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Why presidential order failed to deliver Apapa from traffic gridlock

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Barely a month after Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, gave presidential order to sanitise the ports access road, importers and exporters have continued to groan under intense hardship resulting from the lingering traffic gridlock on that axis.

Stakeholders and operators told The Guardian that the order appears to have failed because the security and traffic management agencies that are supposed to play a major role are inefficient and corrupt. Besides, they noted that the core problems (bad road) that led to the gridlock have not been addressed.

When The Guardian visited the area yesterday, hundreds of trucks were seen indiscriminately parked along the Oshodi-Apapa highway. They occupied two lanes on the expressway and one other lane on the service lane. The long queue might get to had already stretched to Second Rainbow bus stop, with fears that it might get to Cele bus stop, if urgent actions are not taken.

At Sunrise, the road inward the ports have been shut to traffic with tons of granites lying on the main road, but there is no sign of construction work. Motorcycles riders came to the rescue as every commuter had to charter one from Apapa to Mile 2 or trek the journey to get out of the area.

“The Apapa Port has a 35million metric tonnes capacity; now it’s handling 85million tonnes. So we have so many trucks coming out of Apapa, destroying the roads.” Vice President Yemi Osinbajo reportedly stated in Abuja last week.

Osinbajo had on July 20, visited the ports in Lagos, and ordered a 72-hour joint operation by security operatives to clear the gridlock in and around the Apapa, very little progress appears to have been achieved in this regard.

Osinbajo, who paid an unscheduled visit to Apapa at the peak of the gridlock, had directed relevant government agencies to immediately embark on the decongestion of the Wharf Road and the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway to allow for free flow of traffic.

Less than a week after issuing the directive, the Vice President accompanied by the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, and the Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi, on July 26, held a meeting with relevant stakeholders on the traffic management mechanism at the Western Naval Command, Apapa.

However, a visit to the Lagos Port Complex (LPC) Apapa yesterday revealed that several cargoes and containers remain trapped inside the port despite the deployment of over 1,000 security personnel by the Lagos State Police Command, and other relevant agencies in an operation tagged: ‘Operation Restore Sanity’.

The President, Nigerian Importers Integrity Association (NIIA), Godwin Onyekachi, described the Vice President’s order as “cosmetic”, arguing that a lasting solution lies in addressing the core problems that led to the gridlock.According to him, “Deploying security operatives in their large number was an interim measure guaranteed to fail because the major problem has not been addressed by government yet.

“A major problem is the collapse of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, which has been neglected for several years by the Federal Government. This road is the major entry and exit points to the ports and other businesses in the Apapa area.“The situation on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway forces truckers to use the Apapa-Ijora-Wharf road, which is a very narrow road and which has been under construction for more than a year.“Traffic on the Apapa-Ijora-Wharf road has been further compounded due to the closure of the outbound lane of the Apapa-Ijora bridge by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.

“As we speak, the top layers of the bridge have removed and the job abandoned for more than two months. Consequently, truckers are restricted to the Leventis exit lane to exit Apapa.“The Leventis lane is very narrow and is filled with potholes and locked down by high traffic because of several truck garages and heavy oil tanker traffic on it.”

Some truck drivers, who expressed frustration and the perennial gridlock said if the situation must improve, a lot more effort is required by officials of the Nigerian Navy, who now lead the traffic management effort in Apapa. The truck drivers said they still spend several days on the road to enter or exit Apapa.

One of the truck drivers, who identified himself as Saheed Ahmed, said he spent four days to move from Costain to Marine Bridge, Apapa – a journey that is typically less than 15 minutes under normal circumstances.

Speaking with a tinge of frustration, he said, “I have been on this queue for the past four days from Costain to get to the tail end of the Marine Bridge (in Apapa). There are other truck drivers who are still stuck in traffic and they have spent close to two weeks. I also had to part with some money to be able to get here.”Several other truck drivers expressed frustration at the modus operandi of the traffic control officials, accusing them of seeing their task force as opportunity to make quick money.

Another truck driver, Abubakar Sanni said: “Since yesterday that I came (into Lagos), I have spent nothing less than N30,000. I was told to turn back from Costain. Then I had to spend another money to reach here (Ijora). All the security operatives asked me to part with some money else they will turn me back. The traffic is only moving for truck drivers who part with money but if you don’t have money you will remain there like it is your parking space,”.The truck drivers also complained of sleep and food deprivation as well as lack of sanitary facilities while being stuck in the notorious gridlock.


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