Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari gave an ultimatum to clear Oshodi/Apapa Expressway and other access roads to Apapa ports of trucks and tankers within 72 hours. Within the period, truck operators were ordered to vacate bridges, roads and all adjoining streets leading to the ports.
While modest achievement was recorded in ridding the highways of articulated vehicles within the stipulated period, we still believe that more work should be done to resolve the gridlock once and for all.
There is no doubt that the traffic problem in Apapa and its environs is multifaceted. Considering the enormity of the problem, we urge the Federal and Lagos State governments as well as other stakeholders to work in concert to find a lasting solution to the recurring traffic jam.
While short-term measures may be helpful in the interim, we advise that the Federal Government should come up with pragmatic measures to tackle the problem once and for all. Any ad hoc measure can only serve as a palliative. Without doubt, the situation of the road might have led to the loss of billions of naira. Some businesses have reportedly shut down their branches in Apapa.
Beyond clearing the Apapa gridlock, the Federal Government must urgently rehabilitate other Nigerian ports. The concentration of most of our port resources in the Lagos ports has slowed activities in other Nigerian ports located in Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar.
It has also vitiated efforts to develop new ones. The overreliance on the road mode of transportation system must have contributed to the problem. It should be reversed. There is every need to make the railways and waterways efficient. With efficient railway system and developed waterways, the burden placed on the highways will be greatly reduced.
In the interim, the government should develop an efficient and effective management plan for the entire port area traffic which includes cargo, fuel distribution and business district traffic. Making use of other ports in the country will decongest Apapa ports and lessen the burden on access roads leading to the ports.
We believe that the creation of private parks by the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), where the trucks and tankers could park pending their turn to either drop their containers or pick imports at the ports, is a temporary solution. The long-term solution lies with constructing railways across the country that will lessen the current emphasis on road transportation for evacuation of goods from the ports.
Also, we believe that the 54 private parks approved for the evacuation of trucks from the highways are grossly inadequate for the thousands of trucks and tankers that litter the Apapa/Oshodi Expressway and other major highways in Lagos. The Federal Government should develop an effective manual truck call-up system, pending the introduction of the electronic truck call-up system that has been on the drawing board. In addition, the implementation of a workable Empty Container Return and Export Container Truck Handling policy, found to be effective in other countries, should be considered as one of the measures to ease the logjam within Apapa ports.
The current effort to end the Apapa gridlock should go together with the reconstruction of the ports’ access roads. This is critical to the smooth operation of the ports. Last year, the daily loss arising from the bad condition of the port’s access roads was put at N20billion. In a year, this will amount to about N7trilion.
Therefore, government must ensure that all articulated vehicles on roads leading to Apapa ports are removed as quickly as possible so that the rehabilitation of the roads will commence soon. The ugly situation of the Apapa ports and all the access roads is, indeed, a national embarrassment.
The result is that Apapa ports have become overwhelmed by the traffic jam while the support infrastructure has equally suffered untold neglect. Let the government muster the political will to resolve the Apapa port traffic problem forthwith.