By Ahamefula Ogbu
Issues of bad or impassable roads in Nigeria may not attract much attention as it has become the rule other than the exception. However, the deterioration in the access road to the cash cow of the country, the nation’s ports, especially Lagos ports which by policy design, account for nearly all the revenue accruing to the government is to say the least criminal. It is also a sign that policymakers and operators of the present government are either insensitive or carefree about the affairs of the people and the nation.
Approaching the Tincan Island Port from Mile Two on Oshodi-Apapa expressway shows all that is not well with the country. Lines of trailers bearing different sizes of containers stretch endlessly with fuel tankers and some haulage trucks driving against traffic to escape the gridlock. Passenger buses has for long made running against the traffic the rule. That is the desperation that must be exercised if one has to leave Apapa without spending days in the gridlock.
At Sunrise bridge, the nightmare begins on both sides of the dual carriage way. While the road leading to Tincan has become huge gullies that no Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) can drive through, the silted drainages have ensured that pools of water have assumed the shape of a lagoon on the road.
The side exiting Apapa at Sunrise, under the bridge has cut into two with each heavy duty vehicle that passes through the spot further damaging the road. On both sides, filth has taken three-quarters of the road, narrowing it into a single lane where both vehicles and motorbikes driving one-way struggle for space. Residents of the area appear not to help matters as the road now hosts heaps of refuse.
The area oozes rancid odour no particular word could aptly describe what it smells like, a mixture of faeces, urine, solid waste, abandoned wares and dirty puddles of water. Trailer drivers and their motor boys gratify themselves with all manner of indulgences which further foul the air with smokes of cigarettes and Indian hemp or a combination of other intoxicants. People no longer care about decency as they defecate and urinate in every available space since they have to literarily live on the road as they spend weeks on end on queues to either load products, take containers out of the ports or return discharged ones.
Few metres from the Sunrise bridge heading to the tank farms, you see evidence of the horror the trailer drivers face daily – fallen containers; and directly in front of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria –IPMAN office, a crater covered with blue water that breeds all forms of organisms emits foul odour; nevertheless, businesses go on as if oblivious of what ought to have been, the result of injured psyches. Hardly a day passes without a container falling on a smaller vehicle, crushing all occupants. However, with the roads now impassable to smaller vehicles, the stories of containers falling on smaller vehicles appear to have abated.
To the left going towards Oshodi, one notices that all trailers and heavy duty vehicles had suddenly started using the service lane where the trailers pulling their containers had to move at snail speed, navigating through what ought to have been smooth road that had become impassable to the ordinary vehicular or pedestrian traffic but for the big wheels.
A look further down the road revealed: a 40-feet container had fallen off the bed of an articulated vehicle and blocked the dual carriage way towards Oshodi. A closer look showed that four forklifts were laboriously trying to lift the fallen container off the ground into another awaiting trailer. The impact of the fall had given the container a grotesque look of death, disfiguring it. Along the road was another 20- feet container that had fallen previously. The impact had partially opened the container and of course, the rough roads also breed its rough guys, so the fallen container had been preyed on, leading to its owner using a chain and a key to attempt checking the pilferage. That is perhaps the lot of importers on the road from the port.
On both sides of the road, not even the red mud used to fill the scooped places could be seen, only rain water that has commercial motorcycles popularly called okada meander dangerously through crammed pathways, ferrying passengers as the only effective means of exiting or entering the zone.
Walking the distance between Coconut bus stop and Tincan Island First gate reveals a link bridge with the railings all removed and the surface drainage totally blocked with shrubs growing luxuriantly on them. After the bridge which at a time had the state of the Sunrise to Coconut area had assumed a palliative look having been filled with pebbles while articulated vehicle tyres served as rollers, a shadow of what could have been done even as a temporary measure to make the road passable.
However, just after the Tincan first gate pedestrian crossing, the nightmare returns; filth, craters and pools of water. A little bit further on the exit route by Oando filling station, containers are stacked sky-high covering the road which tapered into another single lane. Often, the articulated vehicles, most of which have outlived their mechanical lifespan but pushed by the Nigerian spirit usually stall in the middle of the road. Such situation leads to heavy traffic for as long as it takes to get the vehicle back into movable order.
A little way down the road, the two sides look like a path through a jungle as craters make the load-bearing vehicles to move at snail’s pace.
Closer to the Tincan second gate is the deepest crater and has more number of containers off the beds of the articulated vehicles in several falls. On a rainy day on those spots, the effect is unimaginable, a stark reality that those whose responsibility it is to fix the roads have alienated themselves from the pains of ordinary people and are only interested in how much comes from the ports but never the responsibility to fix anything.
The area from Apapa Wharf through Flour mills was of the same state till the recent palliative measures on them.
However, the repairs on Wharf to Flour Mills axis, exiting to Ijora has become a musical chair as each patched portion fails shortly after work on it and before other parts are fixed. This leaves the area in perpetual state of disrepair. Talk of ignoring the goose that lays the golden egg and the promises of change, maybe this is the change we were promised.