Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (middle); Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs) Oluranti Adebule (left) and State Chairman, All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Tunde Balogun (right), during the 3rd Quarter 2018 Town Hall meeting (12th in the Series), at the Community Primary School, Iberekodo, Ibeju-Lekki, on Wednesday, July 25, 2018.

The Lagos State government, during its recent 12th town hall meeting, proffered solutions to the seemingly intractable Apapa traffic problem, among other issues. Rebecca Ejifoma reports

It truly defies logic that a trip of 20 minutes stretches into five hours or more. On a typical Monday morning, the usual scenario at the two major roads (Ijora and Mile 2) leading to Apapa, which hosts Nigeria’s premier quay, is that of cars and trucks piled bumper to fender with exhaust fumes choking out the little fresh air from the ocean.

Navigating the route is a herculean task for motorists and it’s usually worse during rush hours-morning and evening – when people are either going to work or returning home at the end of the day’s activities.

Unsurprisingly, desperate motorists trying to find their ways out of the snarl only help to further complicate the already bad situation, and many commuters are constantly forced into trekking long distances to get to their destinations, while some motorists even abandon their cars by the road sides.

It is not out of place to see security and traffic operatives on the long stretch of road trying to manage the situation.

Chaos

There is no doubt that the perennial traffic gridlock which has been bedevilling Apapa and its environs for about six years now has snowballed into an alarming state of national discomfiture. The chaos in the axis, which is multifaceted, principally has to do with operations within the Apapa Ports being managed by the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA). To say that businesses have been terribly affected and lives made difficult in the axis would be stating the obvious.

There have been instances where some sections of the bridges and roads leading to Apapa both from Western Avenue and Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, among others, were turned into parking lots for tankers, containerised trucks and generally articulated vehicles.

But the situation reached a totally alarming state some few weeks back when the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway was completely blocked by articulated vehicles, all thanks to breakdown of operations at the ports. The situation has led to a complete state of chaos with attendant negative effects on the people and the economy of not just Lagos State, but Nigeria as a whole considering the strategic importance of Apapa to the nation’s economy.

Immediate Response

As an immediate response to restore law and order, the state government constituted a taskforce headed by the Commissioner of Police, CP Imohimi Edgal, to at least restore sanity, while the affected authorities find solutions to the issues that gave rise to the chaos. Members of the taskforce were drawn from all security agencies and relevant unions within the maritime sector.

The team were able to clear the service lane within 72 hours in an operation in which over 2, 000 articulated vehicles were removed from the road and taken to designated holding bays.

Tank Farms

Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode also followed up the initial gains with a meeting with relevant stakeholders, including the NPA leadership, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), maritime unions, among others.

At the meeting, the state government suspended further approval for development of tank farms and issued a 30-day-ultimatum to existing tank farms without adequate loading bays to do so, in order to forestall a situation where tankers would have to park on the road while waiting to be called up to load petroleum products.

Being the agency in charge of enforcing the law on operation of tank farms, the DPR was also directed to implement the directive at the expiration of the ultimatum.

Task for FG

The governor at the third quarter 2018 Town Hall Meeting further discussed ways to end the perennial gridlock in Apapa. The governor specifically tasked the federal government to do everything within its powers to revive existing ports in other states of the federation, noting that such was important to bring about permanent solution to the perennial traffic congestion in Apapa axis.

The Town Hall Meeting, the 12th in the series since the inception of the Ambode’s administration, was held last Wednesday at the Community Primary School, Iberekodo, in Ibeju Lekki Local Government Area.

According to Ambode, the recent chaos witnessed in Apapa was beyond traffic issues, while it was time for concerted efforts to be made to revamp moribund ports.

He said beyond getting other ports up and running, the issue of tankers queuing up to lift petroleum products from tank farms in Apapa was also a major issue causing gridlock and damaging road infrastructure in the area.

The governor said, “It would be very unfair to Lagosians if I don’t talk about issues relating to traffic management and integrated transport management most especially what we have witnessed in the last one week in Apapa, but again I would like to tell Lagosians that every stakeholder that is ‎relevant to resolving the Apapa crisis, we have gone to work and you can see that there is a major improvement.

“But again, this issue has become perennial and in the last six years, it’s always been there, it comes and goes, but the challenge is to be able to find a permanent solution and in that reason the president had directed the vice president to come and see what the situation is and to actually give us a permanent solution. We are grateful to the president; we believe strongly that every layer of government should collaborate to be able to resolve this Apapa crisis.

“But we all must know that Apapa crisis is more than traffic issues. That is where all states depend on for revenue through Customs because the revenue is shared at FAAC. If anything goes wrong in the port, whatever they get from Federal Allocation Account Committee (FAAC) could reduce.”

Revival of Pipelines

Stressing that the Apapa congestion was a national issue that required urgent attention, the governor also noted that oil pipelines should be revived to discourage the trend of thousands of trucks coming from other parts of the country to lift petroleum products from Apapa.

He stated, “It is bad that we still use trucks to lift petroleum products from Apapa to other parts of the country. As it is now, other ports in Nigeria must begin to work immediately to decongest gridlock in Lagos; whatever has led to continual use of trucks to lift fuel, which is, vandalism of pipeline should be addressed immediately.

