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Residents task government to end Apapa Tank Farm menace

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It’s been over two years since Lagos State governor Akinwunmi Ambode issued a 90-day ultimatum to owners of tank farms in the Apapa area of the state. Then, the governor had directed that they build loading bays or be ready to shut down. From the look of things, however, this directive has been largely ignored, as the tanks are still sitting pretty along the corridor. This probably is why the state House of Assembly is finally making plans to address the situation.

Apapa Tank Farm road is the access route to the nation’s busiest ports– the Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Ports, which usually witness high volume of imports into the country, resulting in an equally heavy vehicular traffic on the road. Motorists and commuters that ply the route are perpetually experiencing nightmarish gridlock, which has become their way of life.

It is not as if previous governments had not attempted to solve the problem, by trying to relocate the tank farms, but they never succeeded, maybe because they lacked the political advantage to undertake such exercise without ruffling feathers, considering that the road belongs to the Federal Government.

The immediate past administration of Babatunde Raji Fashola was a major advocate of relocating the tank farms during his tenure, but the Federal Government appeared unperturbed by it all.

Then, Fashola had urged Federal Government to take advantage of the Oil and Gas Section at the Lekki Free Trade Zone in its relocation plan, but it was an appeal that did not strike any chord with powers that be at the Federal level.

It would be recalled that in 2015, Fashola disclosed that his administration had concluded plans to relocate all tank farms in Apapa to a world-class industrial and petrochemical plant in Lekki, adding that the relocation would make Apapa become the commercial, residential and industrial hub it used to be.

He said: “You do not need 3,000 tankers to come to Apapa and move fuel supply to the whole of Nigeria. We will be able to supply the country from the Lagos refinery. Once the refinery in Lekki is built, we will move all the tank farms out to a world-class petrochemical plant that I have designed for them.”

At the annual ministerial press briefing of the Lagos government last April, Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Wasiu Anifowose, explained that the state government was working with the Federal Government to relocate Tank Farms in residential areas in Apapa, and that a definite pronouncement would be made to that in regard in due course, but since then nothing has been heard.

But recently, a member representing Apapa Constituency 1, Mojisola Miranda, in the state House of Assembly took the bull by the horn, when she raised the issue under matter of urgent public importance. She stated that government needed to come to the aid of the people in the axis.

The lawmaker lamented that the tank farms constitute serious threat to lives of people, as well as the state’s economy. She said activities of truck drivers in Apapa are not only affecting traffic in the area, but that it had also extended to other parts of the state.

She warned that if adequate caution were not taken, the menace would spread to other parts of the state.

Olumuyiwa Jimoh, representing Apapa Constituency 2, also pointed to the fact that Apapa residents are going terrible experiences on account of the issue.

Rotimi Olowo, representing Shomolu Constituency 1, noted that trailer drivers’ activities along the corridor are having adverse effects on the state’s economy, reminding his colleagues of efforts made by past administrations to curtail the menace, which proved abortive.

Also, Abiodun Tobun, representing Epe Constituency 1, lamented that the Federal Government, which is the core beneficiary of the tank farms, is being but unnecessarily quiet and has refused to see reasons with the people.

Tobun, who suggested that government should get a place close to Tin Can Island Port for the relocation exercise, added that Lagos State should be allowed to manage the ports.

In his contribution, Hon. Rasheed Makinde, said most of the trailers are from the Eastern and Northern parts of the country, which probably is the reason for the disobedience to the state’s laws.

The Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, agreed with the lawmakers that an urgent step has to be taken to save the state and its people.

He said: “It is better we caution the trailer drivers to stop parking on the roads and bridges in the area. We will definitely call on LASTMA officials and Lagos State Safety Commission on the matter.

“We also have to call on the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing to provide alternative roads to motorists, while the roads in Tin Can Island are being repaired.”

When The Guardian visited the axis recently, residents and traders expressed sadness at the adverse effect tank farms and truck drivers’ activities are having on their businesses.

Bob Timilehin, a resident in the area, advised Federal Government to allow the state government manages the tank farms. He narrated the harrowing experiences he goes through going to and fro his workplace daily, as trailers have virtually taken over the place.

He said: “Though the tank farm personnel are security conscious, which makes it difficult for explosion to occur, but the situation in which we have found ourselves with these tank farms here is pathetic.”

Kennedy, a trader, lamented that the current administration is not living up to people’s expectations, as he believes that the masses are not considered, when governments make policies.

“Tank farms are not supposed to be located in residential areas. This is definitely a wrong place for such. The major problem we have on this Apapa Express Road is mainly because of the tank farms. Danger looms everywhere now because if something bad should happen, it would affect practically everybody.

“So, government should relocate the tank farms to less congested areas like Badagary. So many business owners have relocated because of the problem, and now there is no more business in Apapa.

“The tank farms met us here. I remember it started during Obasanjo era, when the problem began. We’ve even learned that Obasanjo has some parcels of land there. Most of the problems being faced by Nigerians are caused by the so-called rich people. The poor are not ever considered in any steps the government wants to take.

“The reason we voted APC was so that it could help us, but till now, nothing tangible has been done. The party has badly disappointed us, and we don’t know where our help would come from now.”

Another resident, Margaret Simeon, said: “Government should know that the tanks are not supposed to be located where people reside. The fuel is affecting our well water. Parking trailers everywhere like this is disastrous. We have to walk long distances before we could get vehicles to our destinations. It would be good, if government of the day consider our plights.”

A fruit seller, Modupe Bakare, said the tank farms have crippled her business, as she is no longer selling like before.

“The tank farms are really inconveniencing us,” she told The Guardian. “Most times, people trek from Tin Can to Mile 2. The trailers are causing hindrances. There was a time government promised to come to our rescue, but it was an empty promise.”

Another resident, Ugochukwu Esemon, prayed there should never be a fire outbreak along the corridor, as such would affect the whole community, which would greatly suffer the loss.

He said: “The tank farms are supposed to be in Badagary, where there are areas people are not living. There was a time a tanker exploded here; everybody was so confused before the fire was fortunately quenched. Often, shippers have lamented the difficulty they face when clearing their cargoes from the ports, which costs them billions of naira in demurrage charges on their goods.”

A recent report by Deloitte indicated that shippers pay N668, 493, 150b daily as demurrages to companies and terminal operators anytime their cargoes remain trapped at the Lagos ports.

Godwin Ujo, who is also a resident said: “Before the tank farms were brought here, I used to spend about five minutes to get to my workplace, but now, I spend hours to get there.”

Reports have it that over 60 tank farms situated along the Apapa Road attract close to 10, 000 tankers to the road on a daily basis, thereby disrupting port operations, for which the area was predominantly designed.

Stakeholders have urged government to seek other ways to tackle the issue of traffic gridlock on the road to allow a breath of fresh air on port operation.

They insist relocation of the tank farms would be a major boost in reduction of road accidents, as well as facilitate business activities at the ports.



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