Apapa and its environs are fast splitting from Lagos and other benefits that make the city livable following indiscriminate parking of trucks and tankers. Currently, efforts are being made to restore sanity in spite of the sanity in the area through the evacuation of trucks. But the question on the lips of residents is: Will the recent Federal Government’s directive and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s collaboration make things different? MURITALA AYINLA reports
To many Lagos residents, it began as just a minor logistic problem that would soon be fixed for normalcy to return. But it appears to be one of the most persistent, dangerous and challenging problems that Lagos State government and indeed its residents are confronting with. It remains the only danger that Lagos is being forced to live with without a sure solution in sight.
Beyond crippling the state’s economy, the conundrum has claimed and is claiming so many lives while values of properties are fast depreciating with so many businesses closed and still closing down. The irrational indiscriminate parking of trucks on Lagos roads, bridges and other suburbs is certainly Lagos most daunting challenges that successive government have made efforts to address. Rather than the problem to subside due to efforts put in to address it, it’s growing at a very alarming rate such that its negative impact is creeping into other parts of the state it has never affected.
Prior to the recent intervention, residents and motorists on the popular Ikorodu Road were lamenting over the heavy presence of stationary containerized trucks, tankers and other Apapa-bound heavy duty trucks in front of their homes and on their roads. Those of Orile-Iganmu are also uncomfortable with the traffic gridlock caused by the trucks indiscriminately parked on the roads and bridge. Pedestrians and commuters along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway are frustrated with the inability of the government to profer a lasting solution to the problem. For the inhabitants of Ijora, Gasikya, Mosafejo Amukoko and other suburbs, nothing would make them happy as having their roads free of trucks that have been parked for months. It was as if there is no government for those around Apapa and Wharf at all as they have been so detached from orderliness and sanity expected to be in a decent society.
Concerned with the state of anarchy on the axis, experts said with the presence of the trucks across the state, Lagos is sitting on gun keg powder as managing disaster and other emergency situation will be difficult in the axis dominated by truck for obvious many reasons. Hence, previous lives that could have been saved had been lost to the gridlock caused by the stationary trucks in the past. In spite of the residents’ lamentations over the security and safety threat that the development constitute in their areas, no one seems to hear or understand their cry and worry. But concerned by the plight of the residents, President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government ordered the evacuation of the trucks and trailers off Lagos bridges, roads and inner streets. A committee chaired by the Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo and former Commissioner for Transportation Lagos state and the present secretary for transportation FCT, Comrade Kayode Opeifa as Vice Chairman.
The directive seems to be making a huge difference in and around Apapa, especially in areas where Lagos motorists face hard time as a result of the indiscriminate parking. Today, Apagbon bridge and other roads and bridges linking to Apapa are now free of the trucks so also are Fadeyi, Onipanu , Barracks and Alaka and areas located on the stretch of Ikorodu road being freed of the trucks. Findings also revealed trailers are no longer on the two diversions of Eko bridge to Ijora 7up at the Costain axis and the one to Apapa at the Ijora Olopa close to Iddo axis.
According to Committee Vice Chairman, Comrade Kayode Opeifa, President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive for the evacuation of trucks and trailers off Lagos bridges, roads and inner streets was meant to ensure permanent free and uninhibited access to the Apapa ports. Opeifa, who also joined the state governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu on tour of Apapa during the week, said that the evacuation of the trucks by the Committee set up by the Federal government was responsible for the return of sanity in the area.
He said: “Based on our physical visitation and observations of events at the Soaps axis after the evacuation, trucks and trailers are no longer on any part of Eko bridge right from Alaka entrance of the bridge in Surulere, Lagos. The trucks and trailers are no longer on the two diversions of Eko bridge to (1) Ijora 7up at the Costain axis and (2) the one to Apapa at the Ijora Olopa close to Iddo axis. Also, Eko bridge is totally devoid of trucks and trailers who are responsible for traffic gridlock on the bridge.” The former commissioner explained that gradual movement into the port had pushed the trucks and trailers at the Ijora 7up axis of the Ijora Bridge to as far as Old Bendel state government liaison building in Ijora 7up as the terminal point for the last truck. He added that the slow movement into the port has moved the trucks and trailers at the Ijora Olopa axis of Iddo/Ijora Olopa road to the National theatre gate over looking the Lagos State water corporation at Ijora Olopa. Opeifa also expressed satisfaction that the whole of Costain roundabout on Funso Williams avenue inward Iponri/Surulere and the Nigeria Breweries, Iganmu axis is completely devoid of parked trucks and trailers. Also, briefing journalists at the weekend on the state of enforcement of removal of trucks on the road, Comrade Opeifa, who disclosed this, said the team had succeeded on all its six-pronged terms of reference, which were captured under the framework of restoration of law and order in Apapa.
