Stories by Isaac Anumihe
Amidst concerns raised by the residents and workers in Apapa business district in Lagos State over the menace of tank farms, a new tank farm, which has the capacity to hold up to 50 million litres of petroleum products and could attract about 800 additional trucks per day into the already congested Apapa area, is now under construction.
This is coming as over 5,000 trucks line up along the Apapa Road daily to lift petroleum products from the various tank farms. Apart from causing gridlock, the road suffers debilitation and degradation.
It is against this backdrop that the call to relocate the tank farms has intensified in recent times. But instead of relocating the structures, more tank farms are springing up, prompting the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, to cry out saying that the Federal Government is losing over N10 billion daily to the Apapa Wharf gridlock. Although, 60 per cent of the trucks are owned by Dangote, he did not allow his personal interest to override the overall interest of Nigerians and the economy.
In a statement after a stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja recently, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, assured that the government will not consider the construction of more tank farms along the Apapa Road.
“No more approvals for tank farms will be given within the Apapa area any longer. The trailer park on Tin Can Island will also be reconstructed within three months, so that we can have access to holding bays and trailer parks. The NPA is also licensing access to the trailer parks and port allocations. We are issuing advertisements seeking for expression of interests of some private sectors to operate some trailer parks and holding bays within the Tin Can Island area” she assured.
Notwithstanding the assurances and the cries by Nigerians over the hazards of the tank farms, a new tank farm is currently being constructed.
While condemning the move, Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup described the action as ill-timed and ill-advised.
According to the STOAN Chairman, it is unheard of that anyone will conceive the idea of setting up a tank farm in Apapa at this time. She said in addition to bad roads and the absence of truck parks, the preponderance of tank farms and oil depots has largely contributed to “the menacing gridlock in Apapa”.
“There is an over-concentration of oil tank farms in Apapa, which is an area predominantly designed for port operations. There is now a situation where we have proliferation of oil tank farms without regard for the safety and logistics implication.
“Government needs to consider relocating even the existing tank farms out of Apapa and discontinue approval for new ones.
“Tank farms should normally be located several miles away from the city and from the port area for safety reasons.
“There is a need to open up the inner roads to allow for free flow of traffic. We also need efficient traffic control measures to allow for free movement of trucks. At present, several cargoes are trapped in the port because of the bad road and the truck queues on the road,” she said.
Haastrup advocated more efficient traffic management system in Apapa to enhance the movement of vehicles as ongoing construction work lasts.
For his part, a freight forwarder, Dr Patrick Chukwu, said the authorities are in a hurry to settle their ‘boys’ in view of the fact that the administration will soon end.
“It is a political settlement. When there is no appointment, they will look for anything for settlement. They don’t mind if they kill all the ports in Nigeria. There will be a time when nobody will be ready to do business in Nigerian ports. People will be forced to move out to do business outside Nigeria. The tank farms contribute to all the bad roads we have in Lagos State,” he said.
Out of the 67 tank farms in Nigeria, over 38 of them are located in the Apapa-Wharf area, a situation that has made movement in that part of Lagos State very hellish.
Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) recently called on the Federal Government to relocate the tank farms from the port city of Apapa and other locations across the country. The union blamed the chaotic situation on the Apapa end of the ever-busy expressway on the activities of the petroleum tankers.
Recall that in September 2017, the Lagos State House of Assembly had called on the Federal Government to relocate the tank farms from Apapa as a way out of the current gridlock in the area.
A member representing Apapa Constituency 1, Mojisola Miranda, who raised the issue under matter of urgent public importance during plenary, said the activities of tank farm operators in Apapa were not only affecting traffic in the area, but also negatively affecting free flow of traffic in other parts of the state.
Also in April this year, the Lagos State Government said it had initiated talks with the Federal Government on how to relocate oil tank farms from Apapa.
In view of the foregoing, it is unthinkable, therefore, for anyone to locate another tank farm in the area.