As Apapa Gridlock Awaits Governors’ Intervention
Eromosele Abiodun writes that after two separate Senate motions and the intervention of 17 governors from Southern Nigeria Apapa gridlock has become worse
On May 12 this year, Southern governors and senators expressed concern over the intractable gridlock along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and Apapa ports environ, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to put the issue on priority list and address the situation head-on.
The governors, under the platform of Southern Nigeria Governors Forum, made the call at a crucial security meeting, held at the Government House, Asaba, capital of Delta State, which had 17 of them from the South-West, South-South, and South-East geo-political zones in attendance.
The need for Buhari-led federal government’s holistic intervention in Apapa chaotic perennial gridlock was one of the resolutions contained in the communique issued at the end of the meeting.
The roll call at the meeting included: host Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta; Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti; Chairman, South-West Governors Forum, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo; Chairman, South-East Governors Forum, Dave Umahi, Ebonyi; Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos; Seyi Makinde, Oyo; Nyesom Wike, Rivers; Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia and Dapo Abiodun, Ogun.
Others were: Douye Diri, Bayelsa; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Enugu; Willie Obiano, Anambra; Godwin Obaseki, Edo, and Benedict Ayade, Cross River. Akwa Ibom and Imo governors were represented by their deputies, Moses Ekpo and Placid Njoku respectively. Since the announcement however, no effort has been made to see through the effort to resolve the problem. Rather, the Apapa conundrum has assumed a different dimension.
This is not the first time the Apapa tragedy has received attention from high quarters.
On September 15, 2014, the Senate Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation had pledged to ensure that the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and the Lagos State Government collaborate to ease the traffic gridlock on the access roads to Apapa and Tin Can Ports, Lagos for the benefit of ports operators and other users.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Olugbenga Obadara, made the pledge in Lagos, when he led other Senators on the first leg of their oversight visit to the Port Terminals in Lagos.
Obadara was responding to complaints by the Managing Director of Greenview Development Nigeria Limited (GDNL), Operators of Terminal E, Apapa Port, Mr. Abba Isa Bukar, that the port access roads were in deplorable condition.
He said: “Containers are continually falling off trucks while in transit, damaging vehicles daily while commuters face untold hardship thus, requiring prompt government attention.”
The senator said FERMA and the Lagos State Government would meet to iron out the grey areas to enable them tackle the gridlock.
He noted that as the nation’s commercial hub, the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports would not be allowed to deteriorate.
He said the committee embarked on the visit to know how much revenue the terminal operators were generating for the federal government and also to know their challenges with a view to getting legislative intervention to restore them.
Earlier, the MD had informed the senators that since GDNL commenced operation in 2006, the company had embarked on massive infrastructural development and have ensured prompt payment of revenues accruable to government.
He listed insecurity, poor access roads, lack of an enabling law, litigation and lack of basic facilities as the challenges facing the company and ports operations in general.
On insecurity, he lamented the frequent attacks on the Terminal from a neighboring village, Sapokoji and called for increased security patrol by security agencies along the water front.
He appealed to the legislature for the urgent enactment of the Ports and Harbour Bill to attract more investments in the maritime sector.
At the ENL Consottium Limited, Operators
of Terminals C & D, the General Manager, Mr. Mark Walsh, had also emphasised that the entire workforce was 100 percent Nigerians adding that their capacity in cargo handling and other related activities had been developed to world class standards.
In his response, Obadara commended the giant strides made by the company. He urged the Bureau of public Enterprises (BPE) to review the concession agreements with the Terminal Operators to ensure that more revenues go to the Federal government.
At AP Moller Terminal, the MD, Andrew Dawes informed the lawmakers that since takeover, the company had paid about $621,236,468 million to government as taxes. The Committee members also visited Lilypond Container Terminal Ijora-also managed by AP Moller and Apapa Bulk Terminal Limited (ABTL).
Another Senate Motion
Also, on October 21, 2015, one year after Obadara’s motion, the Lagos State government applauded the Nigerian Senate for its approval to table a motion moved by Oluremi Tinubu, a senator representing Lagos Central District, on the nerve-wracking gridlock in Apapa, Lagos, and its consequential economic and social implications for Nigeria’s commercial hub.
The then Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, who gave the commendation, had expressed happiness that the development was heart-warming as it had shown that the state government’s efforts at providing solution to the notorious traffic congestion in the axis has finally caught the attention of the National Assembly.
