Ejigbo Depot: Road to another nightmare
Residents Bemoan Menace Of Tanker Drivers, Don’t Want Area Become Another Apapa
Apapa area of Lagos State is today a no-go area owning to presence of seaports, tank farms and a never-ending influx of fuel tankers. As a result, residents and business owners have had to deal with indiscriminate parking of trucks waiting their turns to load products, unimaginable gridlock causing man-hour losses and stalling socio-economic activities, and an upsurge in insecurity.
Many, who have property in Apapa, no longer have value for their investments as the perennial traffic has forced businesses out of the area, with residents abandoning their apartments for more serene and quiet neighbourhoods.
This is the nightmare residents and road users around the Ejigbo depot of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos do not want to witness.
Already, the short stretch of road from the Isolo-Ikotun road at NNPC bus-stop, have been taken over by tankers queuing to lift petroleum products from the NNPC depot. The road has been reduced to a single lane as articulated trucks park idly on both sides of the access route into Oke-Afa and Daleko Ejigbo.
Traffic along the axis increased in 2014 when the Lagos State government constructed the January 27 link bridge connecting Ejigbo and Ajao Estate to reduce traffic congestion at Isolo and environs. Road users fear that if measures are not taken by government to arrest the development, the activities of tanker drivers may make commuting a herculean task in the area.
A distraught resident, Mr. Solomon Okafor, wants the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to be fully mobilized to the depot to bring some sanity to the chaos often witnessed in the area.
“You need to see what goes on here especially at night when visibility is so bad. The tankers have taken up half of the road from the NNPC junction all the way to the end of the road at Onisunbare. If you are not a very careful driver, you may hit an incoming vehicle in the bid to avoid bashing into the trucks by the side of the roads. Before you know it now, they may take up the whole road and turn this place to Apapa,” he said.
Another resident, Mr. Olatunde Ajayi, said the tankers have converted the road to a parking space without recourse to the safety of road users. “They seem to have this belief that the road is an extension of the depot and they have a right to be there.
“If the government begins to impound their trucks now, the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) branch of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) may because of that go on strike. I also heard that it was the NNPC that constructed this road. So, they have taken it as a liberty to be on the road when there is enough space inside the depot.”
Also speaking on the development, a safety practitioner, who pleaded for anonymity, told The Guardian that disaster was narrowly averted recently when a tanker parked on the road was trying to discharge its content.
“There was a spark followed by an explosion. It took the brave intervention of street urchins, popularly called Area Boys to put off the fire using water mixed with liquid soap before it spread in the highly inflammable area. The fire was said to have been ignited from a mobile phone set during a call by one of the tanker drivers while his motor-boy was discharging fuel.”
However, an official of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) at the depot, simply called Olawale, said the influx of tankers on the road was not deliberate. According to him, the depot operates from 6a.m. to 6p.m. and as such many of the drivers who arrive at the depot after the operating hours will have no choice than to stay on the road.
“The time the drivers come here cannot be restricted because they are coming from all over the country. Some of the drivers have been on the road for days and may want to do some little repair work on the trucks before loading for another long journey back to the north. But if the management of the depot can extend the time till 8p.m. or 9p.m., the obstructions will be reduced for motorists,” he noted.
Special Adviser to the Lagos State governor on Communities & Communication, and former chairman of Ejigbo LCDA, Kehinde Bamigbetan, told The Guardian that the control of the tanker drivers is in the hands of NUPENG, and the Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) that owns the tankers.
“During my tenure as council chairman, we had an understanding with the unions and they were able to manage their men so that they don’t constitute a nuisance to the community. However, I have been worried recently by the presence of tankers at Apakun in Ajao Estate, Aswani in Isolo and Ejigbo because I thought the decision to resume flow at Mosimi Depot meant the tankers won’t need to come to Apapa Port to load fuel. Nevertheless, government is aware of their activities and something would be done about it,” he said.