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Apapa tankers palaver: Traffic gridlock that has defied solution

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In times past, all roads leading to the Apapa ports were not as busy as they have become today. This is despite the fact that articulated vehicles and trucks do come there to load goods.

The situation became worse following the collapse of the country’s refineries, which led to massive importation of petroleum products and building of tanker farms near the ports without provision for parking lots for tankers.

Apapa being the biggest port in the country has since then witnessed a beehive of activities with loading and offloading of petroleum products taking the lead.

It is for these abovementioned and obvious reasons, coupled with other factors, that have contributed to the persistent traffic gridlock and indiscriminate parking of tankers and trucks on major Lagos roads and bridges leading to Apapa port.

A situation that appears to have defied solution, considering that government’s interventions over the years have not yielded the expected result.

From Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, Ojuelegba Bridge, Iponri, Constain roads, the situation is the same.

It is tankers and trucks everywhere, making it difficult for Lagos commuters and residents to enjoy free flow of vehicle and human traffic. The question is: why has this menace persisted and when will it stop?

Indiscriminate Parking Of Tankers, Traffic Gridlock Take Toll On Lagos Residents
By Maria Diamond, Henry Ekemezie and
Shakirah Adunola

Parking on the side of highways by articulated vehicles (container carriers and petroleum products tankers) drivers and their motor assistants (motor boys) have become a disturbing routine which has become a cause of concern for commuters in Lagos.

In spite of the ultimatum given to the truck drivers by the Lagos State Government and the military to vacate the roads and bridges, they have remained adamant.

Ikorodu road through Funsho Williams Avenue (formerly Western Avenue) to Ijora inward Apapa and Oshodi-Apapa Expressway through Mile 2 to Berger Yard inward Tincan Island, have been overwhelmed with indiscriminate parking of these articulated vehicles, aggravating the gridlock faced by commuters that ply the roads daily.

For several weeks, the Mile 2-Apapa Expressway (formerly Malu Road, now Mobil Road) have been witnessing a terrible traffic aggression, as petroleum products tanker drivers have taken over the road, leaving other road users stranded and helpless.

Some commuters blamed the government for the menace, saying it was due to the non-availability of parking space for tankers and trailers.

The Guardian on a visit to the Mile 2-Tincan Port area, spoke to some commuters on the traffic situation and how it has affected them in their daily movement and businesses.

Bankole Opeyemi, a clearing and forwarding agent, said: “Honestly, it has negatively affected my business. Whenever our job comes out from the port, we have problem delivering them to the owners on a timely basis because of gridlock.

“It is seriously affecting all of us in this line of business. Government should do something about this urgently.”

He called on the state government to intensify efforts at ensuring free flow of traffic in the state, especially on the affected routes, by towing away the trucks and prosecuting the offenders.

He, however, noted that the monitoring and enforcement taskforce unit seems to have been overwhelmed by the deluge of trucks in the state.

For Joseph Ubong, a commuter: “It is horrible and annoying. I have not seen anything like this before; I stayed in the traffic for over two hours.

I have been to other parts of the country and I have not seen a place where an important road like the Mile 2-Apapa expressway will be blocked and nobody seems to care.”

According to Chijioke Emmanuel, another commuter, it has become a distressful experience plying the Mile 2-Apapa Road to and from work daily.

“The gridlock has stopped me from going to the office in the comfort of my car. I have to abandon my car at home to join the public transport system.

“On a particular day, I got to the office about 12.20pm. What I do now is take a bus to a point and then continue the rest of the journey to work on commercial bike (Okada), which is risky, but also a convenient means to beat traffic.”

Another commuter told The Guardian that the most depressing part of it all is when one gets to Mile 2 and is confronted by street urchins, who are experts in pilfering peoples’ pocket and sometime breaking motorists’ door glasses to steal their belongings at gunpoint.

Speaking on the implications of the menace, Emmanuel Esomonu, a structural engineer, explained that continuous occupation of the bridges- Jibowu-Ojuelegba, Stadium-Alaka, and Iponri-Ijora flyover on Funsho Williams Avenue, Mile 2-Berger Yard, and Tincan-Liverpool on Mile 2-Apapa expressway- would shorten the lifespan of the bridges and expose them to danger.

He noted that many of the bridges are derelict due to wear and tear and age, stressing that the pillars holding some of the flyover bridges have suffered structural defects due to erosion that have affected the concrete parts and exposed the iron rods.

Chibuzo Nwanokoro, who sells used cars at Berger, said the new arrangement of tanker drivers parking along Mile 2 and environ was disrupting their daily business activities, as buyers now shy away from the axis for fear of being stuck in traffic the whole day.

“Only yesterday (Thursday), a customer called that he wanted a couple of cars and was on his way to check them out, but ended up turning back when he saw how congested the whole road was.

