… As Apapa regeneration takes centre stage at Ambode’s town hall meeting
It is one challenge that has defied every solution. Over the years, several initiatives introduced by the Lagos and federal governments to combat the scourge never yielded any fruits.
The traffic chaos in Apapa, which has progressively spread to virtually every road in and around the axis, has remained intractable, tasking the patience of residents and business owners to the very limit.
The unending gridlock on virtually every road in the axis is caused by the activities of operators of articulated vehicles navigating their way to the Apapa ports. The road from Mile 2 to Apapa has collapsed. Every day, trucks and tankers line up from Apapa, clogging the roads and causing intractable gridlocks on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Western Avenue, Ikorodu Road, Apapa Road and other roads far beyond the axis.
But right now, there are glimmers of hope. Last week, at a town hall meeting with residents of Apapa, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode declared that his government had found some solution to the supposedly unsolvable gridlock.
Ambode was in Apapa for his quarterly town hall meeting; the second in the year and the 11th since the meetings commenced. Many people thronged the Apapa Amusement Park to interact with the governor. Expectedly, the focus of the meeting was on the present pitiable condition of Apapa.
In his opening address, Ambode said the town hall meetings had greatly enhanced governance. “In each town hall meeting, issues are raised that are actually not in the budget or what we planned to do. But when people raise those issues and we end up doing them, it enhances governance.”
He noted that the 21 roads and bridges recently inaugurated in Alimosho were a product of the town hall meetings. The initial plan, he explained, was to do five roads. But the roads eventually became 21, with an additional two bridges.
The governor dwelled extensively on the gridlock that had virtually turned Apapa into a shadow of its glorious, commercial self. He said his government was seriously concerned about the hardship the people of the area were being subjected to as a result of the container-bearing trucks and tankers moving in and out of the ports and tank farms.
“Effective today, our government will take over the ABAT Truck Terminal, Orile-Iganmu and commence immediate repairs to make the park ready for effective use. In the meantime, we will appeal to members of the tanker drivers association to conduct themselves in an orderly manner and cooperate with our task force to ensure smooth flow of traffic and better access to the Ports.
“We thank the people of Apapa for enduring such harsh conditions. But I assure you that this situation will be a thing of the past by the end of this year,” he said.
The ABAT Truck Terminal, it was gathered, could conveniently accommodate 3,000 trucks. The governor said some of the trucks parked on the Western Avenue Bridge would be moved to the park.
“Already, we have cleared the shanties. The truth is, I always feel very bad about this Apapa gridlock. That is why I have decided that we should bring all our resources together. Let’s discuss with people, let’s also talk to the experts and see what is happening there,” he said.
The gridlocks have also ensured anarchy on roads in the area. Commercial buses and motorbike operators drive against traffic at all times of the day and night, sometimes causing fatal crashes.
Responding to this, Ambode directed the police to enforce the Lagos State Traffic Law, especially with regards to the restriction on motorcyclists on major highways and roads. He said a number of roads, including the Orile-Mile 2-Trade Fair-CMS Road, would be repaired to open up alternative roads for motorists.
According to Ambode, though his government had received kudos from several quarters for what it has so far done, “if you ask us whether we have done enough, the answer is, no. And so we are here so that the people can tell us what they want us to do.”
He said even though the elections were fast approaching, his government would not stop delivering the dividends of democracy to the people.
“That is why the 2018 budget is anchored on consolidating on the things that we have started in the last three years, so that we ensure that all the projects that are ongoing are delivered. We will also implement new ones that are all designed to make life comfortable for our people,” he said.
He urged residents to get the permanent voter cards (PVC), contending that Lagos should use next year’s general election to confirm its status as the most populous state in the country. That, he noted, would help to correct the anomaly in the distribution of national resources.
“That is why we must encourage each and every one of us to push ourselves, if it is door-to-door or house-to-house, in our various groups and unions, to ensure that we go out and get our PVC.
“When we make our state to look good, other people come in and put pressure on the state for us. That is why we have too much pressure on our health facilities, our schools and other facilities. That is why this mobilisation for the PVC has a longer reach than what you think,” the governor said.
But beyond the Apapa traffic crisis, people at the meeting brought other issues that needed the governor’s attention. There were concerns about unemployment, physically challenged persons, noise pollution, bad roads, rehabilitation of schools and several others.
A community leader, Chief (Mrs.) Onye, alleged that many hotels and nightclubs in Apapa were traumatising residents through noise pollution. And Ambode immediately ordered the relevant agencies of the state government to promptly arrest the situation.
Said he: “We must commend Chief (Mrs.) Onye for being a true and patriotic Lagosian. I will even tell our security agencies to protect her because she has come to tell us something that is a major menace in Lagos, the noise pollution and unruly behaviour among most of the hoteliers in this axis.
“This is the real essence of this town hall meeting. I would never have seen this in the file. So, let our security agencies, the Safety Commission, the Commissioner for Special Duties and others connected enter into Apapa and clean it up. We don’t want any noise pollution. We want the people of Apapa to enjoy governance. We want to experience the sanity that others are enjoying. There are rules and regulations on how you can operate and those rules and regulations must be enforced.”
And still on Apapa, the governor explained why his administration had not repaired the Tin Can Island Road. His words: “It is a Federal Government road. The little that we can do, we have done. But we don’t want to create any conflict. You will recall what we went through to take over the Airport Road.
We have left the Tin Can side in Apapa to see how far the Federal Government can go. We don’t want to take too much in our hands. Whatever palliative we can do that will not be in conflict with the overall contract that has been issued, we will try to do.
“The truth is that, once a contract has been issued by the Federal Government on a particular project, whatever it is that the state government does, we will not get any refund because they will tell you that the contractor is already doing it. But since the rehabilitation of the road is more about our own people and people living in Lagos, whatever it is that we can do to ameliorate the pains of our people will be done. But we have to wait to see what is happening to the contract and if progress is not being made, we would have to intervene.”