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Apapa: Again, residents, stakeholders yearn for action

By Eno-Abasi Sunday and Victor Gbonegun
28 May 2017   |   4:45 am
Yearly, the Federal Government rakes in multi-billion naira from its “cash cows” at the Apapa end of the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, which include Apapa Port and Tin Can Island Port...

Yearly, the Federal Government rakes in multi-billion naira from its “cash cows” at the Apapa end of the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, which include Apapa Port and Tin Can Island Port, but that stretch of the road has consistently been neglected by administrations. Now, the situation imperils residents and those whose livelihood depends on it.

And for the umpteenth time, stakeholders including maritime workers and residents are demanding immediate action to stem the tide of economic and human losses due to the decadent state of the area.

Apapa plays host to the fourth largest port in Africa; a number of ports and terminals operated by private firms on behalf of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). Put differently, Apapa, is home of Nigeria’s biggest seaport, as well as the country highest revenue earner after crude oil.

The Lagos Port Complex, which occupies about 120 hectares of land in Apapa, according to the NPA, comprises 16 jetties. While four of them are inactive, five are operated solely by the NPA, and two are jointly operated by the NPA and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The NPA also jointly operates one jetty with the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), and the remaining jetties are privately operated.

The Tin Can Island Port, which has roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) facilities, adjoins the container terminal. This summarises the importance of the area to the Nigerian economy.

Sadly, the major roads leading into and out of the port complex, as well as roads within this Apapa Local Council are in a terrible state.  Approaching the place from Ikorodu Road, through Ijora Bridge, one is tempted to believe that the trip may be smooth sailing until heavy duty trucks and tanker drivers begin to show their disrespect for other road users.

Veering into the Government Residential Area (GRA), the picture of the dilapidation that has gripped the area begins to crystalise, with widening craters and potholes starring one in the face, right from the precincts of the Area B Command of Nigeria Police Force.

The journey into Apapa is no better from the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway end is no better. Different sections of the road, even beyond Coconut Bus Stop have been severely lacerated to the point that drivers switch lanes at will and with utter disregard for traffic laws.

The terrible state of the road has led to repeated fall of articulated trucks on the road. In some cases, the containers they bear, and the petroleum product in the case of tankers, always spill with little or nothing to salvage. There have also been times where vehicles that are constantly crisscrossing lanes knock down other road users. Only last week, a container fell off one of the trucks and crushed a journalist with Vanguard Newspapers to death.

Residents and business owners in Apapa Local Council are livid with rage over the loss of sanity in the area, as well as, the manner that articulated trucks and tanker drivers have turned major streets in their domain to parks. Worst hit here are Randle, Burma, Creek, and Warehouse roads and Kofo Abayomi Avenue among others.

Nineveh Akpan, who runs a business outfit along Wharf Road, laments the daily torment he and other road users have to put up with, in the face of the usually hectic traffic occasioned by bad roads.

He said: “It is a pity that people that are supposed to repair this road have left undone even when a lot of money is being made from this part of the state. Now, you cannot dress well and work around here because from time to time you have to abandon your car, either at the office or at home depending on your reading of the traffic situation. There are times that I become so confused about what to do, especially when the traffic is at standstill on both sides of the road.”

He explained that because of the traffic situation, people now trek from Ijora to Wharf Road in order to safe time, “and a lot of pedestrians get knocked down by commercial motorcyclists in the process. In this neighbourhood, we record a lot of accidents almost daily, both minor and major ones and this is worrisome.”

For Umoru Saliu, a resident of Liverpool Road, Apapa Road should mean a lot to the Federal Government simply because it leads to some of its major sources of income, just as it serves as a nexus to other important parts of the state.

Saliu, a tricycle operator who has lived in the area for over seven years, bemoaned the manner in which trailer drivers park their vehicles on the dilapidated road, noting that their actions have caused residents immense discomfort.

He therefore, called on government to put in place restriction order on the companies these drivers work for so as to restore sanity in the area.

Saliu, who also wants immediate attention paid to the deplorable state of roads in the area, stressed, “its very important for government to urgently address the pathetic roads because of the importance of such infrastructure. Government has to start from somewhere to fix these roads irrespective of the downturn the economy is experiencing because allowing the rot to continue will only worsen matters,” he stated.

Mrs. Funmi Adeyemi, who works around the Tin Can Port axis, claimed the condition of the road has remained unchanged because of lack of political will by the government over the years.

She appealed to government to justify the huge revenue generated from the zone as the hub of economic activities in the state.

The problem besetting the Apapa area of the state, started around 2005 when the NPA, working hand-in glove with the Federal Ministry of Transport, parceled plots of land from the Lagos Port Complex to firms in the oil and gas business to use as fuel tank farms.

Today, that singular decision has ensured that over 2, 000 trailers crisscross the place to lift petroleum product to different places across the country. This coupled with increased commercial activities at the ports and the attendant movement of heavy duty trucks, effectively saw to the collapse of roads in the neighbourhood.

Even though Babatunde Raji Fashola as governor of Lagos State deplored the madness going on in the area, he could not do much. The excuse was that it is a federal road.

Now, despite being in-charge of the ministry saddled with the task of addressing the mess for nearly two years, not much has come from his ministry towards bringing about lasting change in that area.

However, only recently, Fashola in a statement by his media aide, Hakeem Bello, said about N100b is needed to re-construct the Apapa Road.

Speaking at a retreat in Abuja, the minister disclosed that some private companies had offered to collaborate with the government to fix the road, adding that after signing a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), his ministry would proceed to the Federal Executive Council for approval.

The minister’s statement was on the heels of a 21-day ultimatum issued by Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), over the failed Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, among others.

The union in issuing the ultimatum, urged the Federal Government to rehabilitate access roads to the ports in order to save workers from untimely death.

“We have watched with total disbelief government’s continuous neglect and abandonment of the access roads to the nation’s seaports, the gateway to the nation’s economy, especially the Oshodi-Apapa Dual Carriage Way that leads to the nation’s two major ports of Apapa and Tin-Can.

“We have written several letters, made several appeals and even threatened industrial actions all in our efforts to ensure that the Federal Government and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), live up to their responsibilities and do the needful on the access roads to no avail. As previous governments have abandoned the roads, so also has this current government,” MWUN stated.

The workers consequently gave the Federal Government a 21-day ultimatum to fix and make the access roads especially the Oshodi-Apapa Dual Carriage Way motorable. At the expiration of the 21 days ultimatum, if the road remains the same, we will have no other choice than to ask our members to stay at home until the Federal Government and NPA are ready to make the ports function by fixing the access roads.

President of MWUN, Comrade Adeyanju Adewale, decried the poor state of the roads and other infrastructure at the ports, which he said, might be responsible for the high cost of clearing goods in the country.

“Maritime plays an important role in the economy because the port is the gateway for investment inflows into the country. Why for instance, would people want to clear goods through other West Africa countries? It is because our cost is high. For example, freighting from Geneva cost 1000 CF to Nigeria as against 600 CF to other West African countries, he said.