Stories by Maduka Nweke
Apapa can be regarded as the gateway to the Nigerian economy for various reasons. This accounts for heavy businesses that thrive within and around it and why all the link roads to it are always busy. The area houses the various ports in Lagos such that except on holidays, the two major roads that link the ports’ place are always noted for gridlock. Apapa is also an island and this makes the routes linking the ports to other parts of the state very limited. Also, because Apapa is home to the major ports in the country, it became the home for containers bringing goods or consignments from other countries and those exporting goods. This is why whatever would result to closing any of the two major links – Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and Ijora-Apapa Expressway – would be considered very serious because such closure is bound to have a far reaching adverse effect on business in Nigeria.
The Federal Government, last week, ordered the immediate closure of the strategic Apapa-Ijora Bridge siting emergency maintenance work as reason. The announcement, which was made immediately after the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, held a meeting with concerned stakeholders in Lagos to discuss the way forward for the maintenance of the bridge seen to have seriously dilapidated, was viewed by some business moguls as not done with some palliatives.
The 40-year-old bridge links Nigeria’s premier port to both the Lagos Mainland and Island. Fashola said the closure of the bridge was a necessary measure as it would save lives and prevent avoidable mishaps. He said, “in a situation like this, we need to choose between inconvenience and safety. The first thing to do is to shut down the bridge for the sake of safety and I appeal to residents to bear with us.”
He also stated that Ijora/Marina-bound vehicles would be diverted to other routes to reduce inconveniences caused commuters. Fashola expressed dismay at the long years of neglect that resulted to the dilapidation of the bridge. “We are dealing with several decades of neglect and there are quite a few bridges across the country that are dying for maintenance and we have to take steps to fix them as soon as possible,” he said.
The Minister also visited a meter manufacturing company in Lagos, where he urged electricity distribution companies to patronise local meter manufacturers.
However, stakeholders have expressed discontent at the approach of government to the rehabilitation work on the bridge as they believe that before a closure of such major road, there should have been an alternative put in place so that maintenance and business could be going on simultaneously.
A freight forwarder, Uche Ikenzue, who spoke to Daily Sun, said that the closure without suitable alternative was not done in good faith. He said that government has mastered the system of misplacing priorities, hence, instead of clearing the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway for motorists to use, it abandoned it and also intends to close the only open access to the ports place.
According to him, the Minister has a lot of things to do to ameliorate the pains of the public in various other routes and sectors. “He wants to take a place where everybody will be talking about him, which he thinks, means he is working. He wants to use it to shine. Let him use federal might and clear the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway for the road to be free. When the road is free, those who use the Ijora axis will now use the Mile 2 axis to connect Apapa pending the completion of the maintenance on the Ijora Bridge,” he stressed.
According to Isaac Nwanna, “the Ijora Bridge looks very unsafe to drive on. Nigeria just lacks a culture of maintenance in every facet. These are areas government should address urgently through the provision of alternatives. I cannot understood why the CBN increased interest rates while the country is currently experiencing a recession. Ordinarily, you ought to cut rates during recessionary periods to stimulate liquidity in the economy by making money cheaper for businessmen to borrow but in our case, the Federal Government has done the opposite by increasing rates, which only leads to everything being more expensive as pointed out by the representative of the metering company. Government should look into other sectors where the infrastructure are dilapidating with a view to amending and maintaining them,” he said.
Recall that Fashola as Governor of Lagos State raised the alarm that the Apapa/Ijora Bridge was in grave danger and needed urgent repairs. He spoke while hosting the Presidential Committee for Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) led by its then Chairman, General Martin Luther Agwai (retd), at the State House, Ikeja, Lagos.
While noting that it was good that some of the SURE-P funds went into the repair of the 3rd Mainland Bridge, the governor stated that “there were not less than 28 bridges in Lagos that belong to the Federal Government that have not been maintained in the last 40 years.” He listed one of such bridges as the Apapa/Ijora bridge, which, he noted, had become a nightmare to drive on.
According to him, “the expansion joints of the Apapa/Ijora Bridge have widened so dangerously that it is a nightmare to drive on it. Some of the studies we did I have sent the report to the Federal Ministry of Works showing what needs to be done and how much it would cost to do them.”
