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 on Tuesday after he met with All Progressives Congress (APC) governors forum at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said he briefed him on the few initiatives his administration was planning to do in Lagos and to get his buy-in and his concurrence.
He said: “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 bothers 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’s essential to improve the quality of life and business in Lagos.”
The governor who said President Buhari’s response was very “encouraging; his acceptance of the initiatives that I brought onboard were very resounding. So I am very encouraged and he just gives me the opportunity to go and do more,” said his administration was already speaking with investors to push either the Lekki Port or the Badagary Port as the long-term alternative to the Apapa port.
Sanwo-Olu while speaking on his plans to clear the Apapa gridlock said: “Interestingly, some media houses have actually been counting down on me. They said that 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 dateline, it’s because they want you to do well and they want you to be able to be accountable for those datelines.
‘It’s one of the things I thanked Mr President for. What was done was that the Federal government has set up a task force. It’s a multifaceted challenge – there are 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 us, the citizens of Lagos State that are bearing the entire burden.
“The real construction of the road has started, but it’s not at the stage at which we can feel the full impact of it. That’s on one side. The movement of the tanker drivers has also started. There is a Lilly Pond terminal that has been created with 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’s a system that needs to be a bit more electronically-driven. I think it’s 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’re not called 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 who are the major anchor tenants there, then you also have all sort of operators – LASTMA who 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.
“Now I understand that the shipping lines have given an extension on when they need to return the containers. So what we have seen as part of the things that are causing the gridlock beyond the road not being in effective order, is that when you give somebody a one-week order to take a container and return it within a week and all the containers have to be returned within that same week after which demurrage would start counting, so everybody would want to enter the same narrow road all at the same time. But if they give them a bit more space, meaning that you don’t all need to rush at the same time to return the containers, that is one. Secondly, it’s also to have what we call holding bays – places where the tankers can park off the road while they are waiting to be called upon. There are so many little places that we have around; so we are cleaning up the place. There is a tanker-holding bay that the Federal Ministry of Works has just completed and it has started being used. There is another massive one that Lagos State is also refurbishing around Iganmu area. So, some of these are things that would tie-up within the next couple of months. But ours is to get a team of LASMA that is dedicated to Apapa issue; they would resume there; they would work there and we have also complemented with the police to make sure that we have enforcement there. We also need to talk to the drivers there; they have a union. If you don’t have a need to come to Apapa you don’t have to come now.
“So culture has to be instilled; the kind of people that drive these trailers need to be talked to and we need to explain to them also that it’s affecting the quality of life of the ordinary citizens that need to commune around that whole area.
“Member of the fourth realm of the estate also can help us to mention these problems very well.
“Sometime next week, I am also having a meeting with the shippers’ council, port operators and the shipping lines so that we all can be on the same page and understand that we are all in this together and we all must find a permanent solution. Like I did mention two to three weeks when I first went there, it’s for us to also have another port. The Apapa port itself has grown beyond where it is now. That is why Lagos State is speaking with investors to see how we can push either the Lekki Port or the Badagary Port as the long-term alternative to the Apapa port because that would be the long-term solution in terms of our growth of development as a nation.”