July 20, 2014 – In his avowed determination to find a lasting solution to the traffic gridlock in Apapa as a result of fuel and other cargo distribution operations, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Sunday again visited the Apapa Port area renewing his earlier pledge that his administration would neither give up nor surrender until a solution is found.
Sunday’s visit was the third this month as the Governor pledged to work closely with all the stakeholders in the distribution of fuel and other cargo at the Port in order to enable residents and those who have businesses in the area to access their homes and work places on a sustainable basis.
Fielding questions from newsmen after being briefed by some government representatives and other haulage business operators at the Apapa Port, Fashola vowed that in spite of the seeming nonchalance on the part of the Federal Government which owns the Ports, his administration would continue to engage the problem with other stakeholders while also seeking the attention of the Federal Government to do what is right.
Describing the problem as a multi-agency one, the Governor said from the briefings he received from the state government representatives and other stakeholders working on the problem, there is apparent lack of coordination among the many agencies of the Federal Government working on the distribution of fuel at the Ports.
Fashola said from the briefings he got from the General Manager of the State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Mr. Babatunde Edu and the General Manager (Admin) of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Mr. Aloga Ogbogo, these agencies lack the required coordination to bring needed efficiency in the operations of both the tank farm owners and their tanker drivers adding, “As a result, people in Lagos, especially people in Apapa, are at the receiving end of the very uncomfortable life they are made to experience getting to their offices, getting to their homes”.
Decrying the insensitivity of these Federal Government agencies to the sufferings of Lagosians, especially those living or doing business in Apapa, Fashola noted, “Clearly you have heard from those who know the business that if the NNPC, for example, pumps fuel to Mosinmi and Ibadan this place will decongest; so why are they not doing that?”
Again the Governor said if the Federal Ministry of Works would come to takeover and repair the Apapa-Oshodi-Tin can Island Road, which is a Federal Government road, clearly people living in the area would have some relief adding, “The reality is that once there is congestion in one place, it just locks everybody in”.
He also drew attention to another lapse where the suggestion to conduct spot checks on trucks before they go into the Ports for loading was turned down by NPA officials pointing out that it would have been easier to clear the trucks outside so that they could go in batches of 20 and the operation would be faster.
“But somebody at the NPA wants to do it one at a time at the gate and from the briefing you have heard from some of our representatives here, there are perhaps some benefits in doing that”, the Governor said adding, “So there is also some corruption suggested in that because why would anybody not want to make something efficient unless there is a personal benefit?”
Other problems that compound operational problems at the Ports, the Governor said, include lack of necessary equipment adding that a situation where only two cargo handling equipment are deployed to about 40 trucks would grossly slow down the operations.
The Governor declared, “The Federal Government should listen and understand that the concessioning and management of the Port requires much more than just signing an agreement”, adding that it also requires people making investments and Government being alive to its responsibilities.
On what the State Government is doing to assuage the situation, Fashola said in the meantime about eight inner city roads are under construction and rehabilitation in the Apapa area expressing regrets, however, that because of the traffic gridlock, the contractors, Messrs Julius Berger, has found it difficult to move its equipment to bring materials for the construction of the roads.
“We are working on some inner roads in Apapa, about seven or eight roads. But even for Julius Berger, the contractor, now to bring their equipment in to supply materials to construct the inner city roads that we are committed to is now a problem because of the failure of the Federal Government”, the Governor said.
Pointing out that it is also becoming difficult to even move refuse trucks to come and remove refuse, the Governor lamented, “I don’t know what other country can treat her commercial capital like this; I don’t know what kind of leadership continues to allow this kind of eyesore and disgraceful happening”.
Restating his resolve to tackle the problem head on, the Governor declared, “Clearly, this is a government (Federal Government) that is losing touch, clearly not showing empathy for the pains the people of Lagos are going through under its watch. But we will continue to bring to their attention the pains that they are inflicting on our people here and we won’t give up”.
He recalled a text message sent to him during the week by a citizen who expressed loss of hope in the possibility of solving the traffic problem in Apapa adding that in response he told the man that since the problem was created by men, it would also need the effort of men and women to solve it.
Fashola who pointed out that the problem is not just what happens in Apapa but what is in Tincan Island as well, added, “You can see that even the bridge coming into Apapa is now threatened. It is just incomprehensible to me; I have never seen a country treat its commercial capital like this”.
The Governor declared, “But I am here because we won’t give up. This is our job and this is why we are in government. So we are not going to give up and we won’t surrender, we won’t abdicate our responsibility, we will continue to work with the stakeholders”.
Earlier, the Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, told the Governor that the problem in the Apapa area is further compounded by the state of the roads in the area pointing out that Creek and Liverpool roads have collapsed making movement of vehicles almost impossible.
He said the NNPC was yet to comply to an appeal made at a meeting to suspend pumping fuel to tank farms along Apapa-Oshodi Expressway in order decongest the trucks in the area adding all the agencies of the Federal Government working on the distribution of fuel in Apapa were not cooperating with the State Government and other stakeholders in seeking solution to the traffic problem
Also speaking, the General Manager, Operations, of the State’s Traffic Management Authority, Mr. Babatunde Edu, told the Governor that efforts being made by the authority and other stakeholders at the Ports to decongest traffic were being frustrated by some interests and people who, according to him “have seen what happens here as means of making money”.
According to him, if spot check is done on the trucks outside before getting to the entry gate, it would hasten the operations and reduce congestion. “But they prefer to do it right at the gate of entry and for about 20 minutes one vehicle will not go in”, he said adding that as a result although the authority has done a lot to confine the trucks to a lane, there was always a spillover.
The General Manager (Admin) of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Aloga Ogbogo, in his remarks said the major problem has been the collapse of many of the roads around the Ports saying there was need to persuade Julius Berger to whom the roads have been contracted for rehabilitation to move to site and repair some of the critical roads.
Saying there has been some level of compliance in the directive by the Governor to restrict the trucks to one lane, Ogbogo said his association later discovered that Messrs Dangote company is located at the service lane of the road and the appeal by the association that the company allow only trucks listed to load to come in was yet to be abided by.