Three Days after Expiration of Buhari’s Order, Gridlock Remains in Apapa

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Eromosele Abiodun

Three days after the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s order that trucks and tankers parked along Apapa Ports access roads to vacate the area within 72 hours, the both end of Western Avenue and Mile 2 to Tincan Island Port section of Apapa-Oshodi Express roads are still littered with trucks and tankers, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.

Truck owners who spoke to THISDAY yesterday blamed lack of parking space for their decision to remain on the port access roads, urging the federal government to give them more time to find parking space.

However, the National President of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Remi Ogungbemi, told THISDAY that his members were complying with the presidential directive, stressing that trucks were still on the road because the government order was restricted to containerised trucks.

This is even as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, said yesterday that it would be impossible to totally remove all the trucks from the road if trailer park was not provided for the truckers.

The AMATO President said the decision to allow Dangote trucks to remain on the road was also affecting the clearing effort.

He said: “The government should order all trucks to leave the road so that movement can be fully regulated. Even at that, trucks will still be on the road because Apapa is a port area and the port has to operate. As an association, we have no choice but to obey the government’s order. We call on Nigerians to be patient as there is no perfect system anywhere in the world.”

Meanwhile, Bala-Usman who spoke on Lagos Talk FM, called on the Lagos and Ogun State Governments to provide land for the development of trailer parks.

The NPA boss also called on the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, to conclude the trailer park inside the Tincan Island Port, noting that the ministry has been constructing the park around Tincan Island Port access for the past 10 years.

She said: “I call on the Lagos state government to use overriding public interest and withdraw some of the land allocations they have for trailer parks so that they can be developed into standardised parks for the use of the state.

“The traffic situation will not reduce in Apapa unless there is a concerted effort in providing trailer parks. I will also use this opportunity to call on the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to conclude the trailer park inside the Tincan Island Port, the ministry has been constructing the park around Tincan Island Port access for the past 10 years.

“I have held discussions with the ministry two years ago when I assumed duty and requested that the trailer park be handed over to the NPA so that we can conclude the shore protection and have it ready. Fixing that trailer park along with what we have currently at Lilypond will go a long way in decongesting the traffic.

“The gridlock in Apapa has been lingering for too long, the NPA in the last three weeks have withdrew the lease for the Lilypond Terminal and converted it into a Trailer Transit Park (TTP). We have also called on the Lagos State Government to provide land for TTP for the overriding public interest; we need trailer parks and holding bays to enable us manage the traffic. We cannot have a situation where all the trailers do not have designated parking space. We must have, as state or local government, a place for trucks to park”.

Bala-Usman further said: “The NPA intends to have call up system in the trailer parks. Lilypond is really a transit into the port; we need to have large-sized parks that will house the trailers on the road. A lot of the trailers on the road have no business in the port, they are there waiting to be called for business. If the Lagos or Ogun State Government provides space for the parks, those trailers who have no business at the port can stay there for people who need their service to contact them”.

However, when THISDAY visited the Lagos Port Complex yesterday, it discovered that trailers and other heavy-duty vehicles were no longer parked indiscriminately.

Some stakeholders noted that the current situation has made life easy and bearable for them, particularly for port users and Lagosians living in Apapa, Ijora, Ajegunle, Orile and Surulere.

In their separate interviews with THISDAY, some of the importers, port users, residents of Apapa and other stakeholders, lamented how tankers and trailers made their roads impassable and their lives miserable before the conversion of the Lillypond terminal to a transit trailer park.

An importer, Mr Oladimeji Benjamin, said the Ijora Road to Lagos Port Complex was totally blocked.

Benjamin recounted: “We could not drive in or drive out of the port. For me to come to Apapa, I took my vehicle to CMS, paid N500.00 to park the vehicle; go to the jetty and paid another N150.00 from CMS to Apapa. From there, I took N100. 00 bike to LPC to carry out my business.

“That is how many of us operated in Apapa before the current intervention by the NPA. We are happy that the NPA has come to our aid. It takes me less than 10 minutes now to drive from Ojuelegba to LPC gate in Apapa. That is fantastic. We give kudos to NPA for this laudable initiative and we hope the federal government will support the NPA to do more.”

Also, a resident of Ijora, Fagbemi Badare, pointed out the health hazards they were exposed to, before the NPA turned the Lillypond terminal to a Truck Transit Park.

“The notorious truck drivers have deliberately turned the walk-way, our drainages and the bridge into their toilets. You can imagine the filth and health risk such nasty and dastardly acts exposed our wives, children and aged parents, most especially at night and during the rainy season, “he said.

The presidency had last week Wednesday give a two-week deadline for the removal of all impediments to free flow of traffic and all congestion around the Apapa port and its environs.

It also ordered operators of trucks and tankers parked along access roads to the ports to vacate the area within 72 hours.

A statement from the Office of the Vice-President in Abuja, said the directive was the fallout of an emergency meeting convened by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 25, which was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.

The statement, issued by Osinbajo’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the meeting came up with solutions to protracted gridlock around Lagos ports, which has continued to impede both port operations and comfort of residents.