May 3, 2024

How NPA, LASG cleared Tin-Can refuse, traffic gridlock 



Over the past few years, Port users lost several billions of naira to the traffic gridlock and illegalities on the roads leading to the nation’s Seaports in Lagos.  But sanity has been restored following the recent cleaning of the busy port access roads of refuse, shanties, illegal checkpoints, and trucks by the NPA and LASG, writes Godwin Oritse

Before now, the federal government, importers, exporters, clearing agents and other road users were losing several billions of naira to traffic gridlock, illegal activities on the entry points to the Apapa and Tin-Can Island seaports- Apapa-Ijora and Apapa-Oshodi expressway on a yearly basis. The gridlock and illegal activities defied all known solutions as truck drivers spent minimum of two weeks before they could access the Ports, thereby, making importers accrue daily surcharges on their cargoes. Aside from storage and demmurage surcharges accrued by importers, the gridlock also increased cargo dwell time and vessel turnaround time.

During the crisis period, Nigerian ports became uncompetitive among its contemporaries in West and Central Africa as importers were diverting cargoes destined for Nigerian seaports to neighboring countries due to the port inefficiency development that became a source of concern to the federal government. To solve the traffic challenge, the federal government through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), rallied private sector – Dangote and Flour Mills- to firstly, reconstruct the Ijora – Apapa expressway.

The port road rehabilitation cost N4.3 billion out of which the NPA provided N1.8 billion while Dangote Group and Flour Mills provided N2.5 billion to get the road motorable and the premier port accessible to trucks. The effort including the introduction of E-call up system to enhance port efficiency and wrestle lost cargo to from neighboring countries.

Also, to consolidate on the gains, the NPA introduced the electronic Call-up system also known as Eto. The call-up system was part of the solution that ended the perennial traffic crisis on the Apapa and Tin-Can Island port road.The E-call up allowed trucks doing business at the ports to park at the approved truck parks until they are called up into the port through the Eto app. That finally brought sanity to the Apapa road Axis

Oshodi-Apapa Expressway Filth

Moreover, after making the Ijora-Apapa expressway motorable and evacuation of cargoes out of Apapa port seamless, the NPA in collaboration with the Lagos State Government (LASG) turned their focused to Oshodi-Apapa expressway where they cleared the ever-busy road of shanties, illegal checkpoints and trucks.Apapa-OshodiExpressway, was another major artery into Tin-Can Island Ports in Lagos.

The road also leads to several oil and gas tank farms, which explains the volume of tankers that ply the road daily.But, for over a decade, movement in and out of the two ports through the road was a serious challenge due to the bad state of the road and protracted traffic congestion resulting from the indiscriminate parking of trucks.Also, security personnel, ‘area boys,’ and local government officials mounted several checkpoints and truckers spent an average of N10,000 to N30,000 per trip. The situation was so bad that port users were only able to access the port either on commercial buses that ply one-way or motorcycles popularly known as okada, which claimed many lives.This also created room for petty traders, security operatives and other non-state actors to take over the road.In addition, residents for several years used the expensive road as a dumpsite for refuse as heaps of waste was left on the road unattended. Following public outcry, the Lagos State Government and the NPA swung into action and cleaned up the road and as well restore sanity as it was done in Apapa.

Cleaning Mile 2 -Tin-Can Axis 

In December 2023, minister of Marine and Blue Economy, AdegboyegaOyetola, held a stakeholders’ engagement, which preceded the setting up of a committee to see to the problem of extortion and illegal checkpoints on the port access roads. The minister promised to eliminate extortions of truck drivers, illegal checkpoints, and unapproved parking of trucks along the port access road within one week.The minister blamed the above-listed illegalities for traffic congestion along the port access roads.According to Oyetola, the maritime industry is germane to the development of the economy and the goal was to ensure that stakeholders do not lose money due to delays. True to his promise, sanity has returned to the Tin-Can Island Port corridor as the perennial traffic gridlock along Mile 2 and Tin-Can in Lagos disappeared following a recent clearance operation jointly carried out by the NPA and the Lagos State Government.

It is worth stating that for close to a decade, the Apapagridlock had been a bone in the neck of federal and state law officers.The persistent gridlock, which hitherto defied all known potent solutions, has now become a thing of the past and the port community is hoping that the effort can be sustained.A recent visit to the road showed free movement of vehicles along the corridor as commercial bus drivers and private motorists now have access to the port without having to drive against traffic.

