank farms have large holding bays, some have small spaces while some do not have spaces at all for parking, even though they remain a pre-condition to the establishment, construction and operation of tank farms by the regulator, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, NMDPRA.

It also showed that the situation is worsened by tanker and truck owners that have no targeted destinations, but can occupy the roads permanently until persons that have consignments hire them for business.

Even some trucks with targeted destinations, it was gathered prefer to stay on the roads than spaces provided for them at the ports as they intend to not only escape payment of fees but also consider it faster to get to the ports after paying tips to security agencies.

Weak enforcement

However, efforts by the Lagos state government enforcement team, led by LASTMA, have not yet yielded sustainable result.

Recently, the enforcement team impounded over 60 illegally parked containerised trucks along Cele, Mile-2, Apapa Oshodi Expressway, inward port access road following several reports by Vanguard over the illegal activities of truckers and tanker drivers despite the state governor, Sanwo-Olu’s directive to vacate and desist from indiscriminate parking along the axis and environ.

But checks by Vanguard indicated that the oil tankers and container drivers are back on roads while enforcement agencies appear helpless.