50% of Apapa Gridlock Cleared, Says Opeifa

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  •  Truck owners hail removal of security agencies

Esther Oluku

The Team Lead of the Presidential Committee on Clearing of Apapa Port and Access Roads, Kayode Opeifa yesterday said the gridlock has been cleared by 50 per cent.

This is coming as the federal government’s withdrawal of the Nigerian Naval officers and other military personnel from controlling traffic at the Apapa Port has been lauded as a welcome development by some truck owners.

Opeifa said the clearing of trucks on Apapa port and access roads are moving steadily and the roads would soon be totally cleared of trucks.

His assessment came barely 24 hours after the expiration of the Presidential Order issued on Wednesday, ordering the clearing of all trucks from the Apapa port and roads.

Opeifa, who was representing the Chairman of the Committee and Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo, scored the exercise “as above average” within the first 24 hours of the deadline. He said the cleanup is going on and that most of the roads would be cleared of all trucks by Monday.

The president in issuing the order set up a task force headed by Vice president Yemi Osinbajo to clear the Apapa gridlock and its environs within two weeks.

“The Taskforce, which will report directly to the President, has included on its Terms of Reference the development of an efficient and effective management plan for the entire port area traffic, including the cargo, fuel distribution, and business district traffic.”

Speaking with journalists yesterday, Opeifa said most of the roads especially the only leading to the port, have been cleared.

He said because of the nature of the vehicles, and the huge numbers involved, trucks could still be found on the roads but efforts are being made to clear as much of them as possible off the road.

According to him; “The trucks could not comply fully because of their number, however, we are using a combination of stakeholder engagement, traffic management direction and enforcement to clear up to port road inside Apapa. This is also backed up by a manual call up system by the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), which has started using the newly deployed empty container return yard at Lillypond Terminal. This is the centre point for empty container return as well as call up stag in deployment point for port access.”

Meanwhile, the federal government’s withdrawal of the Nigerian Naval officers and other military personnel from controlling traffic at the Apapa Port has been lauded as a welcome development by some truck owners.

The  Lagos State Vice President, National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO),  Dry Cargo Sector, Mr. Abdullahi Mohammad-Inunwa,  gave the commendation yesterday.

 He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a telephone interview that the directive was a welcome development to his members.

 The federal government had  last  Wednesday mandated  the Nigerian Navy and all other military formations to withdraw from traffic management duties in and around the Apapa axis.

 It also said that all military and paramilitary checkpoints in front of the ports and environs should be dismantled.

The government said that the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) should move into Apapa as the lead traffic management agency.

It also said that the NPA should  commence the immediate use of the Lilypond Terminal and Trailer Park ‘A’ as a truck transit park.

He said that the inclusion of the security agencies  in the task force had  compounded the gridlock in and around the port.

He said, “when President Muhammadu Buhari visited Lagos during his electioneering, the trucks were cleared off the roads within hours.

“The public then asked what  magic was  performed by us  to achieve it.

“But  there was no other magic that  we performed than synergising  with  the Nigeria Ports Authority’s  Task Force Chairman, Commodore Eyo , and the Council of Maritime Transport Union Association (COMTUA).

“We had meetings with NPA where we jointly agreed on modalities to apply.

“The NPA team then promised to introduce truck manual call-up scheme,” he said.

Inua also attributed the gridlock to the failure of  some shipping companies to provide truck bays as stipulated in their agreement with the government.

“The shipping companies were not able to provide truck bays outside the port.

“With truck bays, they will be able to move their trucks in batches after receiving approval from the NPA to the terminals for either loading or dropping off, of  empty containers.”

The Head of Operations of COMTUA also said that this deficiency on the part of the shipping companies amounted to sabotaging federal government’s policy on  ease of doing business at the port.

He called for an effective transport call-up system for entry of trucks to port which he said was successful in the
first three weeks of its introduction.