Opeifa, who led a team of 14 other stakeholders comprising NPA, Nigeria Shippers Council, transport union leaders, LASTMA, FRSC, FMPWH, Nigeria Police, Nigeria Customs, Lagos State Government, freight forwarders, licensed Customs agents and the media in the task of decongesting traffic, said that the two critical access into Apapa ports and all adjoining roads and bridges which had been clogged by intractable traffic have now been cleared and free of gridlock. The development, it was gathered excited some trucks and trailers drivers, who described the new initiative which as a radical departure from the past when they were extorted, exploited, intimidated and assaulted by the security operatives deployed to ensure free passage to the ports but turned into a milking cartel. They said prior to the enforcement of president’s directive, access to the ports by trucks and trailers no matter the tally number turn, was based on how much you were willing to part with to the security agencies comprising the Nigeria army, navy, police, etc. The drivers praised the federal government for this initiative and called on President Buhari to sustain this initiative which is in line with the government avowed commitment to the ease of doing business which had been imperiled by the pains endured in the past and worsened by security agencies.
The Committee Vice Chairman, who spoke after a tour of the cleared axis, listed some of these terms to including the clearing of the gridlock on all access roads and the port areas, ensuring a robust parking arena for all trucks pending their call up into the ports and the restoration of law and order in the area among others. He said: “We are proud to report that the traffic situation around the two main entry points into Apapa has generally improved, with the situation around the Western Avenue, Ijora, Eko, Marine bridges and Ajegunle axis generally under control, while the traffic challenges being experienced at the second entry point especially around Berger underpass (Berger Suya), Coconut and Tin can first and second gates on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway, due primarily to failed portion of the road is being brought under control.”
Sanwo-Olu’s planned intervention
Also worried by the near collapse of businesses on the axis, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu visited Apapa and its environs to assess the lingering traffic gridlock in the area, pledging to find a lasting solution to the menace. Accompanied by his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat and the Head of Service, Mr. Hakeem Muri-Okunola, among other top government officials, governor Sanwo-Olu said that his administration would work with the Federal Government and other stakeholders to achieve the June deadline for the completion of the 1,000-capacity Tin Can Ports Truck Terminal to resolve the crisis. “We have discovered that the problem of Apapa is multi-faceted; one agency cannot resolve the issue. We have met with security officers and operators on ground. We have seen that the problem is more than what one company can solve,” he said.
The Governor expressed appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for the Federal Government’s efforts at ending the crisis and promised that the State government will work with other stakeholders for a lasting solution to the problem. “What is left to complete is the water system, toilet facility and power supply, which is the aspect left to fix. Once they do that, all the trucks on the Ijora bridge and others within that axis can use it,” he said. Sanwo-Olu also met with port operators who listed challenges confronting them at the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and Lilly Port Terminal, while suggestions were made on possible solutions. Sanwo-Olu also thanked the NPA and Dangote Group for work done on Wharf Road up to the Apapa Ports but expressed regret that in spite of their intervention, trucks still park on the roads. “From our interactions with stakeholders, it was discovered that NPA has a concession company, APMT, and we also observed that there is a disconnect in the activities of picking and dropping off containers in the Ports.
“One of the strategies is that we will be engaging with NIMASA, shipping councils, NPA and others to resolve the issue, especially on how they can push the commencement date for the collection of demurrage,” the Governor said. He further solicited the cooperation of the Federal Government in evacuating illegal squatters occupying open space within the Tin Can Port premises, just as he expressed optimism on a lasting solution in no distant time. “The final solution is around the corner; we are hoping in due course, we will get all these issues behind us.
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