For some time now, the traffic situation on all the roads leading to Apapa has become a serious nightmare that seems to have defied every solution, Davidson Iriekpen writes
For those who work and live in Apapa or have one form of business transaction or the other, the last eight weeks have been very harrowing. Signs that the traffic situation in the port city will soon abate are still very far from near. Each day, trailers, trucks, fuel tankers and other container-bearing articulated vehicles line up on every major road leading up to the Tin Can Port and the Apapa Wharf, making commuting a herculean, sometimes unfeasible task for other motorists.
Till date, most bridges on Western Avenue, Ijora and along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway have been turned to parking lots by drivers. It was gathered that operations at the ports have collapsed, making accessibility of the facilities difficult for the container-bearing trucks.
Though the difficulty in accessing the area has been on over six years now, there is no hope that solution is in sight soon. Everywhere looks like a jungle or no man’s land. Hope that the Muhammadu Buhari administration would tackle the problems as soon as he came to office has been dashed. From the look of things, the problems are beyond it.
Everyday people are meant to go through difficult situation to get to their offices and homes. Not only have houses been deserted, offices have been closed down due to the difficulty in accessing the area.
For those who have access to Apapa from Western Avenue, sometimes the gridlock starts as far as Ikorodu Road, Alaka or Ijora Olopa. Others who access the area from the Oshodi-Mile 2 axis, the traffic starts from Sanya Bus-Stop.
It is not only entering Apapa that is unpleasant, exiting is as hellish as motorists and road users are left at the mercy of the elements, with nobody knowing when it will come to an end. It is common sight these days to see commuters alighting from buses and trekking down to their destinations.
Allegations of Bribery
Not even the security agencies drafted to the area to control the chaos appear to have achieved success. They seem soundly defeated. On many occasions, they have ignored the directive for them to create one lane for cars to have easy access to Apapa due to corruption.
Whether they are on duty or not, they are constantly seen on the bridges collecting bribes to pass truck drivers or sometimes escorting them to block the roads.
Added to this is fact that all the roads leading the port city have broken down. While Dangote is seriously trying to construct the Wharf Road, the Oshodi-Apapa road particularly from Mile 2 to Liverpool Road all through Creek Road is in a sorry state. Even on top of the bridges leading to the ports are in a sorry state.
A worker in Apapa, one Adekoya Aderemi, expressed believe that for as long as security agents collect bribe from truck drivers, there will never be sanity on the road.
“What the Apapa bedlam has exposed is that we are in a complete jungle. For over seven years now, this traffic has been there without any solution in sight. What personally pains me is that we have police, soldiers, navy, civil defence, road safety, all carrying different guns and sometimes sticks and horsewhips, yet they cannot control unarmed truck drivers. What a shame! They have sold their consciences. They collect bribes and allow the drivers do what they like by blocking the roads.”
From the look of things, it would appear that motorists and other users of the ever-busy roads have an endless wait before the nightmare they experience daily on the road comes to an end.
All efforts by the federal and Lagos State governments to solve this seemingly intractable threat to the nation’s economy are to no avail. The Lagos State Government under Akinwunmi Ambode is completely helpless. It also refused to take concrete steps to ameliorate the situation or criticise the federal government unlike when Babatunde Fashola was governor. Fashola had on several occasions criticised the Goodluck Jonathan Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led federal government for allowing the roads leading to Apapa to rot.
What is even most annoying to many Lagosians and motorists is fact that the same Lagos State government would allow truck drivers to takeover Eko Bridge which leads to other important places like Marina, Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki.
The traffic quagmire in Apapa got to a head recently when the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway was totally locked down. From Cele Bus Stop, there was simply no movement for vehicles going towards Mile 2, Apapa, Kirikiri and other communities in the axis. Sheer bedlam reigned on the road. Motorists desirous of reaching Mile 2 were compelled to ply the opposite lane and face traffic coming from Mile 2. All adjoining roads, including Ago Palace Way, Lagos-Badagry Expressway and other areas were affected. To restore some sanity, the federal and state government set up a taskforce headed by the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal, comprising members of the security and traffic management agencies as well as unions within the maritime sector. The taskforce has since been handed over to the Commander Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Commodore Okon Eyo.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was also in Lagos for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation. But like every other thing in the country, the task force has since gone to sleep with truck drivers reigning supreme.
