Apapa road: Sex trade, open defecation rife in truck drivers’ filthy den
It might sound unbelievable, but it is actually real: Truck drivers at the Lagos ports complex might not be faring better than internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country.Though they are not forced to vacate their homes, like the IDPs, but the quest for survival and the dilapidated state of the all-important Apapa port access roads has forced them to be ‘displaced,’ as could be revealed by a visit to the area
For a journey of about four kilometers that should take less than 10 minutes, The Guardian investigations showed that the truck drivers spend almost two weeks to enter the ports, where another life begins. Living, while they wait for their turns to be attended to, in dirty environment, with no means of convenience, kitchen, bed, shelter, security or safety, come rain, come shine, life continues for them, on Apapa road.
Life on Apapa road is an emerging slump with all sorts of odd sides, including stench, from human waste to commercial waste, as well as smoke of Indian hemp polluting the environment.A truck driver, Benson Ogbonna, simply describe the situation as “suffering and smiling,” referring to the popular song of an Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
“We are not happy living in a truck, since the federal government does not have time for us, we have to continue living life as it present itself. Life here is like suffering and smiling, we find it difficult to bath, brush our teeth and get tidy, because we sleep in your truck. “Sometimes, I buy pure water to brush my teeth, but I will need to go to the sea under the bridge to get some water to bath. It is bad; it is unfortunate.
“Government should fix this road and end this suffering. Our families are at home, but we cannot see them because we have to stay with our trucks. We are suffering here,” Ogbonna lamented.On the ‘side attractions,’ he said: “The girls are always around at night, but you must have money to pay. They charge from N2, 000 to N4, 000, depending on negotiation, but you have to be careful, because they can steal your phone or money.”
The Guardian enquiry revealed that many of the commercial sex workers patronise the drivers between 10pm and 4am. While some offer ‘short time’ in the trucks, other use abandoned shops or patronise ‘mini’ hotels around.For the hoodlums among them, life begins at night, as they hide under the shades of darkness to perpetrate evil acts, smoke uncontrollably, attack people and steal at the slightest opportunity.
A truck driver, Aliyu Abdul, in his early 40s, could not believe what he is going through at the moment, saying: “We suffer a lot. As I am talking to you, I have spent five days on the road without going home. To gain access into the port is a herculean task, while loading takes two to three days. Coming out of the port will also take another four days.
“You can see our level of suffering. In fact, we are no longer bothered about getting jobs, because the roads are not encouraging. We now prefer to deliver empty containers and relax.”President of Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Remi Odugbemi, said: “It has been a nightmare. It is very terrible. Truck owners are passing through hell everyday. It is unfortunate that people in authority do not appreciate the role truckers are playing in the economy.
“The task force that government has proffered as solution cannot be the ultimate solution; it can only be part of the solution, because task force arrangements have failed in the past.”He alleged that the task force and government officials on the road only exploit drivers by charging illegal fees, saying: “You even see them at night collecting money, but they are not protecting us. You will see them carrying stick and gun without doing anything.
“The problem has to do with the fact that the population, volume of goods coming to the ports and business activities have all increased. Infrastructures, especially the roads, are supposed to be expanded to match these increases.“A portion of the Ijora link bridge has been closed for repairs going to four months. People are dying everyday, truckers are suffering and all these things breed corruption and so many other illegalities.
“The hoodlums attack drivers on daily basis, vandalise the truck, beat up the drivers and collect their monies and phones. I don’t know why government has decided to neglect the sector? The roads are terribly bad and can no longer accommodate the volume of activities on them.”He added: “There should be an automation to regulate the movement of trucks, so that all of them would not come at the same time. Things are getting out of hands. Soldiers and naval men are beating up the drivers. I witnessed a scene where soldiers asked the driver to be rolling in the mud. Enough is enough.”
The bad road is seriously taking its toll on ports operations, even as hundreds of business in Apapa area have closed shop. For example, Eleganza Complex that houses not less than 70 office space has been rendered idle for years, while many other commercial structures remain unoccupied.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo last year ordered relevant authorities to sanitise the ports access roads and entrench the Ease of Doing Business policy at the ports. But importers and exporters continue to groan under intense hardship.Operators told The Guardian that the order appears to have failed on its intent, 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 indiscriminately parked along the Oshodi-Apapa highway. From Apapa to Ibafo, trucks occupied all sides of the lane. From Berger, they occupied two lanes on the expressway and one other lane on the service lane, with a long queue stretching to Second Rainbow bus stop, with fears that it might get to Cele bus stop, if urgent actions are not taken.