Also, there seems to be orderliness in the movement of tankers accessing tank farms, thereby eliminating the need to park on the road and deny other road users the right to move freely.

Efforts To Sustain Traffic Flow 

To ensure that the effort made so far doesn’t go to waste, the Managing Director of NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko, has been paying weekly-unscheduled visits to both Apapa and Tincan port access roads to monitor activities.Last week, the NPA boss paid another unscheduled visit to the Tin-Can Island Port access road as a measure of sustaining traffic flow on the road.

Bello-Koko said the move was aimed at consolidating the gains recorded in the clearance of illegal check/extortion points and shanties resulting in traffic gridlock.

“Our zero tolerance for all forms of impediments to the free flow of traffic is no fluke, and we are poised to consolidate the gains we have recorded first in Apapa and now Tin-Can. We are grateful to AdegboyegaOyetola, Minister of Marine & Blue Economy and the Lagos State Governor for the tremendous support we have received in this regard,” he said.

Describing the port access roads as international corridors, he said traffic gridlock along such sensitive road networks apart from negating port productivity is an international embarrassment that requires the synergy of all stakeholders to tackle sustainably.

“Although the causes of the gridlock are rooted in factors external to NPA, we have a duty as the gateway to the national economy to take the frontline role in tackling this menace,” he said.

On the menace of refuse debris blocking the drainages, Bello-Koko said the NPA has directed the relevant in-house department to commence desilting of the drainages and clearance of the refuse.

He promised that NPA will intensify synergy with Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) and the Federal Ministry of Works under whose purview waste and road management resides to arrest the ugly trend.

Stakeholders’ Reaction

Industry stakeholders have commended the NPA and the Lagos State Government for the efforts put into sanitising the Tin-Can- Mile 2 road.

Reacting, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), commended the Mohammed Bello-Koko -led management of NPA for clearing the perennial traffic gridlock that hitherto impeded movement in and out of Lagos Ports.

Also, Customs Area Controller of Tin-Can Island Port Command, DeraNnadi, commended the Lagos State Government, the Comptroller General of Customs and the NPA on their collaborative efforts to ensure sanity returned to the port access road.

“The greatest glory goes to BabajideSanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State, who gave the political will to ensure the exercise succeeded. We had meetings with NPA, exporters, importers, shipping lines and freight forwarders. We thanked the media for highlighting the challenges we faced on the port access road. The good thing now is that the road has been cleared and the heaps of refuse removed for us to have sanity around the port corridor,” Nnadi said.

Since 2017, he said, the corridor was not in use because of the menace of truck drivers leaving their vehicles on the major road.

He added that opening this corridor will increase cargo throughput, enhance trade facilitation and ensure more revenue collection for the government.

A haulage operator, Bala Mohammed, gave kudos to the duo of Nigerian Ports Authority and Lagos State Government for clearing the Augean stable of Tin-Can.

This, according to him, led to gridlock, the creation of extortion points and shanties that were polluting the environment, and harbouring non-governmental extortion bandits, and criminals using hard drugs and deadly weapons.

“The Tin-Can road clearance would further heighten security within the Tin-Can Port, promote free-flow traffic, and enable the Eto call-up system to function effectively for seamless evacuation of cargo and trade facilitation.

“NPA and Lagos State Government should try and sustain the tempo of the operation to prevent the re-grouping and returning of extortion bandits and other unpatriotic criminal elements that are feeding fat from the artificially induced Tin-Can traffic anarchy to the detriment of port security, import/export cargo delivery trucking business, call-up system and Nigeria’s trade facilitation,” Mohammed said.

 Mohammed further called for the integration of the Ports Standing Task (PSTT) into the clearance exercise to achieve a tripod formidable force against national economy saboteurs along the ports’ access roads.

According to him, PSTT has been tackling the obstacles to the free movement of traffic and extortion bandits on the outbound section of the port access roads.

He also called on NPA and the Lagos State Government to come up with a dedicated monitoring task force team that would prevent indiscriminate parking of trucks that don’t have business in the port and fuel depots, the return of extortion bandits causing gridlock, as well as building and hiring of illegal shanties.

He suggested the duo support the acquisition of acres of land proposed by RemiOgungbemi, AMATO president, around Mile 2 axis to serve as a truck marshalling yard for both containerised and tanker trucks to prevent the indiscriminate parking along the Tin-Can Port corridor.

He said it would facilitate the integration of tanker trucks into the call-up system where tankers’ movement into their respective depots would be scheduled and batched based on requests from fuel depots in contrast to the present arrangement.