Tankers along Apapa Oshodi Express road
The gridlock that hitherto rendered the Apapa-Oshodi expressway impassable is gradually returning, writes Godwin Haruna
Many heaved a sigh of relief even as nobody thought then that Apapa-Oshodi expressway would never return to normal again. It was stranger than fiction that the Apapa highway taken over by petroleum-laden trucks and the wharf-bound trailers would be free again. Even though the expressway was decrepit owing to years of neglect, but it became free again for motorists through the combined efforts of the Federal and Lagos State governments.
However, the sad reality is that the gridlock that held many people up for many hours before the task force checkmated it is gradually creeping back. The new traffic snarl is being caused by a combination of factors. While it is true that the tanker drivers and the wharf-bound trailers have returned to their old habit, the deplorable condition of the road is not helping matters. Once it rains in Lagos these days, it turns the bad situation worse.
While on a visit to THISDAY Corporate Headquarters shortly after the expressway was cleared last May, leader of the committee and Special Adviser to the President on Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Prof. Sylvester Monye, said the clearing of the expressway was in continuation of President Goodluck Jonathan’s promise to create a conducive atmosphere for businesses to thrive in the country. He had promised that the repairs of the road would be the next phase of activity of the government.
Monye had stated that with the two prime ports located on the route in addition to the many businesses along the expressway, the Federal Government considered the havoc the congestion hitherto caused by tanker and truck drivers on the road inimical to the economic development of the country. During his first year anniversary broadcast on May 29, President Jonathan also acknowledged the decongestion of the port as part of his administration’s effort to make the climate friendly for business in the country.
Monye added that ship owners, National Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers of Nigeria (NUPENG) and the security agencies were other stakeholders taken along in order to ensure that the decongestion of the expressway is sustainable. The story today is that all these stakeholders are there and the truck drivers, particularly, have returned to their old habit of packing on the highway.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Umar Manko along with the state taskforce chairman, Mr. Bayo Suleiman had led the security and traffic personnel in the operation that freed Mile 2-Creek wing of the expressway. In the operation, the state Taskforce on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement Unit), the state Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) and Lagos Police Command were all involved. Under their noses, the old order that consumed several man-hours has crept back.
Also during the operation, the enforcement team demolished all the shanties and illegal structures under Liverpool Bridge, Marine Bridge, Ijora Bridge and along the Oshodi-Apapa expressway. The only axis that is still enjoying the new lease of life brought by the May action, is the Funsho Williams Avenue-Ijora-Apapa expressway. As at last week, the petroleum tankers that used to park recklessly on the Ijora bridge have disappeared and this has removed the bottlenecks of driving along that route.
The problem area appears to be the Apapa-Oshodi expressway where bad roads, recalcitrant truck drivers and armed robbers capitalizing on the confusion on the road to rob citizens especially at nights. A motorist, Mr. Unachukwu Chidi, shared his experience with THISDAY recently: “Please let the Task Force tackle the menace of armed robbery on Apapa-Oshodi expressway especially around the Mile 2 area. There are too many armed robbers operating in that area. They have been attacking motorists on that corridor with reckless abandon. I was a victim last week. They broke my glass with their gun, pointed it at me and dispossessed me of all my belongings. It is a daily occurrence now but most of the victims refuse to go and report to the Police.”
When the road was decongested many business owners were expressed their happiness. General Manager of 5-Star Logistics, Tin Can Island Port, Mr. Jon Jon Peters, said the new development would greatly boost cargo operations in the port. “I have spent 15 years in this country and this is the first time I am seeing this. I am highly impressed,” he said.
Also Mr. Karim Aweda had expressed satisfaction at the free flow of traffic that has returned to Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and said he used to spend three hours from his house in Maza Maza to Berger Cement where he operates his business centre. He was amazed to make the same trip then in just 10 minutes.
A cement dealer at Berger Cement, Mr. Okikiola Kamaru, told THISDAY that his business had virtually collapsed because of difficulty accessing the place due to traffic snarls. “I hope they will sustain this thing,” he said.
The port users noted that although the port was the gateway to the nation’s economy, “this is the only port in the world that is difficult to access and that successive governments in the past have made light of this situation, ignoring the traffic gridlock to continue with loss of man hours and revenue that would have been used to develop the country.”
All these favourable opinions have changed as Apapa road has crept back to the order. The worst hit is as from Tin Can Ist Gate, where trucks appeared to have taken over the road once more even amid deplorable road in the presence of sundry security agencies.
The question on the lips of many people is that what has happened to the sustainability promised by the presidential adviser last May. Monye had promised then that with the security agents and the task force working together with all the stakeholders, the return to the old order was impossible. With the rains coming down in torrents, the issue of repairs of the expressway must be stepped up even as clearing the road of the trucks is also important.