The road repairs and the decongestion of the port should be treated as a national emergency
For the past five years, the media has been drawing the attention of the authorities in Nigeria to the imminence of what has now become a reality: access to the nation’s major port is virtually non-existent. Rail and road transit to and from the port has remained paralysed for as long as anyone cares to remember while the current efforts to salvage the access road to the port through private sector initiative and effort has come with avoidable gridlock.
According to a report in a national daily last week, about two million containers laden with various cargoes said to be worth over N5 trillion are currently stranded at the Lagos port complex due largely to the inability of importers to evacuate them. In fact, only one word describes the situation at the port: chaos! That situation arose as a result of the blockade of the access roads to the ports that are for repairs. All the critical stakeholders must therefore put on their thinking caps to resolve a problem that seems to defy solution to the shame of our country.
Since discharged containers reportedly in their millions are choking the port, there is a long queue of vessels waiting either to discharge their cargo or even berth. The logjam at the port is therefore not only a national embarrassment; it has become a serious threat to both national security and the economy. Meanwhile, other commercial and industrial activities in Apapa have taken their share of the nearly impossible traffic situation that has become accustomed to the area.
It is all the more unfortunate that the expressway to the nation’s prime ports–Tincan and Apapa–has for years been paralysed by container-bearing trucks, trailers and petroleum tanker drivers who ordinarily pay scant attention to environmental regulations. That then explains why goods from the ports are some of the most expensive in the world because of the difficulties in clearing and moving them out. Besides, on a daily basis, commuters groan in traffic as a journey of 30 minutes could extend for hours because of trucks and tankers indiscriminately parked or abandoned on both sides of the road. Many people whose businesses are located on the axis have shut them down or relocated because of the difficulties in accessing their offices.
What is particularly disturbing is that there is little indication of any concerted management of both port operations and the traffic situation in Apapa. Worse still, even the belated road repairs within the besieged port city do not seem to be accompanied by concerted attention to orderly traffic flow even with the limitations. Yet, this is a problem that has persisted for almost a decade under different administrations. But a government that has of late made so much noise about taxation and revenue has allowed the revenue potential of the Lagos ports – one of the busiest in Africa – to be so imperilled.
A situation in which massive volumes of imported cargo cannot be cleared or discharged has direct economic consequences. Port charges are mounting, importer credits are growing; the supply chain for both consumer goods and essential raw materials is disrupted. Our image as a business destination gets worse just as our reputation for elementary common sense government operations sinks further.
Therefore, something needs to done urgently. The challenge is first one of emergency logistics management. We cannot wait for the repairs on Apapa roads to be completed before we restore normal port operations. Both the road repairs and the decongestion of the port should be treated as clear national emergencies requiring the mobilisation of all known institutional resources to restore sanity in and around the ports.