The menace caused by truck drivers on Apapa roads was the major focus of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode at the second quarter town hall meeting held recently at the Apapa Amusement Park. Sunday Ehigiator writes

Apapa roads, unlike other major roads in Lagos State have over the years made the most news. This is not just because of the bad state of the roads or indiscriminate parking along the road sides and sometimes on the major roads and bridges, done by truck drivers, but likewise because of the uncountable lives it had claimed from time immemorial.

Several articles, features, news reportage, commentaries and documentary had thrived with focus on the roads, but instead of the situation getting better, it remained the same. And with no hopes of improvement, the residents had taken the situation as a norm as they sort solace for the unmotorable roads, in the hands of reckless motor cycle riders. But with last week’s visit of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, hope seems to be in view soon.

An elated Ambode while addressing the large crowd of residents and stakeholders who besieged the venue of the meeting said: “This is the fourth time that we are coming to Lagos Central. We have been to City Hall and other parts of Lagos Central but this is the fourth out of the 11 town halls we have had.

“I have equally found out that the moving around through the town hall meetings has actually helped to enhance governance because in each town hall meeting, there are issues that are raised that are actually not in the budget or what we plan to do for the people but when people raise those issues and we end up doing them, it enhances governance.

“The 21 roads and the two bridges we recently commissioned in Alimosho is a fallout of someone coming out at one of the town hall meetings to say we should come and do Ikola Bridge. So, when we got there we only wanted to do five roads and the bridge but we found out that the five roads would not make any sense if we did not do adjourning roads and so it extended to 16 and later 21 roads with additional bridge.”

Ambode also promised at the meeting that the state government would immediately take over the ABAT Truck Terminal Orile-Iganmu and commence immediate repairs on the terminal as part of efforts to permanently address the perennial traffic in Apapa axis majorly caused by breakdown of operations at the ports.

With a show of serious concern about the hardship residents in the axis were being subjected to as a result of the activities of containerised trucks and tankers moving in and out of the ports and tank farms, prompting his decision to hold the 11thmeeting in the series, in the area, so as to find lasting solutions, he assured the people that work would be put on motion immediately.

He said, “I cannot end this address without acknowledging that in Apapa, we have a major challenge; the menace of trucks on our roads and bridges causing endless traffic and loss of business time by Lagosians. This is why we have come here today. To see for ourselves and find a solution.

“Effective today, our government will take over the ABAT Truck Terminal Orile-Iganmu and commence immediate repairs to make the park ready for effective use. In the meantime, we will appeal to the Tanker Drivers Association to conduct themselves in an orderly manner and cooperate with our Task Force to ensure smooth flow of traffic and better access to the ports.

“We thank the people of Apapa for enduring such harsh conditions but I assure you that this situation will be a thing of the past by the end of this year.”

According to the governor, the ABAT Truck Terminal has the capacity to accommodate at least 3,000 trucks, hence the government is already working with security agencies to see how some of the trucks parked on the Western Avenue Bridge would be moved into the park.

He said, “Already, we have cleared the shanties and the way we are trying to run it is such that we will be able to accommodate at least 3,000 trucks in the park. In addition to that, we will work with security agencies and see how we can move the trucks into the park because right now the park can accommodate about 3,000 trucks but the people are not using it.

“So, if I tell you that one of the areas that I always feel very bad about is this Apapa gridlock and that is the truth and that is why I have decided that let’s bring all our resources together; let’s discuss with people; let’s also talk to the experts and see what is happening there.”

Responding to complaints from residents on the menace of motorcycle operators popularly called Okada riders, Ambode ordered the police and other security agencies to enforce the State Traffic Law especially with regards to their restriction on major highways and roads so as to bring about sanity in the Apapa axis.

He added that as part of his administration’s efforts to regenerate the axis, Fadaini Road, currently in a deplorable state would be fixed while Orile-Mile 2- Trade Fair- CMS Road would also be repaired to open up alternative roads for motorists plying the axis. And likewise promised that his administration would complete all ongoing projects in the state before the 2019 general election and ensure that residents enjoy the dividends of democracy.

