“This issue has become perennial and in the last six years it has always been there. It comes and goes, but the challenge is to be able to find a permanent solution.”
• FG must revamp moribund ports, halt creation of tank farms in Lagos
In the past few months, roads in Apapa and adjoining communities in Lagos have become a discomfiting spectacle of traffic chaos. The perennial gridlock in the area seems to have defied all solutions.
Each day, trailer trucks, fuel tankers and other container-bearing articulated vehicles line up every major road leading up to the Tin Can Port and the Apapa Wharf, making commuting a herculean, sometimes unfeasible, task for other motorists.
Till date, most bridges on Western Avenue, Ijora and along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway have been turned to parking lots by drivers of articulated vehicles. It was gathered that operations at the ports have collapsed, and accessing the facilities has become difficult for the container-bearing trucks.
The situation got to a head two weeks ago, as the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway was totally locked down. From Cele Bus Stop, there was simply no movement for vehicles going towards Mile 2, Apapa, Kirikiri
and other communities in the axis. Sheer bedlam reigned on the road. Motorists desirous of reaching Mile 2 were compelled to ply the opposite lane and face traffic coming from Mile 2. All adjoining roads, including Ago Palace Way, Lagos-Badagry Expressway and other areas were affected. To restore some sanity, the federal and state government set up a task force headed by the Lagos State commissioner of police, Imohimi Edgal, comprising members of the security and traffic management agencies as well as unions within the maritime sector. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was also in Lagos for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.
The task force has since cleared some of the traffic chaos and made the service lane available for motorists, as a temporary measure. Over 2,000 articulated vehicles were taken off the road in the exercise. The state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, also held a meeting with stakeholders, including the leadership of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and maritime unions, among others. At the meeting, the state government suspended further approvals for development of tank farms. The government has also issued a 30-day ultimatum to tank farms to create loading bays. The DPR was charged to implement the directive after the expiration of the ultimatum.
But then, Ambode has been suggesting ways of permanently addressing the gridlock in Apapa. Last week, Ambode held a town hall meeting with residents of the Ibeju-Lekki/ Epe axis of the state, where he also addressed the unending congestion on roads leading to Apapa. The meeting, which was the 12th edition, was held at the Community Primary School, Iberekodo.
Ambode insisted that the chaos being witnessed in Apapa was beyond traffic issues. He said the problem at the ports, which has always led to the chaos on the road, would not cease until moribund ports in other parts of the country were revamped and put to use. He also criticised the location of tank farms in congested and densely-populated parts of Lagos.
Said the governor at the event: “It would be very unfair to Lagosians if I don’t talk about issues relating to traffic management and integrated transport management, most especially what we have witnessed in the last one week in Apapa. I would like to tell Lagosians that we have gone to work on the Apapa crisis, and you can see that there is a major improvement.
“But again, this issue has become perennial and in the last six years it has always been there. It comes and goes, but the challenge is to be able to find a permanent solution. And for that reason, Mr. President directed the Vice President to come and see what the situation was and to actually give us a permanent solution. We are grateful to Mr. President. We believe strongly that every layer of government should collaborate to resolve this Apapa crisis.
“But we all must know that Apapa crisis is more than traffic issues. That is where all states depend on for revenue through the Customs, because the revenue is shared at the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC). If anything goes wrong at the port, whatever they get from the FAAC could reduce.
“The Apapa congestion is a national issue that requires urgent attention. The oil pipelines should be revived to discourage the trend of thousands of trucks coming from other parts of the country to lift petroleum products from Apapa.
“It is bad that we still use trucks to lift petroleum products from Apapa to other parts of the country. As it is now, other ports in Nigeria must begin to work immediately to decongest the gridlock in Lagos. Whatever has led to the continual use of trucks to lift fuel, which is, vandalism of the pipelines, should be addressed immediately.
“We believe that this will allow the roads to become free. We don’t need to continuously use taxpayers’ money to build roads that would be destroyed by tankers. We call on the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the DPR to work towards reviving the pipelines.”
Another issue addressed by the governor was the development of tank farms in the Ijegun area of Lagos. While noting that he had nothing against the redistribution of tank farms, Ambode maintained that such should not be sited in highly-populated areas.
“We don’t need tank farms within the Lagos metropolis anymore,” said the governor. “There are 86 tank farms in Apapa alone. That is a serious danger waiting to happen. Beyond Apapa, they have approved tank farms in Ijegun axis and that is where we have huge population.
“We need to redistribute tank farm establishments to outer borders and other parts. This is what we believe should be done at this moment to free Lagos roads,” he said.
The governor explained that the town hall meetings had afforded him the opportunity to hear directly from the people, adding that many people and communities had also received immediate answers from the government during such meetings.
“Our promise from the very beginning was that we were going to give you a government of inclusion and it’s very clear that we are on track.
“We are happy to be here. We are everywhere meeting the needs of our people, asking them what the issues are and wanting to respond positively to those issues. Yes, we are not perfect, we would try our best but our people know that we are doing things that would create prosperity for their future,” he said.
He told residents at the meeting that the Epe Airport project and reconstruction of the coastal road were on course. He also informed them that the dualisation of the Eleko Junction to the T-Junction in Epe would commence in January next year, while the network of 27 roads in Ojokoro and Ayinke House, among others, would be completed before the next quarter.
“I want to appeal to the people to please bear with us on the infrastructure projects across the state. We are working towards delivering them on schedule. It is just a little pain for greater joy,” the governor said.
Ambode thanked traditional rulers, community heads and residents of Ibeju Lekki for their unflinching support towards the advancement of the multi-billion dollar projects ongoing in the Lekki Free Trade Zone. He promised that all issues relating to compensation for land would be resolved before the end of the week.
The governor spent considerable time listening to different residents, all of whom got immediate responses to their questions. Many of the speakers complained about the insufficient number of teachers in public schools in the state. The governor promised that 1,000 teachers would be recruited immediately and distributed across some public schools.
Following the complaints by some residents of Agege and Mafoluku about the activities of some cultists known as Awawa Boys, the governor directed the commissioner of police to tackle the problem immediately.
Mr. Michael Ogunyemi, a physically-challenged graduate of computer studies who said he had been jobless for five years, was enraptured as the governor directed the Civil Service Commission to grant him immediate employment from August 1.
He also charged the Lagos State Office of Disability Affairs to establish branches of the office in each of the local government and local council development areas in the state for ease of operation.
“For me, I am particularly happy with the fact that the town hall meetings are meeting their objectives. If I sit in my office in Alausa, there is no way I could get the feedback I am getting here and that is one of the reasons I am happy that we set this up.
“I want to appreciate the people for coming out to tell us what they want us to do and the areas we need to intervene. For me, I will continue to work hard to make life comfortable and better for our people,” the governor said.