Hopes were high. Enthusiasm was the air when the Lagos State government in partnership with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) announced last year that they were offering solution to the perennial gridlock on Apapa roads. In fact, they announced that they have recorded major progress in an effort to proffer lasting solution to the menace of trucks causing traffic in that area of Lagos. But sanity on Apapa roads still appears a long shot as OLUWATOSIN OMONIYI reports
The government had announced that movement of trucks in and out of the Lagos seaports would be organised through a transparent electronic call-up system that would be based on first-come, first-served basis. What that meant was that with the new system, no container-laden truck was expected to go on Apapa corridor without clearance from the call-up platform.
The announcement also came with a threat that any truck that flouted the electronic roster and park along Apapa corridor would be impounded by the Taskforce set up by the Lagos State Government.
The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, expressed optimism on the transparent electronic call-up system, saying the move was the beginning of the end of Apapa gridlock. He said the call-up platform would be complemented with virtual dashboards that would be placed in strategic locations around the seaports, where all stakeholders would monitor scheduling of container movement.
He said: “We can bring back a better living experience for Apapa residents through the new system and have better traffic movement on routes in the area. Lagos Government is fully committed to ensuring all points we have agreed on will be implemented and get all relevant support.”
The announcement had raised hopes that there would be reduced long hours on the road; collapsed businesses would be restored and many residents who had fled would perhaps return. Long word short, quality life would be restored on Apapa instead of the proverbial suffering and smiling.
As it is, all that seem to be empty promises or mere statement as the residents are yet to breathe serious sign of relief. In other words, it is still a nightmare to go and come back from Apapa in calculated time of movement. Motorists, road users and commercial drivers, all tell tales of woes on daily basis.
A tour to and fro Apapa by New Telegraph revealed a hellish experience motorists and commuters pass through daily. Ordinarily and for the gentle-minded, Apapa wouldn’t be a preferred route.
There is so much open lawlessness and recklessness that turn this axis of Lagos to a-no-go area or dangerous zone. The commercial drivers mostly, daringly take one way, facing oncoming vehicles at dangerous speed while the security officials either looked away or paved way a thoroughfare for them for a token that exchanged hands.
Heavy-laden and empty trucks and tankers parked on both sides of the road indiscriminately and on the bridges, thereby making the passable road narrow and tight coupled with the lawlessness and cheating mentality of the drivers; it’s indeed nightmarish on the seaport axis.
The consequence of getting stuck inside the Apapa gridlock is the exposure to carbon monoxide from big and small vehicles, also from tankers and trucks. Not only them, also emanating from companies situated by the road sides.
The horrible smoke and foul smell is even more terrible for those in commercial vehicles and those without air conditioner in their cars. They are exposed to the smoke, smell and other nuisances caused by stationary containerized trucks and tankers parked along the roads.
Some of the tankers and trucks are also parked in front of some houses. In fact, some of the landlords and land ladies went as far as demanding for parking space fees. They wouldn’t allow any other vehicles park in front of their houses except for the trucks.
They believed that those set of people pay higher and better. Going to Apapa takes minimum of four hours from Ikeja through Mile-2-Tin-Can axis, Berger to Burma Road but coming back from Apapa is slightly less hectic than going with at least, minimum of two hours.
Some motorists and commuters, who chatted with Sunday Telegraph, lamented that they spend quality hours on the way to Apapa than in the office. Some said they practically had to quit their jobs when it was obviously affecting their health, businesses and home fronts.
Otunba Somo Omoniyi, a resident of Festac Town, told Sunday Telegraph that going to Oshodi, to come down at Mile-2- Orile takes about two hours, a journey that ordinarily should take 30 minutes. He attributed that to the ongoing construction at Signal Barrack, hence, a blocked road to Mazamaza. “It forces us to go towards Vanguard. There is a partition route for those going to Orile and Oshodi…..