“He called to ask me to drive the cars down to his office and I am yet to figure out the best time of the day to take them to him.

“This is unreasonable and frustrating; these tankers have no business being in this area and something should be done to get them off this road,” he lamented.

Balikis Adepetun, a trader in ladies shoes on the Lagos Island, recounted that she had to get off the bus she boarded to trek past the traffic hotspot.

“I’m not sure where its stops, but I will have to keep walking to move forward. It sucks being stuck.

“The government should review this arrangement and designate a park for this drivers, because this tankers are causing obstruction and distorting business time.

Owuro lo’jo eni ma ri ire (the best time to achieve success is morning),” she said in Yoruba language.

Akinkunbi Afolayan, a resident of Mile 2 Estate, explained the difficulty residents encounter as a result of the tanker menace in the vicinity.

“Aside from the obstruction and traffic, so many vehicles drive into the estate in the bid for alternative route, thereby disrupting the peace and serenity of the estate.

“Also, most car owners in the estate no longer take their cars out, except those going to other directions.

“So, this is a calamity waiting to happen, as it might jeopardise businesses and a whole lot of other things,” he said.

Oladunni Adewale, a bank marketer, narrated her ordeal with thieves in the traffic while in her car alone on a Monday morning.

“I was running out of fuel and turned off my air-conditioner, then wound down my glass a little bit, because I already envisaged the incident, but hoped it wouldn’t be my lot.

“It was as though the guy was waiting for me to wind down. He attempted stretching his hand for my phone, but I quickly wind up and he had to quickly remove his hand and took off.

“Still, the traffic wasn’t moving, but I distorted the lanes by trafficating for another direction and almost hit other cars, just to leave the first lane.

“It was a terrifying moment and trust me, if this traffic continues, this bad guys would rob with arms and that would be disastrous,” she lamented.

For Iyore Osahon, a soft drinks hawker, the traffic is terrible, but it is good business for him, as exhausted and dehydrated drivers and passengers get to buy drinks and water to refresh while stuck in the traffic.

“The weather is very hot and as if that is not bad enough, people get stuck here for hours, so they keep buying drinks, which is good business for me,” she said.

Turkur Adamu, a tanker driver, whose truck was parked along National Stadium, close to Costain in Lagos, explained that they park on the road because of the high parking fee charged on daily basis at the designated parks.

Adamu, who usually shuttles Kaduna, Kano, Ibadan and Lagos, explained that initially they used to park on the Stadium Bridge down to Costain, but naval officials restricted them from parking on the bridge with strict instructions that only tankers with waybills should ply the bridge.

“We decided to move down to the road because we don’t get to pay a dime while we wait for as long as we do, pending when we get called up for loading.

“The reason trucks and tankers drivers refused to park at the bay is because we are are being charged N3, 000 per day and most times, we stay as long as two weeks or more before we get called up for loading.

“Most of the time, we don’t have details on the exact day or time we would be called up, so it becomes impossible to keep paying that much everyday, which is why we park on the road until we get called up,” he said.

Adamu, who had just finished praying, said they practically live where they are parked and have everything they need to sustain them at the spot for as long as possible.

“As you can see, I have my mat and movable cooking utensils in the vehicle.

“We all sleep here and wake up early enough to have our bath somewhere around before daybreak,” he said.

‘Security Operatives Contribute To Traffic Snarl, They Extort Our Members’
National Chairman, Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) Branch of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Otunba Sulaimon Akanni Oladiti spoke to DANIEL ANAZIA on the cause of the lingering truck gridlock on Lagos roads, especially on Oshodi/ Apapa Express way

The continuous parking of tankers and container trucks on the Lagos roads, particularly on Ikorodu road down to Ojuelegba through Iponri inward Ijora-Costain Bridge has become a nightmare to Lagos residents. What is your union doing to curb the menace?

The traffic gridlock in Lagos is not a new thing and one expects the authorities to do something about it. As you know, 70 percent of the imported petroleum products that comes into Nigeria pass through Lagos. And there is only one seaport that these products pass through.

Don’t forget that this port also serves other purposes of import and export for the country. So there are container trucks that come into (Apapa) and these trucks are seen everywhere causing traffic, which is the fundamental issue of this gridlock.

The container trucks don’t have anywhere to park, hence they come to the port and station, waiting for goods they would carry. If tankers don’t have business in Lagos they don’t come.

So that is the fundamental issue of this gridlock challenge. The security enforcement team is also contributing to the problem because when our tankers come to Lagos to load, the military operatives extort our members.

What evidence do you have to back this allegation?
It will come to a stage we will pull out all our trucks from Lagos. All the stakeholders, including our national body, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), know about this issue of extortion by the security operatives.

This can be investigated and verified. Before you cross the junction, that is before the Wharf Road Police Station, you pay toll.

How much are your members paying as toll?

