THE ROAD TO APAPA PORTS

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The authorities may do well to fix the road to the heart of commerce in Nigeria
Members of the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, led by its chairman, Senator Hope Uzodinma, recently visited the ports in Lagos for an interaction with stakeholders in cargo delivery process. One of the issues that came up was the access roads to the ports which continuously pose grave danger to lives and property. From the first gate of Tin Can port to the second gate to Creek Road and Wharf Road, to the Flour Mill roundabout and adjoining access roads, it is a story of abject neglect.

On a normal working day, it takes an average of five hours meandering through the maze of tankers and trailers that have turned most of the roads in Apapa into no more than parking lots. Besides, the horror offered by the craters and potholes is worse during raining season when navigating the traffic prone zones by motorists becomes very difficult. What this implies is that the Apapa-Oshodi Express road through the Tin Can ports is most often literally shut down.

The same is true for the Seven Up/Apapa Bridge, which is another parking lot for incoming trailers and tankers. Hoodlums have also taken advantage of this state of confusion to unleash mayhem on road users who severally have had to abandon their cars to run for safety. Many have lost their lives and property worth millions to these men of the underworld. Yet, as the days unfold, the Apapa Business District gets worse for what it offers both residents and businesses. It is even more saddening to note that some of these problems are within human control.

Following the visit of the Senate committee, some of their recommendations include the need for all the stakeholders to meet so as to brainstorm on the issue, and take actionable decisions that will compel the federal government to at least, in the short term, begin some palliative work on the roads in order to ease the stress on port users and save their lives and property. It is also recommended that truckers and haulage companies must come together to acquire a very large expanse of land to develop very quickly a trucks’ park/holding bay, in a bid to take static load off the ports’ access roads.

We hope that the authorities will act on the recommendations so as to curb the excesses of the tanker and trailer drivers who have for several years constituted themselves into a nuisance at the ports. On several occasions, these tanker drivers have gone on strike and with that create scarcity of petroleum products, thus bringing enormous suffering on the populace. Of course at the other end are the owners of the tank farms and depots who do not allow these trucks into their parking lots. All these help to create an atmosphere of chaos which makes life very difficult for Apapa residents and visitors.

In more civilised climes, what is happening in Apapa is anathema in road usage while this armada of trailers and petroleum tankers will be considered primitive. Years of toeing the path of impropriety and poor infrastructure development and maintenance in the energy and other sectors are having their crushing toll on other forms of business. It is sad, if not tragic that Apapa, which ordinarily should be the heartbeat for corporate Nigeria, is a neglected business district whose infrastructure especially roads are not only decayed but ignored by the relevant authorities.

Until the federal government finds it appropriate to build refineries close to the points of consumption, revive our rail systems and create a more orderly and cost effective means of lifting bulk cargo and petroleum products, Apapa will continue to be a nightmare for the residents and businesses operating within the town.