While this is happening, living in and around the Apapa zone is a nightmare. Businesses are suffering and many have folded up. Everyone is losing. The trucks and tankers which gather around Apapa from all over the country are also incurring heavy losses due to the long period they spend on queues to access the ports and fuel tank farms. All these could be greatly reduced if only the truck operators would comply with simple instructions; stay in holding bays and await their turns to access the ports.
Culpability of NPA
The NPA has equally been accused of culpability in the confusion taking place in Apapa. Many analysts and observers believe that it is not playing its regulatory role properly, thereby allowing the concessionaires at the ports to hinder smooth operations.
Many stakeholders have wondered why the federal government has also not revamped the ports in Warri, Sapele, Port Harcourt, Onne, and Calabar in order to decongest the Lagos ports and save Lagosians the trouble of entering Apapa.
For instance, an importer, Emeka Enebeli, said the Apapa gridlock is a great sign that Nigeria is a country that cannot solve the most elementary of its problems.
According to him, “we have ports in Warri, Sapele, Port Harcourt, Onne, and Calabar. We have also river ports in Onitsha, Lokoja and Baro. Why can’t we activate them to disperse these trucks and tankers to other ports and allow Apapa to breathe? Why must the whole nation depend only on Apapa and Tin Can Ports? Why can’t we rehabilitate the various fuel depots around the country so that tankers will not need to come to Lagos to load fuel?
“Can’t we quickly complete the roads in Apapa? Can’t we activate the Apapa rail corridor to join in evacuating goods? When will Nigeria have a government that can solve problems? The is gridlock, which has been in place for the best of the past nine years, defying succeeding regimes, is a great sign that Nigeria is a country that cannot solve the most elementary of its problems.”
Writing with the caption: ‘Apapa as a metaphor for Nigeria’ recently, a public affairs analyst, Chido Nwakanma, said the current state of Apapa speaks to the confusion and wrong priorities in Nigeria. He added that it was inconceivable that the place that contributes so much to the nation’s income and resource base would suffer such wanton disregard until all of its infrastructure would collapse.
“Apapa speaks to the confusion and wrong priorities in our national planning or lack thereof. It is inconceivable that the place that contributes so much to the nation’s income and resource base would suffer such wanton disregard until all of its infrastructure would collapse. What is wrong with officialdom in this country that allows such egregious errors happen? Is there an Elite Consensus to enable Nigeria to die? Drawing any other conclusion is difficult.
“We similarly neglected the Niger Delta until our brothers and sisters revolted from the stranglehold and choking effects of the deprivation and degradation. Nigeria began to respond only after the agitations. We have not felt the urgency of the need even now.”
Lamenting on the untold hardship which all the stakeholders in the maritime industry are facing on a daily basis because of the bad Apapa Port road, the Vice President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto, said it was a shame to the country because the ports are generating billions of naira on a daily basis.
He argued, “If the road is fixed, about 70 per cent of the problem of Lagos port has been solved. The congestion on the sea and on the road will be solved. Aside this, most of the shipping companies do not have holding bays. They still want to return the empty containers to the port; this is also causing congestion on the road.
“Some of the owners of these containers are giving us problems because the owners are top government officials. We have shouted and cried out but nobody is listening to us until recently when the port authority at started using the big stick on them. Some of their activities have been suspended now because they do not have a holding bay.
“Without any apology it is the elite of this country that is causing problem for us, all the shipping companies have retired generals or former Heads of State, ministers and senators both serving and retired as their chairman, therefore they can just flout the order at will until recently when the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala, stood her ground that the law must be obeyed no matter who is involved.”