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What hopes for Apapa road from Ambode-Usman parley?

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Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director, Nigeria Port Authority.

Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director, Nigeria Port Authority.

Hopes of the port users and others for the dilapidated Oshodi-Apapa Expressway have risen and ebbed as often as new Lagos state governors, Ministers of Works and Managing Directors of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) have been appointed.

Those three key players in the fortunes of the road, unarguably one of the most important in the economic growth of Nigeria have all always made the right noises and promises all of which have come to nothing, the promises all unfulfilled on the agreed-important rehabilitation of the road.Now the planned rehabilitation that has caught the interest of the Lagos State Government and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is another dream stakeholders fervently pray would be realized.

When the new Managing Director, NPA, Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman paid a courtesy visit to Governor Akinwunmi Abode of Lagos State recently, it was not all a rosy affair as the duo expressed serious concerns about the poor access road to the nation’s sea gateway.Just as been experienced in the past, many powerful and influential personalities in the maritime sector and Lagos State government have condemned and solicited with the Federal Government on the importance of the road, but all to no avail.

It was even ironical that the immediate past governor of the state, Babatunde Raji Fashola who was at the forefront of the “fix the Apapa road” campaign in the last three years, is now the key figure on infrastructure development, yet challenges of the road has proved to be insurmountable.

In separate letters to former President Goodluck Jonathan and former Vice President Nemadi Sambo, Fashola had during his tenure as governor, drew their attention to the horrific traffic congestion on the expressway and the need to take urgent steps to fix the ever-busy road.He had put several measures in place to restore sanity to the ports area. He had directed officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, (LASTMA) and Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) to participated in the enforcement. Indeed, the operation, which was carried out in the night, saw to the seizure of over 80 illegally parked trucks from the road, paving way for the free flow of traffic thereafter.

Besides, the former governor had on September, 17, 2012 forwarded a detailed presentation of what should be done to fix the road and ease the traffic congestion to the then Vice President Namadi Sambo. Fashola, who is now the super-minister in charge of Power, Works and Housing, has the authority to fix the road. So, all eyes are on him to get the road fixed at all cost.

However, the recent commitment by the Usman and Ambode reestablished the need for all stakeholders to pull resources together to scale the hurdles in rehabilitating the all-important road.Usman said she was at the Lagos House with her team to expand the existing relationship between the NPA and the Lagos State Government for the benefit of the people.

She said the major area of partnership principally centered on decongestion of the roads in Apapa as soon as possible and the success of the Lekki deep seaport project, among others.After an exclusive meeting with the governor, Usman said: “We discussed various areas of cooperation and one of the priorities was the decongestion of the Apapa area. We have looked at the priority activities that we need to do to decongest the area and we would proceed with that in the next few weeks.”

Ambode, on his part expressed confidence in the ongoing efforts to permanently resolve traffic congestion in the Apapa axis, just as he restated his administration’s commitment to restore the glory of the area.The governor said he was highly desirous of transforming the Apapa axis to be a beauty to behold.

According to him, Lagos, being the commercial nerve centre and a city surrounded by water, deserved more than one port, adding that his administration would not hesitate to partner with and support the NPA to succeed in whatever form needed.“We have had issues about movement of cargo and every other vehicular movement that relates to traffic congestion in the Apapa axis and I think with the new management in charge of NPA, a whole lot of things will be resolved so quickly and I am very glad that this is the way we have decided to go and we will support everything to make Apapa a place that we will all be delighted to speak about,” Ambode said.

Ambode, had in June last year vowed that his administration will not tolerate indiscriminate parking of trucks on roads in the Apapa area.He said: “It is also not acceptable that they will block Apapa roads. We must do something immediately to tackle the challenges that the residents are facing.”

He had also in November inspected the road and urged the Federal Government to direct the contractor handling the construction of the container trailer park and the port link road in Apapa to return to site.Many companies have relocated from Apapa area due to the gridlock usually experienced by motorists and commuters on the Mile 2-Tin-Can Island axis of the road.

Recently, SIFAX Group, a multinational corporation with diverse interests in maritime, aviation, haulage and logistics, oil and gas and hospitality, moved its newly-opened RoRo terminals outside the port environment.The company decided to establish two terminals at Okota, where the storage and releasing of the imported vehicles are done.

This is a sharp departure from the practice where vehicles are cleared from facilities in and around the port area.Group Managing Director, SIFAX Group, John Jenkins, said the state of deteriorating roads around the port and need to decongest the port are two of the major factors for taking the terminals away from the port.

He said: “The reason why we made SIFAX terminals at Okota our releasing office was because there is a high demand for dedicated RoRo Off-dock terminal solutions outside the port area. With an increase in import cargo and deteriorating roads, consignees are seeking for better accessibility in the release of their cargo. SIFAX Group Off-dock terminals located at Okota offer this unique logistic advantage, which is highly recognized in Lagos.

Notwithstanding the renewed hope from Usman and Ambode, the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) has threatened to withdraw its members’ trucks from the port by September 26th if nothing significant is done to fix the dilapidated port access road.

Chairman, AMATO, Remi Ogungbemi, said in a letter addressed to Usman last week that the deplorable state of the ports access road was responsible for the falling and severe damages of their trucks on a daily basis.

Ogungbemi said: “In view of the above, if nothing significant is done on the road on or before 26th of September 2016, we shall withdraw the services of our trucks from both Apapa and Tin Can ports until the road is safe for movement of vehicles and cargoes.

“In view of the dwindling price of crude oil being the nation’s major source of revenue, we opined that the port should be another survival hub by which the nation could get out of the present recession.

“We believe that the road leading to the gateway to the nation’s economy supposed to be one of the best in the country; it is inexplicable that the roads leading to Apapa and Tin Can are being neglected for so long.“It should have been appropriate for agencies concerned to pay crucial attention to the ports roads by embarking on total rehabilitation,” Ogungbemi said.


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