Although construction work is ongoing on some sections of Wharf road and Apapa road linking Ijora Bridge, the bridge has remained closed for several months, while many link roads are still very bad, Oshodi-Apapa road axis being the worst. The project, being handled by AG-DANGOTE Construction Company Limited, is relatively slow and falls short of the expectations of the port operators and users.
Managing Director of Eyis Resources, who is National President of National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents (NCMDCLA), Lucky Amiwero, said: “The government is just unserious. In 2009, the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua approved this road for construction. Ten years after, the road is still lying fallow.
“Besides, the component of seven per cent surcharge the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) collects four per cent and they are supposed to have used that money to manage this road, because the money is meant for development of the port.“You have five ports in Lagos, Apapa, Tincan, Lillipond, Brower and PTML, which are not accessible. You cannot go to Ijora now. Tincan is a no go area. Apapa is not possible.
“The problem was caused by the concession programme, because they didn’t take into cognizance the holding bay. Before now, there was holding bay at all the ports, but after concession, those places have been converted.“Going into the port takes you as a human being about six hours, while trucks use weeks. When you go to Apapa, over 80 per cent of the businesses have closed down. This is a country that is going down everyday; we just have to tell ourselves the truth,” he said.
Executive Vice Chairman, ENL Consortium Limited and Chairman, Sea Ports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, added: “Government ought to have taken care of the alternative roads, so that if the Wharf road is being fixed, we would have other good alternative roads. “As it is today, all trucks coming to load in Apapa and Tincan ports, including those coming to the tank farms, come through the same axis.
“Where is the road? We are suffering in Apapa. Nigerians are suffering. What we are going through is indescribable. You need to be in Apapa to know what we are going through. “Residents and businesses are suffering. People’s lives are in danger. I tell you people are dying by the day. It is so unfortunate because this is the economic gate of the country. Money that government is looking for is here, but government is not seeing it that way.”
APART from the unbearable traffic indiscriminately parked articulated vehicles cause on Apapa-Oshodi expressway, their presence has brought defacing of the major roads and increased criminal activities. A visit to Second Rainbow area on the expressway showed how the drivers bathe, pass waste, eat, sleep and even engage in sexual activities on the road at night, to the consternation of residents.
Pamela Onuwa, who lives in the FESTAC area, was bitter about the recent turn of events. A staff of one of the new generation banks on the island, she leaves home around 5am daily just so as to beat the traffic at Mile 2. She said: “The situation is very irritating. The trailers have extended to Cele, leaving us basically trapped. A journey of about an hour now takes several hours. Sometimes, even Mile 2 is blocked and I am forced to pass Okota through Surulere, which is an unnecessary bypass that extends the journey time.
“Even during weekends, First Gate, which used to be our alternative, is always blocked these days, because everyone is passing there. The trailers are parked up to Durbar Junction now, stretching to Mile 2 and beyond, causing all kinds of havoc. “If you venture out very early in the morning, you would see some of the drivers relieving themselves by the side of the road while others would be taking their bath. This can lead to a disease outbreak if care is not taken and with the way our healthcare is set up, I fear the repercussions.”
Whether it is deliberate or not, the streetlights immediately after Cele bus-stop down to Mile 2 Oke (on the bridge) do not function at night, giving hoodlums ample coverage to harass passers-by. Grace Okafor, who was their prey not long ago, was still bitter over the incident. She and her husband were waiting at the bus stop when two men approached them and started ‘hailing’ her husband. Thinking they were friends, she greeted them too, until they told them to kneel down.
Still thinking it was a prank, she was surprised when she saw her husband quickly fall to his knees, and then it dawned on her that they were being robbed. At the end of the short incident, the thieves made away with her bag, phones and cash. She said: “I just thank God we were not harmed, because everywhere was dark and people on the other side didn’t even know what was happening, because the trailers completely obstruct one’s view.
“We have been suffering unnecessary traffic for several weeks now and despite our cries for help, the situation remains unchanged.”The trailers have also found a permanent parking space on Ikorodu Road from Jibowu through Western Avenue to Eko Bridge, Ijora Bridge, linking Doyin and Wharf road, leaving just one lane for both oncoming and outgoing commuters.
It is no longer unusual to see commuters trekking on the bridge as a result of gridlock and scarcity of commercial vehicles.Apart from man-hours wasted on the roads daily, it is now beginning to tell on the health of Lagosians. Azeez Arisekola, a commercial driver on that route, said he takes pain-relievers three times daily, adding: “You can go on one trip and not see any holdup, but coming back, it is like they do short meeting to quickly block the road and before you know it, there is traffic everywhere.
