As Apapa grid­lock lingers

The Punch - - EDITORIAL - Olu­sanya An­jorin, La­gos. 0803282665­0 Olu­sanyaan­[email protected]

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.

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