It is not stable, but during the fuel scarcity, our members were made to pay N30,000 before they can cross to go and load. We reported the matter to the NNPC management, but nothing has been done as I speak with you.

Something has to be done else we will withdraw our services. We have been managing the situation because we don’t want a situation whereby there will be fuel scarcity and Nigerians blame tanker drivers. Something needs to be done on this issue.

Another issue that is being raised is insecurity, which the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Sylvanus Abbah said Boko Haram, herdsmen can take the oportunity invade Lagos. What is your take?

This issue should not be politicised. The places where the Boko Haram and herdsmen are invading, what has been done to tackle the security challenge there. My take is that they just want to use it as a peg to state why they are taking over the roads from traffic management officials in Lagos.

There are LASTMA, Police, and the FRSC. Why can’t they be allowed to manage the traffic situation in the port area and across the routes that leads to the port?

What the military personnel are doing is milking the tanker drivers dry. And like I said, it will get to a stage we will pull out our tankers from Lagos.

It was gathered the Nigerian Navy in a bid to manage the situation began what may be called the Call-Up Card system for the tanker and container trucks, which grants them access to port when they have business. Are you aware of this?

That is their internal arrangement, which I have not been briefed. What is happening before is what I have told you. There is no tanker that would come to Lagos without having anything to do in Lagos. What do you say in a situation, whereby you have one tanker in the midst of 10 container trucks?

Our tankers have destination; either they go to Folawiyo, MRS, NIPPCO or Ateo. What the Navy needs to do is to find out whether they have business in a certain depot or not. They deliberately park our tankers in the midst of container trucks because they know our members will come and settle them.

When the stakeholders’ meeting was convened, our people demanded that our own VIO should be allowed to work with them, but it was rejected, saying they ‘can’t work with bloody civilians’. If things were working as they ought to, the military would not be on the highway, but in the barracks.

The naval officials are contributing to the gridlock so that they can continue to make money and that is the basic truth.

Is it proper to set up a tank farm in the port area?
It is not proper at all. It is unfortunate that the NNPC has 21 storage facilities across the country, and our founding fathers know the strategic value of these facilities but our government has failed to protect these facilities and their right of way.

I remembered then, during the presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, we approached him on the issue of pipeline vandalism, when it started and he asked us what was our concern; why are we complaining that people are vandalising the pipelines.

We didn’t know it was a ploy to create opportunity for the private depot owners. There is nothing bad if individuals try to set up their own tank farms.

The fundamental question the private tank farmers should be made to answer is where the tankers will park. With the situation on ground today, there was and there is nothing like that.

The problem we have in this country is that people are allowed to construct tank farms without a corresponding tankers park. In developed countries, there are parking lots, but there is nothing like that in Nigeria.

It was gathered that the Mosinmi depot is functioning and that is making Lagos to be congested. How true is this?

Under the System 2B Pipelines Network, we have Ejigbo Satellite depot in Lagos, Mosinmi depot in Ogun, Ibadan depot in Oyo, Ore depot in Ondo and Ilorin depot in Kwara State.

Out of these five depots, only Ejigbo, Ibadan and Mosinmi are functioning, and their functioning is limited. It may interest you to know that it is from the little that is being pumped to these depots, which ordinarily is meant for local consumption, that are being taken to the far north.

This little pumping is not even enough, and the NNPC management is aware of this. They know about this pipelines vandalism but there is little they can do to curtail the activities of the pipeline vandals because most of our security agents are working with the vandals. Everybody is looking for money; the integrity is no more there. 

Navy Introduce ‘Call Up Cards’ For Trucks, As NPA Bars Empty Containers
Call Up Card Not Solution To Gridlock – AMATO 
By Daniel Anazia

As part of efforts to ease the perennial gridlock caused by the refusal of petroleum tankers and container truck drivers to park their trucks away from major Lagos roads along Apapa, Tin Can and Wharf, despite the ultimatum by the Lagos State Government, the Nigerian Navy has introduced a ‘call- up card system’ for trucks that have business to do at the ports.

According to the Commanding Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT, Commodore Okon Eyo, the call-up card system only allows trucks that have business inside the ports, while those without call-up cards will be turned back at the foot of the bridge.

He said: “What we have done was to design a call-up card. Every morning, we ask them to bring the particulars of the trucks and we endorse the cards and give it to them. This will distinguish them from those who are not supposed to move, who should wait for normal clearance to proceed.

“This card will be given back to them and this means that we have processed trucks to continue. This card has worked perfectly well with the tankers and with this, they have been able to conduct their businesses well,” he added.

Eyo noted that the call-up system started on March 22, and in a bid to ensure its effectiveness, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) no longer allows trucks to take empty containers directly to the port. 

“We had a meeting and we were able to brainstorm and they have to do more supervision and we all agreed to step up our game. The shipping companies should have a holding bay to reduce the number of trucks carrying containers on the road,” he said. 

