Close Apapa port and rebuild the road
(By popular demand, this article first published on May 9, 2017 is republished in view of the bedlam that Apapa has become and the unconcern of the Federal Government towards rehabilitating the road).
Wailing, lamentation, wailing, lamentation, wailing, lamentation for Apapa. Indeed, the famous Apapa port provokes a national wailing and lamentation. The situation is horrific. It is terrible and unbelievable. The road to Apapa from Mile 2 through Tin Can Island Port has totally collapsed. Trailers can no longer pass through to evacuate imports. It is a harrowing experience. It is hellish going to Apapa. Haba, Apapa is gone! Property owners in Apapa are disposing them to would-be buyers. Residents are deserting the area.
The only alternative road through Costain is also decrepit and perpetually blocked with traffic. Few people go to Apapa with their car. Those who attempt it spend the whole day in the hellish gridlock. It is not that the roads suddenly collapsed. The roads have been disintegrating over the years without maintenance. Clearly, Apapa has been abandoned.
Right now, only pedestrians and motorcyclists (okada) can access Apapa. Tricycles (keke) can’t. If the situation is this deplorable in the dry season, what will happen as rainy season and floods begin to take over the road?
In a way, the current recession, which has led to a drastic fall in imports, is a blessing in disguise. Had importation been coming the normal way, there is no road to evacuate the goods from the port. The diminished importation has saved Nigeria from national embarrassment?
I visited Apapa the other day and cried for Nigeria. I rode on okada to be able to access the place. Thereafter, I got cold and catarrh from the dust that drenched my eyes, mouth and nostrils while on okada. The appalling condition of the road is a national disgrace. Apapa is also the dirtiest part of Lagos. What a country? Nothing can be worse than that.
Apapa is the fourth largest and busiest port in Africa after Djibouti, Mombasa and Durban. But the port has practically closed due to bad road and the government seems unconcerned. Yet, importation through Apapa is the second highest income earner for the government after oil.
In the absence of railway to evacuate imports from the port, too much pressure is put on the roads by the heavy-duty trucks and trailers. Consequently, the entire Apapa is bedlam. The Kirikiri axis typifies anarchy. Going to hell is easier than going to Kirikiri. Apapa and its environs is a nightmare.
The only option left to government now is to close the Apapa port and rebuild the roads. Just as the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja was closed for six weeks to resurface the dilapidated tarmac, Apapa port is in a worse state and should be closed for the roads to be rebuilt. That is the only way continuation of business could be guaranteed.
Except that is done, I am afraid the port is on the verge of extinction as shipping companies stop their operations there. There are many seaports in Nigeria that have died due to collapsed infrastructure. Calabar, Port Harcourt, Brutu, Forcados, Warri, are some examples of dead Nigerian ports.
Already, indications are that most importers and exporters have abandoned the Apapa port for Cotonou in Benin Republic. Nigeria is losing billions in revenue while Benin Republic is reaping from Nigeria’s loss.
The challenge now is on the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, to shut the Apapa port and rebuild the road. The same way the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi stamped his feet on the ground and closed the Abuja Airport for repairs to take place against all odds, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola should stamp his feet on the ground and seek for the closure of the port for the road to be rebuilt. The inconveniences and losses that would be incurred is nothing compared to the death of the port. Cargoes can be diverted to Port Harcourt. Right now, heavy losses are being incurred as a result of the bad road and nobody seems to be talking about it.
Certainly, there will be costs and inconveniences. But you don’t stop the delivery of a baby because blood is coming out. The baby must be delivered while blood comes out, after which there is cleaning and joy over the birth of a new baby. We had the same experience with Abuja Airport and the work was done. Right now, landing and take-off are smooth. A price must be paid for the ineptitude of the Federal Government over the years on infrastructure. The Apapa road was probably built since 1981 when the Tin Can Island Port was built. Ever since then, the road was left to disintegrate.
Today, the road represents the deepest part of hell. Let the people lament for Apapa. Let the shipping companies lament for Apapa. Let trailer drivers, terminal operators, Customs, clearing and forwarding agents lament for Apapa. Let bus (danfo) drivers that ply the route together with the Apapa residents lament.
Let people who work in Apapa lament. Everybody should join the national lamentation for the death of Apapa. The sight is unimaginable. Anyone who hasn’t been to Apapa in recent times won’t understand. The once popular Apapa in Lagos is a shadow of its former self. Unfortunately, the Federal Government watches the road close while at the same time raking in billions daily from the port.
How a major highway leading to such a major port was left to disintegrate to the point of impassability is shocking. It underscores everything that is wrong with Nigeria. The miss-governance that has been the bane of Nigeria has taken toll on Apapa. And up till this moment, there is no indication, whatsoever, that anyone is thinking about rehabilitating the road. Every year billions are budgeted for roads with no result.
That such a critical road leading to Apapa port was left to close is an indictment on the Federal Government that claims to own the road. Perhaps, the Lagos State Government or some private investors would have done something about it if they were allowed. The announcement that Dangote Group was going to start work on the road seems to be a mirage. What is happening? The time to do the work is this dry season.
Otherwise, as the rainy season starts, more heavy-duty trailers bearing containers would get stuck in the mud or overturn with fallen containers. The more such vehicles get stuck without a way for rescue; Apapa would become a huge junkyard for irretrievable trucks and trailers.
The ball is in Fashola’s court to play. As a former Lagos State governor, there will be no excuse to give if he fails to rebuild the road. Otherwise, Apapa is gone.