Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
By John Iwori and Gboyega Akinsanmi
Coordinating Minister for Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said the Federal Government would continue to partner the Lagos State Government in decongesting the seaport access roads, which had over the years been a nightmare to road users.
Lagos State Ministry of Transportation in conjunction with the Presidential committee on port reforms had sacked the trucks, which had over the years constituted heavy traffic on the ever-busy road thus making life unbearable for the road users.
Okonjo-Iweala, who led her Transport and Works counterparts, Senator Idris Umar and Mr. Mike Onolememen respectively after the inspection of the roads and other construction works around the port environment to Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), promised that the Federal Government would continue to work with Lagos in ensuring that Apapa access roads work.
While acknowledging the infrastructural deficit as a major challenge undermining the Federal Government’s agenda to attain a 48-hour clearing of goods at the ports, Okonjo-Iweala said President Goodluck Jonathan was more than ever committed on port reforms, which the three ministers are members and who played prominent roles in removing the trucks off Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
She explained that the decision of President Jonathan to focus on making the seaports efficient was informed by the fact after fixing the energy problem in the country, which the government is at the verge of completing, the next quest to be asked by Nigerians would be why the seaports are not working.
She noted that as part of making the ports work, the Federal Government had reduced the agencies at the ports from about 15 to about six in orders to make for free-flow of cargo.
The minister assured Nigerians that the Federal Government would continue to collaborate with the Lagos State government to ensure that the seaports work like their peers in other part of the world.
Earlier, Fashola had allayed the fears of Lagosians over the trailers and tankers sacked on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, which links Nigeria’s two biggest seaports, Apapa Quay and Tin Can Island Port (TCIP), Apapa would return to the roads.
He noted that apart from helping to kill many businesses, thereby worsening the unemployment problem, the truck owners in doing their private businesses have made life unbearable for other road users.
“Other Nigerians cannot get home after their daily economic activities due to the attitude of the truck owners and no responsible government would sit down and allow that to continue. We will still need to collaborate in order to sustain this in the general interest of all”, he said.
“If the roads are free and economic activities moves as expected, it is not to the credit of any state rather to Nigeria as a nation and that is why this collaboration will pay off. When we disagree, we are not quarrelling rather one can always succumb to the superior argument but we have no choice than to collaborate in order to deliver good governance to our people”, he said.
The governor tasked the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to begin a serious re-examination of the trucks and tankers used in conveying goods and petroleum products from the ports lamenting that some of them were in terrible state leading to frequent accident and explosions on the road.
Onolememen in his chat with state house correspondents after the meeting, said efforts “are now being geared up to complete the ongoing construction works on Apapa-Oshodi expressway”
According to him, by the end of this month, one of the contractors- Julius Berger Plc, will complete work on first phase on Oshodi bound lane, and move to commence work on Apapa bound lane by June.
Also speaking after the meeting, Umar said the construction of trucks’ parking lot was progressing, noting that all the works was directed at attaining the overall objective of 48-hour cargo clearing at the Nigerian ports and to make Apapa a business-friendly environment.