While acknowledging that the next general election is a different one, Ambode reiterated the need for the people to go and register and collect their Permanent Voters Card, so to have a voice in the government.

“I want to strongly appeal to all Lagosians, this coming election is a different one. We want to define once and for all where the population of Nigeria lies. So it’s not just about APC or about any other party or people that are not interested, we want to use the PVC to send a message that the real population is in Lagos State.

‎”So the duty of all of us ‎is to say that before any census, there is one census, the census of votes and that of PVC, so it becomes a finality that the real population is in Lagos State and that is why we must encourage each and every one of us to push ourselves if it is door-to-door or house-to-house, in our various groups and unions to ensure that they go out and get our PVC.

“Because, each time we make our own state to look good, other people would come in and put pressure on it for us and that’s why we are having too much pressure on our health facilities, our schools and other facilities that we have arranged, but because we have refused to participate in our civic obligations, the long result is the short-changing of the resources that is distributed across Nigeria. I want to appeal to all Lagosians and all party leaders that this mobilisation for the PVC has a longer reach than what you think,” Ambode said

He ended his speech by assuring the people that his administration would spare no effort in ensuring that Lagos remains safe, clean and prosperous, as the prosperity of Lagos would automatically translate to greater prosperity for Nigeria.

In his words, “Without mincing words, the prosperity of Lagos State is on a positive trajectory. We believe strongly in it, it is our vision and our mission and nobody is going to stop it that if we secure the prosperity of Lagos, we have secured the prosperity of Nigeria. Everything that we need to do to ensure that every Lagosian has something to do is what this government is committed to do. We would use everything within our reach to ensure that Lagos remains safe, clean and prosperous. Continue to fulfil your obligations and we would do more because that’s how Lagos stands to grow.”

On complaint of noise pollution and unruly behaviour of many hoteliers in Apapa by a resident, the Governor ordered agencies of the state government to immediately arrest the situation and clean up the area.

“We need to commend and appreciate Chief Mrs. Onye for being a true and patriotic Lagosian. Against all odds, she came out here to let us know the ills in the society. I will even tell our security agencies to protect her because she has come to tell us something that is a major menace in Lagos which is about noise pollution and unruly behaviour among most of the hoteliers in this axis.

“Not everybody will be bold enough to come out and tell us and if she has done it, we will go straight to deal with the issue once and for all. This is the real essence of this town hall meeting; I would never have seen this in the file. So, let our security agencies, Safety Commission, Commissioner for Special Duties and others connected enter into Apapa and clean it up. We don’t want any noise pollution; we want the people of Apapa to enjoy governance; we want to experience the sanity that others are enjoying. There are rules and regulations on how you can operate and those rules and regulations must be enforced,” Ambode said.

On calls by some stakeholders within Apapa for the state government to take over the repair of Tin Can Insland Road, Ambode said the state would study the progress of work already being championed by the federal government, and would intervene accordingly.

He said: “It is very clear to us that this is a federal government road; the little that we can do we have done but we don’t want to create any conflict. You will recall what we went through to take over the Airport Road. We have left the Tin Can side in Apapa to see how far the federal government can go. We don’t want to take too much in our hands; as much as we are trying to fix the Airport Road, whatever palliative we can do that will not be in conflict with the overall contract that has been issued, we will try to do.

“The truth is that once a contract has been issued by the federal government on a particular project, whatever it is that the state government does, we will not get any refund because they will tell you that the contractor is already doing it. But since the rehabilitation of the road is more about our own people and people living in Lagos, whatever it is that we can do to ameliorate the pains of our people will be done but we have to wait to see what is happening to the contract and if progress is not being made, we would have to intervene,” Ambode said.

A grin of excitement was very obvious on the faces of residents present at the occasion. Residents who spoke with THISDAY after the meeting, expressed hope and trust in the governor’s promises; saying, “we know the governor to be a man of his words, and since he had said it, he would truly do it.”