Affirming that the trucks are no longer allowed to return empty containers to the ports, the Traffic Manager, Lagos Port Complex, Apapa, Victor Ogini, said the empty containers are to be delivered directly to shipping companies holding bay, adding that there was an existing relationship between the port and the Nigerian Navy.   

“With this directive, shipping companies are expected to have holding bays where their empty containers could be kept while waiting to be taken into the terminals,” he said. 

It would be recalled that the Lagos State Government (LASG) and the Nigerian Navy had after a one-day stakeholders’ meeting at the Naval Base in Apapa on March 8, 2018 issued a 48-hour ultimatum to all tanker drivers to vacate the Apapa Bridge.

At the meeting that comprised the military, Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), LASG, Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Sylvanus Abbah, had warned that terrorists might take the advantage of the traffic situation to strike in Lagos and this has to be prevented from happening.

“Costain is going to be the turning point of the trucks. After 48 hours, no truck will pack on the bridge because of the national interest and I hope you will all take the decision of this meeting,” Abbah had said.

But as it appears, this directive is being jettisoned, even as the tanker and truck drivers have remained on the bridges, not minding the dangers the trucks and tankers pose to Lagosians.

Meanwhile, the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) has said that the newly introduced call-up card system for trucks by the Nigerian Navy is not a lasting solution to the menacing gridlock in Apapa.

Chairman of AMATO, Chief Remi Ogungbemi, said the measure would only transfer the gridlock from Apapa to other parts of Lagos.

He said: “We see the exercise as transferring the problem from Apapa to Kingsway Road, Ojuelegba and Ojota areas, because most of those areas you still see trucks that are queuing for days.

Our position is that the Navy has tried to sanitise Apapa, but what it did is not a permanent solution to Apapa, but they have brought a kind of relief to port users.” 

According to Ogungbemi, an electronic call-up system devoid of human contact and provision of a truck park is the only permanent solution that will help sanitise the movement of trucks and tankers operating in Lagos ports.

“The Navy only tries to see how to manage the trucks that are coming into Apapa area so that all the trucks will not just be coming at the same time. But it is not the type of call-up that we have been preaching about.

“The type of call up is something that will be controlled electronically, that will inform the owner of the truck, the driver, shipping companies, terminal operators and NPA without human interference. If there is human interference, there will be favouritism.

“With that, it would be easier to regulate and it will bring sanity and orderliness to the port,” he said.  

I Will Tackle Trucks, Articulated Vehicles Menace With Upgrade Of Ijora Truck Park, Say Gov Ambode
By Gbenga Salau 

To ensure that trucks and articulated vehicles do not continually constitute a nuisance to residents and motorists, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode has said the state government would immediately take over the ABAT Truck Terminal, Orile-Iganmu and commence immediate repairs on the terminal as part of efforts to permanently address the perennial traffic in Apapa axis majorly caused by breakdown of operations at the ports.
  
Ambode said he was seriously concerned about the hardship residents in the axis were being subjected to as a result of the activities of containerized trucks and tankers moving in and out of the ports and tank farms, hence the decision to hold the meeting in the area to find lasting solutions.

“I cannot end this address without acknowledging that in Apapa, we have a major challenge; the menace of trucks on our roads and bridges causing endless traffic and loss of business time by Lagosians.

This is why we have come here today to see for ourselves and find a solution.

“Effective today, our government will take over the ABAT Truck Terminal Orile-Iganmu and commence immediate repairs to make the park ready for effective use.

In the meantime, we will appeal to the Tanker Drivers Association to conduct themselves in an orderly manner and cooperate with our Task Force to ensure smooth flow of traffic and better access to the Ports.

“We thank the people of Apapa for enduring such harsh conditions but I assure you that this situation will be a thing of the past by the end of this year,” he said.
 
Ambode said the ABAT Truck Terminal has a capacity to accommodate at least 3000 trucks, adding that the government was already working with security agencies to see how some of the trucks parked on the Western Avenue Bridge would be moved into the park.
 
“Already, we have cleared the shanties and the way we are trying to run it is such that we will be able to accommodate at least 3,000 trucks in the park.

In addition to that, we will work with security agencies and see how we can move the trucks into the park because right now the park can accommodate about 300 trucks but the people are not using it.
 
“So, if I tell you that one of the areas that I always feel very bad about is this Apapa gridlock and that is the truth and that is why I have decided that lets bring all our resources together; let’s discuss with people; let’s also talk to the experts and see what is happening there,” he said.

QUOTE: The reason trucks and tankers drivers refused to park at the bay is because we are being charged N3, 000 per day and most times, we stay as long as two weeks or more before we get called up for loading.

QUOTE: In this country people are allowed to construct tank farms without a corresponding tankers park. In developed countries, there are parking lots, but there is nothing like that in Nigeria.


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