Apapa gridlock:   Agony of Port Users 

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Apapa gridlock:   Agony of Port Users 

Chinazor Megbolu    |  
Operators at the Lagos ports have over the years borne with great pains the grueling traffic gridlock that has made access to the ports very harrowing. 
The security agents saddled with the task of easing the malignant traffic have cashed in on the crisis to line their pockets with ill-gotten monies which are the proceeds of extortions.
The truck drivers have been on the receiving end of these sleazy activities.
To compound the already bad situation was the rehabilitation work going on simultaneously on the two entry/exit points to the Lagos ports.
At the Ijora-Wharf road, the remedial work on the Ijora bridge has added to the pains of ports users wishing to gain access to Apapa port.
On the other hand, the comprehensive rehabilitation work along Oshodi-Mile Two road leading to the Tin Can ports has also made access more difficult.
Operators, stakeholders, and other users still lament the agonising situations on a daily basis.
The Federal Government said rehabilitation of the roads was meant to achieve its goals of boosting ease of doing business at the ports.
The Federal Government also maintained that it was also to help ensure a level playing field that would facilitate trade but the impact of this is yet to be seen or felt.
Extortion of drivers by security agents has also not helped matters and has become a matter of pay as you go. Failure to bribe them automatically means denial of access to the ports. 
Another is the issue of other users who ply the routes daily.
The question remains, despite all the laudable ideas and initiatives of the Federal Government to make ease of doing business achievable, what exactly went wrong? 
The National President, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi  lamented the agony of truck operators especially in the hands of the  Presidential Task Team charged with facilitating easy access on the road.
He appealed to the Federal Government to call members of the  Presidential Task Team to order.
“On behalf of Maritime Truck Owners, I hereby humbly and passionately appeal that you kindly replace all the security agents under Presidential Task Team with Port Authority Police to work with LASTMA along access roads into the Ports. 
“The activities of the Task Team has become unbecoming as many unwholesome activities have set in, which includes the following:- 
Over familiarisation, favoritism, preferential treatment, Man-knows-Man, Paddy-Paddy arrangement, etc. 
“They are in caucus. Members of the caucus enter port freely while majority are languishing, suffering, in agony and pain.   
“Please kindly do your finding to know if am lying or not, hence our call for their withdrawal to protest the anomalies,” Ogungbemi said. 
In another development, some stakeholders had insisted that another angle to the continued gridlock on the port access roads has been the  result of rejection of empty containers. 
Though, the presidential task team had insisted recently in an online report that the traffic situation has improved,  but a tour of the Apapa ports by our correspondents proved that it’s not yet Uhuru with the agonies being faced by port users.
Commuters and residents of Apapa have continued to suffer untold hardship due to the perennial gridlock on port access roads.
In a chat with Emmanuel Chibuzor, a truck driver, he frowned at the situation of things and lamented the rejection of empty containers by shipping firms, which has forced trucks to remain on the roads forcing a traffic crisis in the area.
He stated that the rehabilitation and reopening of the Kilometre 2 Apapa-Wharf Road and the Ijora link bridge in December 2018, was the only period there was a bit of ease of doing business.
He however said the traffic situation got worse due to the deteriorating state of the roads, leading to loss of lives by many road users as well as containers falling off trucks on commuters. 
A chieftain of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Segun Musa in an online chat with our Correspondent, blamed the Government for its insensitivity  over the plight of tanker and truck drivers.
“On different occasions,  we had given useful suggestions to regulate the traffic within the corridors but unfortunately our advice was not heeded.
Moreover, the executive of NUPENG recently ordered the tanker drivers, who are its members to withdraw their services, blaming it on the harrowing experience its drivers in Lagos State are facing in the line of duty. 
Following the directive of NUPENG, Truck owners association followed suit,  their grouse is the combined pains of extortion and gridlock that truckers faced daily and government’s failure to address it.
Even though the Lagos State Government had brokered a truce with the promise to provide 30 hectares of land for truck park, which led to the calling off of the strike action by the initiators, it remains to be seen if this move by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will soothe the already frayed nerves.
The harrassed port users, who are daily agonizing under the hardship of the gridlock, are asking when will their anguish and agony  end? 
Stakeholders are hoping that the government would expedite action with enforcement and implementation so that port users can smile again.

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