- Business operators, residents to persevere as project completion takes 1 year
Abimbola Akosile and Bennett Oghifo
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has signed a N4.34 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dangote Group, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Flour Mills of Nigeria for the reconstruction of the decrepit Wharf Road, Apapa, Lagos.
The road was consequently handed over to the three stakeholders for commencement of the reconstruction works after the agreement was signed in Lagos saturday.
The road project, which is to be handled by AG Dangote, the construction arm of the Dangote Group, is billed to last one year as business operators and residents in the area are expected to persevere throughout the duration of the reconstruction.
The 2km road begins from the Nigerian Port Authority to the end of the Apapa bridge.
THISDAY gathered that Dangote had long agreed to singlehandedly undertake the reconstruction of the bad road at the cost of N1.5 billion earlier presented to him, albeit with different construction dimensions.
But when a team put together by Fashola reviewed the details of the project, it discovered that the N1.5 billion project cost proposed could not stand the test of time, given the dimensions indicated in the details of the project. Fears were entertained that it would in no time give way too.
However, when the reviewed cost was brought to Dangote, it was higher than what he initially agreed to and declined to accept the new bill, suspecting foul play. It was at this point Fashola was said to have intervened and explained the details between the old and the new project costs as well as engaged other stakeholders to show interest as part of the corporate social responsibilities.
What happened yesterday, THISDAY gathered, was a product of several meetings and exchange of memos amongst the concerned parties. An initial date was chosen for sometime in May but could not hold, because the partners had not agreed to the details before yesterdayâ€™s date was eventually agreed to by all.
Fashola, while speaking at signing ceremony, explained that the gridlock in Apapa became compounded and had reached an unbearable level as transporters ignored the old system of moving cargo through rail to trucks and containers.
According to him, the choice of the transporters to use road instead of rail for haulage increased the gridlock and caused degeneration as well as hardship to residents of Apapa. He therefore commended the â€œleadership roleâ€ of the stakeholders to solve the complex problems in Apapa and its environs.
Fashola agreed that the deplorable state of the road in Apapa had caused stress to residents, business owners and other stakeholders in the state, adding: â€œAs a result of all these unsavory practices, we have reached a point of near total gridlock. It is difficult to move cargo in or out; difficult for residents to get home and this must stop,â€ he said.
The minister explained that it took time to reach an agreement on the project, because the stakeholders were putting up an effective design that would address the drainage problem since the area was waterlogged.
â€œWe have finished with the design, we now have a Bill of Quantity and the cost of the road is N4.34 billion to be funded and paid for by these three groups, Flour Mills of Nigeria, AG Dangote Construction Company Ltd and NPA,â€ he said.
The minister, who is the immediate past Lagos State governor, said although the parties were funding the project, the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing would supervise it through all the stages to ensure quality and compliance with standards.
He therefore sought the cooperation of all residents of Lagos and directed the Apapa Area Commander of the Nigerian Police Force, DSP My Nuru, to apprehend reckless drivers, who drive against traffic during the period of construction and appealed to him to tackle all bureaucracies that would affect free flow of traffic while apprehending offenders.
Fashola sued for synergy among the law enforcement and traffic regulatory agencies for improved traffic management in order to reduce stress on road users during the one-year duration of the project.
â€œWe are embarking on what will be the final solution to the massive inconvenience. Businesses and residents in Apapa and its environment have had to endure for a couple of years.
â€œI like to acknowledge the leadership role of Dangote and Flour Mills, who are operators and have also contributed to make this a reality. They are doing this as a total Corporate Responsibility without asking for tax holiday or reduction. We are also working on how to ensure free access to Tin Can Island.
â€œFrom today that we are handing over the project, the road will take one year to be completed. We need the cooperation of all the stakeholders. There will be some discomfort on the way but we appeal for tolerance and perseverance. It will continue to get better, people should please endure more to solve the challenge.â€
Fashola, who was also stuck in the Apapa gridlock for a while, assured the people that reconstruction of the Oshodi-Mile 2-Tin Can road would also begin soon.
Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Usman, while responding to issues of lack of holding bays raised by transport unions, said government would support the private sector to drive the initiative to set up new ones.
â€œWe have received proposals on electronic management of holding bays. We are working through processes and we would soon conclude on that,â€ she said, noting that tank farms that do not have holding bays for their trucks would soon be sanctioned.
Usman explained that her agency was working on providing weigh bridges within the ports as well as enforce the implementation in a few months to take care of problem of high axle load on the roads.
On his part, Joseph Makonjuola, an engineer with the Dangote Group of Companies assured that the company would contribute its funding as part of its corporate Social responsibility and would still meet its tax obligations to government.
â€œThis is part of our CSR. Businesses have to engage the community, where they operate. Todayâ€™s CSR has gone to a higher level, where we find ourselves embarking on a major infrastructural project,â€ he added.
Managing Director, Flour Mills of Nigeria, Mr. Paul Gbededo, said Wharf Road was the â€œmost important road in the entire countryâ€™â€™ which needed more attention, adding that â€œThis kind of road cannot be handled with levity.â€
â€œApapa has become a very difficult place to work. With this project that the federal government has allowed to embark on, it will give succour to business. It has the biggest port in Nigeria and should not be taken with levity,â€ he said.
Also present at the ceremony were the representatives of truck owners, transport unions, maritime operators and business owners in Apapa.
Although Apapa had remained despicable for many years without any visible help from government, the experience of the last two weeks had literally seized the commercial hub as vehicles could no longer move in and out of the place freely.
While the state of the roads in Apapa is pathetic, attitudinal disposition of tanker drivers as well as absence of parking lot had also combined to compound an already bad situation with Apapa now dreaded by all, including business and home owners.
With a time-frame of one year for the completion of the project, residents and business operators in this ever busy part of Lagos would have to endure more pains of traffic gridlock the moment construction works commence.