“We believe that this will allow the roads to become free. We don’t need to continuously use tax payers’ money to build roads that are destroyed by tankers. We call on the Minister of Petroleum and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to work towards reviving the pipelines.”

The governor also expressed concern about the approval for the development of tank farms in Ijegun area of Lagos, saying that as much as the state supports redistribution of tank farms, such should be located in areas that are not populated.

According to him, “We don’t need tank farms within Lagos metropolis anymore. There are 86 tank farms in Apapa alone. That is a serious danger waiting to happen. Beyond Apapa, they have approved tank farms in Ijegun axis and that is where we have huge population.

“We need to redistribute tank farm establishment to outer borders and other parts. This is what we believe should be done at this moment to free Lagos roads.”

Scorecard

On the efforts of his administration to develop the economy of the state, Ambode said the government had continued to keep faith with its mandate to ensure that the future of Lagos remained on a sound pedestal.

He said the town hall meeting, which has moved round the three senatorial districts in the state from its first edition held in October 6, 2015, had continued to provide the government first-hand information on the needs of the people and how best to solve them.

“Our promise from the very beginning was that we are going to give you a government of inclusion and it’s very clear that we are on track. When we look at our scorecard, which is to keep Lagos on a trajectory of growth and development, we are on that track,” he said, adding, “We are happy to be here. We are everywhere meeting the needs of our people, asking them what the issues are and wanting to respond positively to those issues. Yes, we are not perfect, we would try our best but our people know that we are doing things that would create prosperity for their future.”

Besides, the governor said his administration was not oblivious of the fact that the eastern and western axes of the state were pivotal to the future prosperity of Lagos.

Plans for Ibeju Lekki

Giving an insight on the next plan of action for the Ibeju Lekki axis, Ambode said the construction of the Epe Airport and reconstruction of the Coastal Road were very much on course, adding that the dualisation of the Eleko Junction to the T-Junction in Epe would commence in January 2019, while the 27 network of roads in Ojokoro, Ayinke House, among others, would be completed before the next quarter.

He appealed to people to bear with the state government over the inconveniences they might be experiencing as a result of on-going construction works across the state, adding that the government was very much aware, and was working towards delivering the projects on schedule.

“I want to appeal to the people to please bear with us on the infrastructure projects across the State. We are working towards delivering them on schedule. A little pain for greater joy and so I like to appeal to the people to cooperate with us,” Ambode said.

The governor, while thanking traditional rulers, community heads and residents of Ibeju Lekki for their unflinching support towards the advancement of the multibillion dollar projects on-going in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, assured that all issues relating to compensation would be resolved before the end of the week.

Recruitment of Teachers

Responding to concerns by the people, especially in the rural areas, over the lack of adequate teaching manpower, Ambode announced the commencement of recruitment of 1,000 teachers in the state, adding that more would be recruited as the need arises.

Miscellaneous

After taking questions from residents, Ambode said his administration would go back to the drawing board and respond accordingly to issues raised, appealing to residents to be patient as the government would continue to deliver more life changing projects to make life more comfortable for the people.

At the meeting, which was also attended by heads of security agencies, including the state police commissioner, the governor directed immediate action on security issues raised by residents, noting that one of the cardinal objectives of his administration was security of lives and property.

On the traffic around new Jubilee Bridge in Ajah raised by some residents, Ambode directed the General Manager of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Mr Olawale Musa, to immediately move in to free the axis.

He said the state government would work with the local government to relocate the market in the area which was contributing to the traffic, while proposal for more personnel should be brought forward in the event of lack of adequate manpower for the traffic management agency.

Hope for the Physically-challenged

A physically challenged resident and graduate of Computer Studies, Micheal Ogunyemi, who said he had been jobless for five years, could not hold back his joy as the governor directed the Civil Service Commission to grant him immediate employment from August 1. Also responding to issues raised by some physically challenged persons on the difficulty in making use of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along Ikorodu road corridor and how to access to the N500 million Disability Fund set aside to take care of their needs by his administration, Ambode directed the relevant agencies to sit up and do the needful to make life comfortable for the people.

He also directed the Lagos State Office of Disability Affairs (LASODA) to come up with modalities to establish the branch of the office in each of the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) for ease of operation, while other relevant agencies were directed to address various issues raised by residents.

He particularly expressed satisfaction with the fact that the Town Hall was meeting the objectives for which it was established, saying many of the revelations would not have been possible for him to access.

The governor stated, “For me, I am particularly happy with the fact that the Town Hall Meeting is meeting the objectives for which it was established. I mean if I sit in my office in Alausa, there is no way I could get the feedback I am getting here and that is one of the reasons I am happy that we set this up.

“I also want to appreciate the people for coming out to tell us what they want us to do and the areas we need to intervene. For me, I will continue to work hard to make life comfortable and better for our people.”

An analyst, Dr. Mahmud Zukoji, who watched the town hall meeting live on television in faraway Kano State, said, “Watching the live coverage of the town hall meeting in Ibeju Lekki gives one the positive impression that democracy can work for us if those in leadership create the right environment for it to work.”