As Apapa gridlock lingers
NIGERIANS are frustrated with the bottlenecks at the highway entrance to the Apapa seaport. While a stopgap remains a mirage, a permanent solution appears like a movie with episodes.
Repeatedly, actions have been taken by port authorities, the Federal Government, and Lagos State Government to fix the Apapa gridlock but it has remained unresolved. If we have to go through the route of our local thinking, we would say, the witches are at work. But really, there are several witches that have not allowed free flow of traffic on Apapa road. They include: The activities of some law enforcement agencies deployed to control traffic. They brazenly collect money from the truck drivers for easy access to the ports. Similarly, “area boys” extract cash from the truck drivers for access to the seaports. The gapping bad road leading to the ports is evidently observable as trucks meander like a stream. Indiscipline and lawlessness on the part of truck users who keep trucks on the road for days.
Those milking from the squirrels have thrown patriotism out with the bathwater. The only thing that is important to them is how their pocket will swell, they do not mind whose ox is gored.
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry lamented sometime ago that Nigeria loses $19bn annually, or about five per cent of its Gross Domestic Product due to delays, traffic jams, illegal charges and insecurity that are common place in the area.
The massive environmental impact and huge amount of time it causes commuters to ply the route drain their pocket as well as kill them softly as a result of inhaling carbon monoxide.
sadder is the fact that the cream of the society have paid the obligatory lip service to solving the Apapa gridlock. The immediate past governor of Lagos state, Akinwunmi Ambode, said his administration was committed to restoring the glory of the Apapa area. He spoke a few years back at the Lagos House, Ikeja, during a visit of the management team of the Nigerian Ports Authority, led by its Managing Director, Hadiza Usman. Till today, the gridlock is still intact.
The truck drivers have consistently ignored the warning by the Lagos state government to vacate the road. An alternative parking lot provided for the trucks was supposed to be a stop-gap but it has not helped in reducing the challenge.
The traffic nightmare got to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), when he directed trailers and trucks to vacate Lagos ports’ access roads within two weeks, with the expectation that the vacation would help in clearing the Apapa gridlock and help in restoring sanity to the ports. In a swift action, a task force was formed to report to the President with the following terms of reference: “The development of an efficient and effective management plan for the entire port area traffic, including cargo, fuel distribution, and business district traffic, enforcing the permanent removal of all stationary trucks on the highway, among others. The task team was headed by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and Mr. Kayode Opeifa as Vice Chairman. At the moment, Apapa traffic congestion is still wreaking pains on residents and subjecting agents, importers, vehicle operators and the people in general to harrowing traffic every day.
The nightmarish gridlock on the Oshodi-apapa Expressway seems to be defying solution despite repeated efforts of government and well-meaning individuals for the trucks to vacate the road leading to the nation’s sea gateway. A freight forwarder once said jokingly that the “permanent solution to the Apapa gridlock might take a bit longer, until a fowl grows teeth.’’
Freight traffic generates considerable external costs caused by congestion, accidents, noise or pollutant emissions. We all remember the accident that happened on the Apapa-oshodi Expressway the other day when one Ibrahim Shagari was crushed to death by a fellow truck driver, Obinna Nzekwe, in November, 2019. The accident happened as a result of the gridlock.
The experts on transport have suggested various solutions. From reconstruction of the roads within Apapa and the roads leading to the ports on both sides of the Ijora /Marine Beach and the Apapa-mile 2 to Oshodi Expressway. It was also suggested that shipping companies should have a container bay where importers can deposit empty containers outside of the ports and not be forced to return them to the ports directly.
Perhaps, our children will be thinking we could use electric vehicles by so doing our future can really be free of congestion and emissions? As a matter of fact, Apapa gridlock is man-made and it requires total and wholesome approach to solve. We should be looking at a permanent solution and not a fleeting one. We can only make this happen through a collaborative effort. We all have a part to play.
A lasting solution is to link rail to Apapa port. Although the Federal government (Fg) has engaged in standard gauge rail line extension project to permanently decongest the busiest port in the country, as at the moment of writing it is still work in progress.