By Oluyinka Onigbinde
Stakeholders in the maritime sector have called on the Federal Government to act swiftly on the dilapidated access road to the nation’s Sea ports, that serve as the economic hub of the country
The significance of Apapa to the nation’s economy cannot be overemphasized! The Nigerian Ports Authority contributes 70 per cen to the national income and the Apapa port gives the lion share of the income generated. Thousands of Nigerians have their daily job in this domain, with many business concerns located in the area. But the poorest roads in Nigeria are also found in Apapa. The roads have been left in a shambles and utter neglect.
Transacting business activities in the two most commercialised ports in Nigeria is a nightmare because of the comatose road and traffic gridlock experienced to and fro the environment. Whether you enter Apapa through Mile 2-Tin Can or Ijora, the situation is nothing but bad road and bad road all through. A regular five-minute trip can last two hours.
News Direct took time out on a two-day investigative report on the Apapa road to meet with the stakeholders on the way out. It would be recalled that recently, a protest took place at Apapa in which protesters visited the office of the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman who swiftly attended to the protesters who had issued an ultimatum. Although, she claimed the rehabilitation and construction of the road is not within the purview of her establishment, she, however, took a bold step to make a separate budget that includes the construction of the road.
It was found that business owners, organizations and concerned residents of Apapa have come together to contribute positively to the rehabilitation of the roads. For example, trucks which had the name AG Dangote, a subsidiary of Dangote Group of Companies, were observed on site. Speaking with some of the workers, they explained that they are doing palliative work. Nonetheless, they cannot assure when the repair of the road would be completed. Another worker said they have been mandated to fix every pothole and bad road in the area and other routes that link the Apapa road.
Meanwhile, affected mini-business owners, residents, and other road users have identified tanker drivers and heavy duty truck drivers as major cause of traffic congestion and damage to the road.
When News Direct contacted Alhaji Isa Abdullahi, National Coordinator, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) at their Apapa office, he stated: ‘Apapa is the heartbeat of Lagos and Nigeria. There is need to put priority on this area. Mr. Babatunde Fashola was the Governor of Lagos state and now the Minister for Works, so he knows better about the situation of Apapa and he has the capacity to address the challenges we are experiencing in Apapa. The situation is not helping our business operations. The government should do a reconstruction of the roads. The Federal government can give the state government the go-ahead to do the roads and reimburse them later all in the interest of the people and the country at large.
On the suggestion raised by some stakeholders for government to concession the Apapa roads, Alhaji Isa said: ‘Concession of the roads is not a good idea because of the current state of the economy and the suffering of the people.’ He advised that there are other ways to go about the road project rather than suggesting concession.
On the gridlock on the road, he said, ‘I was surprised to hear that the state government banned the Vehicle Inspection Office and Federal Road Safety Corps on Lagos roads. He said: ‘the agencies are needed to curb gridlock on the roads.’ He advised that awareness and reorientation is the way-out for the tanker drivers, commercial bus drivers, truck drivers and other road users on the road.
He said: ‘the way and manner at which truck and tanker drivers behave while driving is condemnable.’ He advised that the FRSC, LASTMA, VIO and the Taskforce team need to come together for an emergency meeting on the road, do like a workshop or seminar, interact with these drivers on the use of the roads and make the roads friendly for other users. He accused some of the taskforce earlier constituted of abandoning their duties and collecting bribes from the drivers and allowed them to continue to park anywhere on the road. He added: ‘Government must work on Apapa because of the oil sector business.
If they can repair the pipelines like the one in Kano state then I believe it will be better and Lagos will be fully engaged again and improve the revenue.’
In a separate interview with Hon. Lasbat Mojisola, representing Apapa Constituency 1, she said she is doing her best to bridge the gap between the people of Apapa and the state government as a lawmaker.
She said that she doesn’t have the capacity to build infrastructure and that she can only lobby the government to do such and that is why we can see the state government in Apapa. On the dilapidated state of Apapa roads, the lawmaker said: ‘Presently, we can see Flourmills, Dangote and others coming together to rehabilitate some portion of the road already. She said before the end of the year, Apapa will wear a better look and the business activities would have also improved.’
She said they are already working on energy to light-up Apapa. On the cause of the gridlock in the area, she said: ‘if you are familiar with the Apapa route, we hardly have trucks litter the streets again. The problem of Apapa is the bad roads. She advised that the way out is not rehabilitation but a complete reconstruction of the roads because we need something to stand the test of time. Currently, arrangements are been made by companies to radio their trucks before driving down to the area. The idea is if it is not time to come to the depot you are not allowed to park by the road or around the gate. You will recall that His Governor Akinwunmi Ambode constituted a taskforce to address the menace of tanker drivers on the roads. The taskforce are still very much on ground and we encourage the Governor to keep on the good works.