“I have been forced to increase the fare because of this, which is not healthy for us, because a journey of 30 minutes turns into a four-hour trip, putting stress on the body.”A resident of Okota, who didn’t want to be named, said he was seriously thinking about leaving Lagos, adding: “This is not a way to live. I leave my house daily as early as 4am and get back around 10pm to repeat the same thing the next day.
“I was driving initially, but because of the bad state of the roads, I was visiting the mechanic almost every other day before deciding to stick with public transport. Even that is very risky. “The buses usually pass one-way on the Oshodi-Apapa expressway from Cele to Mile 2 to escape the bottleneck from Cele and with my eyes, I saw one woman hit by an oncoming vehicle as she attempted to cross the expressway at Sanya bus stop.
“Because the expressway is blocked, most of us are forced to pass inside Isolo and Ilasa to link Okota and beyond and as a result, those roads too have collapsed, because not only were they shoddily done in the first instance, but they also were not designed to take the number and weight of vehicles on them. “It seems governance has disappeared in the state, as everything is falling apart and nobody seems to be stepping up to take charge.”
Blessing Edet, a student of Lagos State Polytechnic (Laspotech), Isolo campus, wondered why a permanent solution could not be found to the hydra-headed problem. “The bridges are being weakened daily and they are left very dirty and unkempt, because they practically live there. Hard drugs are being sold openly around those areas now and as a woman, it is advisable you stay clear at night for your own good.
“The roads have completely deteriorated; it seems someone normally comes to dig potholes at night, with the way they are springing up on every available road. You can pass the expressway today and see nothing, but by the next day, potholes appear overnight. It is very strange.
“The only good roads in Lagos now are the ones leading to politicians’ houses and offices. I call on the governor to take charge of the situation and save us from these tankers before they kill us all. “When they are not blocking the road, they are falling down or leaking petroleum products or bursting into flames, wasting lives and property. Please, help us beg government to come to our aid and free our roads of these tankers and trailers before the start of the festive season,” she said.
SOME Lagosians, particularly truck and petroleum tankers drivers, who park on the roadsides, defecate and take their bath in the same area where many families reside and also fetch water to drink, making it increasingly difficult for passersby to walk through the Mile 2-Badagry areas without stepping on faeces.As a result, the sanitary condition in the area is rapidly deteriorating, posing health hazards to residents, as some of the drivers answer the call of nature there.
To avoid paying for parking space, they are turning the roads, highways and bridges leading to Apapa Ports into parking lots.The roads, including Mile-2 through Coconut to Apapa, Orile-Apapa, Western Avenue, right from Ojuelegba to Apapa and Carter Bridge are not only becoming parking lots for the tankers and trucks, but also bedrooms, toilets and bathrooms for the drivers and their assistants.
For as long as they park on the roads, they buy water from hawkers, bathe or wash their faces and legs early in the morning and prepare for the crawling journey to the Wharf, while excreting faeces wherever they find convenient.A resident of Amuwo Odofin, Yinka Olafimihan, a self-employed trader, said residents of the street have no choice but forced to adapt to the situation.
“Our bridges and canals have become public toilets, because many people who come from outside Lagos have chosen to destroy this city for us. Because they are homeless, their toilet is on our street,” he lamented.For Lukman Ahmed, a truck driver, driving articulated vehicle takes two persons, who alternate each time one driver gets tired. He said where there is no public toilet: “We look for public toilets, but when we don’t see, we take our bath on the road very early in the morning, but while traveling on the highway within Lagos, we can stop to ease ourselves anywhere we find suitable.
“For defecation, we do it in nylon bags and throw it into any nearby bush, gutter or in any heap of dustbin.”Ahmed explained that the drivers and their assistants hardly sleep in the night or they must, they do so in turns for security purposes.“When one person is sleeping, the other person will be awake. If you sleep too much, thieves can remove your motor battery or other useful things. So, you have to be watchful.”
Kenneth Nwafor a small-scale business owner in Amuwo Odofin, said in addition to truck drivers, many residents in populated areas also defecate openly in Lagos.
“Finding a good or functional public toilet in Lagos is like looking for a needle in a haystack. You can look at the houses on this street, which one of them looks habitable? “The problem is the pit latrines that we have are full and useless. Whenever you are really pressed, you don’t want to use them, as you could see gases coming out from the underground. That is why we use nylons or go to nearby dumpsites,” he said.
No comments yet