He added that those were places the infrastructure could be renewed at the time instead of investing in areas where state or local governments have already invested.
USAF plans economic empowerment scheme for Nigerians
Determined to better the lot of Nigerians, an organisation, USAF Global Business Development, has taken responsibility to provide a link between Africans and Americans in business.
The founder, Mr. Festus Adenisimi, said the venture is aimed at increasing the chances of Nigerians in education and employment abroad. He said the organisation does this by providing leadership and guideline in business development.
He pointed out that most people lack the information required to project their ideas, stressing that once the necessary push is given, the ideas will become reality.
This, he stated, is the kind of work USAF Foundation does and it is designed to assist people grow their ideas. He also informed that a major conference has been planned to hold from October 6 – 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas, USA.
According to the USAF Global Business Development founder, the idea of setting up the organisation stemmed from his background. “I come from a large family and I have many friends and these people have a lot of needs. Also, a lot of my friends come to the United States and get defrauded by some unscrupulous people and the only way I can give back to these people is to create an organisation like this to help people.”
He noted that Nigeria produces graduates annually but lamented that most of them do not get jobs because they lack knowledge and that USAF desires to fill that gap.
In Lagos, participants at the membership forum were taught “Brand Building and Social Media Marketing” by Ace Anderson and Donte Dean.
Other USAF officials at the event in turns stressed that the conference would be “An experience with the world’s most forward thinking innovators.”
According to them, “our mission is to reshape the future of education and entrepreneurship! To develop those who aspire to become the next world ambassadors to lead with confidence and intellect. We make education and entrepreneurship translate into success.
“USAF Global Business Development provides leadership guidance and business techniques of success. Members of USAF Global Business Development will gain access to business development seminars, leadership advancement seminars, a network community of businesses all over the world, investment opportunities and education enhancement.”
USAF’s programmes include education, social services and emergency relief. On education, they insist that, “every child deserves a right to an education. Education transforms lives and breaks the cycle of poverty for children and their families. However, around the world, 59 million primary school children are not in the classroom and the number is growing.”
In social services, the organisation states that, “malnutrition and water related illnesses are the leading causes of death for children. By treating childhood malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, USAF Foundation works to provide food, clean water access and shelter options for families in need.”
And on emergency relief, it said, “the need for humanitarian relief is massive. With the aftermath of a natural disaster, relief to children and their families are crucial. USAF will serve as an aid with resources and volunteers to help provide a level of comfort to those affected by the civil conflicts or unforeseen emergencies.”
NES educates youths on greening economy
The first International Environmental Students Summit (IESU) organised by the Nigerian Environmental Society (NES) to strategically position the youths on the greening of the economy is scheduled to hold from August 18 to 20, 2016.
NES is the premier environmental organisation advocating and enhancing the leadership role in helping Nigeria and Africa transit to a sustainable development path.
According to the society, the summit with the theme, “Greening the Economy: Strategically Positioning the Youths – the Future of Africa”, would provide veritable opportunities to develop awareness on the lifestyle consequences of current unsustainable consumption that will also stimulate capacity building for an African emerging green economy.
The society said many of the highlights of the summit would include an examination of a Green Economy Framework, Green Consumption, the launch of the Institute of Environmental Management (IEMA) certificate courses (NES), Young Environmentalist Scheme (YES) and excursion to a Green Park initiative.
“We are promoting ‘the Green Economy’ where the vital linkages between the economy, society and environment are taken together to transform production and consumption that would lead to the efficient use of resources. The summit would hold from August 18 to 20, 2016, at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos. Students will arrive on August 18 and depart on 20th while the Summit is August 19.”
“The society will be launching the IEMA foundation certificate course in Environmental Management at a subsidised rate accessible to members of NES; Capacity Building, Monitoring and Environmental Innovation; the student and university chapter award and the NES Young Environmentalist Scheme (YES) Fellowship to increase enterprise capacity of students.”
“This is premised in the collaboration with four UK institutions namely, Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS); University of East Anglia (UEA); Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) and Lancaster Environmental Centre (LEC).
“There will also be a panel discussion on the theme and a visit to a conservation park LUFASI and NCF. Students who want to join the society can do so at the event as the above benefits will only be applicable to members of NES,” the statement stressed.