Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has enlisted President Muhammadu Buhari’s support to develop the Lekki and Badagry ports as an alternative to the Apapa port, as a final solution to the perennial gridlock.
Sanwo-Olu, who met privately with the president, yesterday, after he met with the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governors Forum at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said he briefed him on the few initiatives his administration is planning for Lagos and to get his buy-in and concurrence.
“Today’s visit is essentially just to brief him on the few initiatives that we are planning to do in Lagos and to get his buy-in and his concurrence. I cannot speak specifically on the things we discussed but I can assure you that it borders on areas around development for Lagos, areas around collaboration with the Federal Government that requires His Excellency’s approval and support; that is what I have come to brief him and it is essentially to improve the quality of life and business development in Lagos.”
The governor said President Buhari’s response was very encouraging.
“His acceptance of the initiatives I brought on board was resounding. So, I am encouraged and he just gives me the opportunity to go and do more.”
He said his administration is already speaking with investors to push either the Lekki Port or the Badagary Port as the long term alternative to the Apapa port.
On his plans to clear the Apapa gridlock, he said: “Interestingly, some media houses have actually been counting down on me. They said I mentioned during the campaign train that I was going to clear it in 60 days. I have mentioned it before, what I said was that in 60 days, we would review what was done but that does not take the fact that even if people give you deadline, it is because they want you to do well and they want you to be accountable for those datelines.
“It is one of the things I thanked Mr. President for. What was done was that the Federal Government has set up a task force. It is a multifaceted challenge – there is different stakeholders that are involved in one way or the other – as operators, observers, practitioners and stakeholders in the entire Apapa gridlock and most of them are federal agencies in one form or the other. But, it is Lagos State citizens that are bearing the entire burden.
“The real construction of the road has started, but it is not at the stage in which we can feel the full impact of it. That is on one side. The movement of the tanker drivers has also started. There is a Lilly pond terminal that has been created with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other terminal operators which I imagined have started doing what we call the call-up system. What I understand by the call-up is that it is a system that needs to be electronically driven. I think it is currently run manually now, but if we can get a software that can enhance it and enforce it, the call-up system can become something that can hold the tanker drivers accountable.
“If you are not call on to come into the port, you are not meant to come. But beyond that, it is to look at the entire value chain – who are the users and who are the operators in that space. So, you have the shipping companies, the port terminal operators, the Nigeria Shippers Council, you have the NPA which are the major anchor tenant there. Then you also have all sort of operators – Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASMA) which are supposed to be the arm of Lagos State helping hand, the police who are also supposed to help out with security and one or two others. So, all of us need to complement one another,” the governor said.