Going between the partition route takes more than one hour. Otherwise, I shouldn’t have business going that route,” he said. Omoniyi said he had to limit going to his office on regular basis to two times a week because of the health hassles he has been having in recent times.
He complained of severe backache, migraine and chest pain owing to the stress he incurred on the road. Philip Gang, a government official, told Sunday Telegraph that it usually takes him minimum of two hours daily from Surulere to Apapa and at least, one hour coming back to Surulere from Apapa.
“As for those of us working here, there is no alternative than for us to endure and enjoy. I was so happy and hopeful when the Lagos State government announced that they have begun plans and pulled together concerted effort to get rid of the perennial traffic on Apapa but few months after that announcement, the nightmare still stare us in the face on this road,” he said.
Another government official, Stanley Ogodo, who works in Apapa, told Sunday Telegraph that he is a new staff, who had only spent two years on the job and already, he had gotten three queries from his boss for coming late and for sleeping in the office. “I am not sure it was the sleeping that got me the query but it got to a point that I was found wanting at my duty post.
Reason was that, I would have gone to a nearby health centre for treatment of what I don’t understand! You can imagine getting to the office, panting and sweating, headache and serious body aches. At times, I felt dizzy and lost concentration on the job.
All these were factored by the long hour of time spent in a tight traffic. I stay in Ajangbadi and leave my house as early as 5am.
Yet, I get to the office between 8.30 and 9.30a.m. exhausted,” he said. Florence Adejuigbe, a ticketing officer at a tank farm told Sunday Telegraph that she simply devised a means of beating the traffic and lateness to office. From Monday to Friday, she stays in Apapa with four of her friends and colleagues and by Friday evening, she goes home. According to her, five of them pulled resources together to rent a room for convenience of purpose.
“We didn’t bother to furnish the room. All we put in there were just mattress, small refrigerator and a standing fan for our comfort. I have been working in Apapa for 15 years and still counting. I believe I have had my fair share of suffering on this route. It is on this route that I developed what the doctor diagnosed as ‘angina’, a chest pain.
My husband just advised that I should look for like minds and get a space to stay during the week. Since then, it has been comfortable and soothing for me. So, I have three children and we all cope well,” she said.
What it means for Adejuigbe is that she spends less quality of time with her family. It also means less romantic time with her husband. Taiwo Solomon, a driver, who has been plying Apapa road for 16 years, said he doubted if there can ever be any solution to the traffic along that axis.
“Truth is the traffic has always been there. Many shops have been shut down; many landlords have sold their houses and many have died on this road owing to this crazy traffic and choking tanks and trucks on the road,” he said. Abraham Mayabat, one of the truck drivers is of the opinion that there is no government, reason for the insanity and recklessness on the road. “We have stopped having government’s presence along this axis for many years.
The last time there was government’s presence was during the Babatunde Fashola, former governor of Lagos State. The question on the lips of the majority Sunday Telegraph spoke to, was that what happened to the promises made the Presidential Task Force inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari and headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to clear up gridlock and restore orderliness in Apapa and its environs.
The taskforce, otherwise known as the task team, has among its mandates the immediate removal of all trucks from the bridges and roads within Apapa and all adjoining streets leading into the axis.
The team was also expected to facilitate evacuation of trucks and tankers along the access roads and to guide Port Area traffic via the deployment of an efficient and effective traffic management plan for the entire port area traffic, including the cargo, fuel distribution and business district traffic and effective traffic management integrated manual call-up system pending the introduction of an electronic call-up system among other plans.
But on a two-day tour, Sunday Telegraph observed that the taskforce and other uniform agency officials looked overwhelmed and worn out. They stood helplessly with sticks on their hands, watching as the confusion on the road grew.
Even if they tried to salvage the situation, commercial bus and truck drivers were simply lawless and reckless. Some of them even dared to hit the officials on their way. Some of the officials simply took the easy way by taking tokens from the reckless drivers and making way for them.