Ayorinde then lauded Tinubu for her bold step in moving the motion and galvanising her colleagues to address the gridlock and expressed the hope that the Senate would give it priority attention when it is tabled in view of the socio-economic hardships it had continued to cause residents of the state.
The commissioner expressed the optimism that the intervention from the senate would go a long way to also complement other moves by the state government in finding lasting solution to the gridlock and lessen the hardship on the people.
Before the Tinubu motion, the then Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, had visited Apapa and its environs to have an on-the-spot assessment of the situation and gave directives that would ease traffic in the area.
Ambode during his maiden town hall meeting also declared that the traffic gridlock on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway had been a major challenge to traffic management in the state. And as part of measures to find solution to the gridlock, the state government has appealed to the federal government to expedite action on the rehabilitation of the Tin Can Island Bridge, while on its part, has put in place a joint task force that operates round the clock to ensure that traffic situation improves along the axis.
The government said it was also working on the plan to expand the capacity of the existing trailer Park at Orile to accommodate 1000 trucks from its current capacity of 350.
Despite the two separate senate motions over the last eight years and the recent governors’ intervention, the problem has become even worse with opportunists making it a multibillion-naira extortion industry.
For instance, on June 7, 2021, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) lamented that over 30 toll points manned by security personnel, where bribes are allegedly being collected before trucks are allowed into the Port, had sprung up around the Apapa and Tin Can Ports.
This is as the NPA has met with the Lagos State Government on strategies to tackle the persistent gridlock around that axis and measures to curb corrupt practices and alleged extortion of truck drivers by traffic and security operatives along the Lagos Ports corridor.
In a statement issued by the General Manager, Strategic and Corporate Communications, NPA, Olaseni Alakija, who quoted the Acting Managing Director of NPA, Muhammed BelloKoko, as harping on the need to strengthen enforcement of traffic laws along the Apapa and Tin Can Ports roads.
The statement had said that Bello-Koko told the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, NPA had been receiving several complaints of extortions, especially by security operatives, and described the menace as a hindrance to the smooth implementation of the truck call-up system.
Bello-Koko, in his chat with the press, said the focus was on the alleged extortion by security operatives, adding that NPA solicited the government’s intervention to check the menace.
He said: “At the NPA, we resolved to take the right punitive measures against any of our staff involved in this; we have moved some of them out of port locations. We will do further reviews, whoever is found involved, will be appropriately sanctioned.
“Because of the involvement of several security units, many checkpoints have been created; we believe there are over 30 checkpoints within the Apapa and Tin Can Port axis. We believe that this is a major issue causing delays and a whole lot of problems, so this was one of the concerns we raised at the meetings.”
He said he had issued a directive to the “ETO” Project Consultant and operator of the Lilypond Truck Transit Park(TTP) to redouble their efforts, especially on the deployment of necessary physical and IT infrastructure as well as adequate human resources, to address the gaps and complaints of a delay from Port users.
He disclosed that NPA had ordered the TTP Company to immediately deploy infrastructure, so as to reduce the waiting time of trucks in and out of the Port.
The acting NPA boss further said that the meeting discussed poor access roads, especially around Sunrise Bus-stop leading to the Tin Can Port.
He said: “Trucks going to Tin Can now use the Apapa Port road, so no matter how much you control the traffic in Apapa, it will not be noticed.NPA has reached out to the Federal Ministry of Works, we have been speaking with the Director of Works in the State, and we have asked that they should provide some palliatives around Sunrise Bus-stop.
“We were made to understand that the contract for that section of the road has just been awarded, but because of the rains, work has been delayed. There is a need for that part of the road to be graded so that the Tin-Can Port corridor will begin to enjoy some measure of free flow of traffic.
“We have stakeholders like Dangote and others who have factories within the Port and each of them may need to bring in about 300 trucks daily, but it has to be done in such a way that their operations do not affect the need of other Port users.”
Bello-Koko was optimistic that the renewed collaboration with the Lagos State Government would bring an end to the perennial gridlock within and around the Apapa metropolis, adding that trucks not registered would not have access to the Port.
On his part, Governor Sanwo-Olu, according to the statement, was quoted as saying that the Lagos State Government would work closely with the NPA toward the success of the truck call-up system while calling on all port users to be alert to their responsibilities toward ending the gridlock in Apapa.
Containers are continually falling off trucks while in transit, damaging vehicles daily while commuters face untold hardship thus, requiring prompt government attention