Chinazor Megbolu |
Late December 2020, the Lagos State Government took over the affairs of managing the decongestion of Apapa ports access roads.
Prior to taking over, Apapa ports corridor was controlled by the Presidential Task Team, headed by Mr. Kayode Opeifa as the Vice Chairman.
During the period, Apapa roads congestion got worst. Operatives of the task team were allegedly involved in bribe taking from truck and tanker drivers. Freight forwarders and commuters were not left out too. They all had bitter tales to tell.
They were accusations and counter-accusations from stakeholders and residents, hence the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu swung into action towards curtaling the activities that had led to the problems in the area.
The governor, during the inspection of the port access roads, noted that the state government would try anything possible in order to restore sanity back to the area after taking over from the Presidential Taskforce on Port Decongestion.
He also added that they would create a new operational template for the task force, which will be enforced by a combined team of officers of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and the police.
“On each occasion we had come here, we knew that there were road constructions. This time around, there has been a lot of improvement and we have seen that a lot of the roads within Apapa have been completed. But, there has been no respite for commuters in terms of free traffic flow” Sanwo-Olu had said.
Meanwhile, on February 9th, 2021, the Lagos Task Team on Port access road during a courtesy call on the Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC) sought the collaboration of the maritime sector economic regulators in a bid to achieve its mandate of restoring law and order on Apapa ports access roads.
The Chairman of the Task Team and the Special Assistant for Transportation to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Mr. Toyin Fayinka during the visit to NSC’s headquarter in Lagos, said the essence of the visit was to introduce the team to the NSC.
He also hinted that the Committee cannot succeed in its assignment without the support of the NSC, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other agencies in the maritime sector.
However, the Executive Secretary, NSC, Barrister Hassan Bello, had described the Apapa traffic situation as an international embarrassment.
He added that the traffic in Apapa is affecting the efficiency of the port and assured the Team that the Federal Ministry of Transportation has prioritised the solving of the Apapa traffic situation.
In a chat with a chieftain of Association of Nigerian Licenced Customs Agents (ANLCA), Mr. Pius Ujubuonu, he noted that it was too early to gauge the performance of the Lagos team.
According to him; “however, there is a noticeable change, it is still not very definite. The traffic situation requires a period of monitoring the flow from the port and to the port.
“The laden boxes trailers into the port, the empties into the port, the broken down trailers littering the road.
“The intervention of soldiers and the interrupting road construction. The good news coming this morning from Lagos State MOT banning trailers and trucks plying Oshodi Apapa Express way in the day except from 9pm at night, is a smart move.
“A conscientious and consistent monitoring may give us the respite we expect. Lagos State Government has begun well. They need to redirect the construction process to help them achieve the desired objective”.
The National President, ANLCA, Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike in an open letter, addressed to the President of the Federal republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, stated that he sees the move by the Lagos State Government to restrict movement of trucks to certain periods of the day as counter productive to the dream of achieving 24 -hour port operation and a more robust economy.
According to Nwabunike; “emphasis should rather be on upgrading the support infrastructure like roads, power supply, bridges and ancillary services to support existing logistics like the laudable Bola Tinubu Truck Park”.
Another freight forwarder, Mrs. Favour Anegehme in a phone conversation, said nothing has changed since the Lagos State Task team took over, adding the story is still the same.
According to her; “there’s still congestion especially in Tin Can Island ports area. Oshodi Mile 2 Express is totally blocked.
“The newly appointed Task team are only controlling money into their pockets and not the traffic congestion”.
She also called on the federal government to try as much as possible to finish the road because it’s also contributing to the gridlock being witnessed daily.
Again, Anegehme said that terminal operators are making things hard for them by constantly rejecting empty containers whenever they are returned.
She further explained that over a week now that she engaged a truck driver to help load some consignments in the ports, it has not yielded any results due to the hiccups emanating from the congestion.
“As the truck remains on the queue, I have been paying additional charges on the truck, and demurrage. There’s problem everywhere in Tin Can Island.
“All these uniformed men they sent to control are only collecting money from truck drivers. If you’re on queue, they don’t mind you except those that gave them money on the express road,” Anegehme said.
Even though, it seems that the effort of the Lagos State in tackling Apapa ports access roads seemed to be yielding results, it’s not yet uhuru to shout eureka!
The question still remains, will normalcy ever return to Apapa Ports access roads.