Government should introduce a policy that will encourage patronage of the ports in the Eastern part of the country

In calling for the revival of the ports in the eastern part of the country in a bid to secure a permanent solution to the perennial traffic gridlock in the Apapa axis of Lagos, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was right on point. For years, the two ports at Apapa in Lagos have created perpetual traffic gridlock in the metropolis and constituted a nuisance to both livelihoods and businesses. But the fears of Ambode that the situation could worsen are well founded and the authorities should act quickly to prevent the crisis from morphing into a full blown disaster.

The unending snarl is provoked by the sheer volume of articulated vehicles and tankers traversing the road that connects the two ports to lift containers and offload petroleum products, for onward transportation to other parts of the country. Sadly, the ensuing lockdown is already having severe consequences on the socio-economic landscape of Lagos State. “As it is now, other ports in Nigeria must begin to work immediately to decongest the gridlock in Lagos. Whatever has led to the continual use of trucks to lift fuel – the vandalism of pipelines -should be addressed immediately. We believe that this will allow the road to become free. We don’t need to continuously use taxpayers’ money to build roads that are destroyed by tankers,” Ambode said.

In the past few years, we have used this platform to draw the attention of the authorities to the imminence of what has now become a reality: access to the nation’s major port is increasingly becoming impossible. For years, motorists using the two main access roads to the town spend unbearable long hours on the traffic before they could get to their various destinations. Besides the daily dreadfulness, the loss of productive man hours is emphasised by craters and potholes on the roads, particularly during the raining season.

What is happening in Apapa is anathema to decency in road usage. Unfortunately, years of toeing the path of impropriety and poor infrastructure development and maintenance in the energy and other sectors are having their toll on other forms of business. That explains why we have tankers of all sorts on the roads every day with all the risks they pose to other motorists. Besides, the blocking of the inland roads has caused a disruption to the urban landscape and forced many affluent citizens to abandon their property in Apapa and relocate to other parts of the city.

While we have consistently called on the federal government to crack down on tanker drivers packing indiscriminately on the road while waiting to offload petroleum products in Apapa, the long term solution is for the federal government to introduce a policy that will enable patronage of the ports in the Eastern part of the country by importers. For years, the ports in Port Harcourt, Warri, Koko and Calabar have remained idle largely because of low patronage, underutilisation and inability of high capacity vessels to berth, arising from the non-dredging of the ports. Outside Apapa, the only other active port in the country is located in Onne in Rivers State.

It is regrettable that Apapa, which used to command prime value for property, considering its strategic location and primacy as a commercial and industrial hub is now notoriously reputed for its unrelenting traffic. That is why we subscribe to the solution being proposed by Governor Ambode that the federal government should provide incentives for ship owners by lowering the charges on freight imposed for vessels berthing through the Eastern ports so as to relieve the pressure on the Lagos ports.