•Stakeholders blame situation on concessioning of port terminals
There is no end in sight regarding the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway gridlock as officials of the traffic management agencies have abandoned the expressway to miscreants, thereby compounding the already helpless traffic situation on the ever-busy road.
Meanwhile, stakeholders have differed over solutions to the gridlock, saying that lack of infrastructure within the ports became pronounced after concessioning of the various terminals in the nation’s seaports following the abandonment of the old system which had space in the two leading ports of Apapa and Tin-Can Island for parking by trucks waiting to load
They said each of the concessionaires fenced out their allocated areas which completely killed the old system leaving the trucks to seek parking space outside the port environment.
Some operators who spoke with Vanguard on the issue also blamed government’s lack of foresight for the current traffic problem around the port.
They noted that government failed to be futuristic in matters concerning the port, as they are only interested in collecting the huge revenue accruing from the maritime industry yearly.
They also wondered why the two truck parks at Tin-Can 2nd gate and Lily Pond are not being fully utilized by the truckers and why the relevant government agencies are not enforcing their use.
Former Minister of Interior and Chief Executive Officer of Integrated Oil and Gas Nigeria Ltd, Emmanuel Iheanacho, told Vanguard that government’s neglect of the maritime industry and its lack of vision have resulted in the present condition of gridlock.
According to him, “There is a deficit in terms of roads that are available and the volume of traffic that goes in and out of the port. If you would recall that the road infrastructure was built so many years ago and of course road infrastructure is in relation to a particular traffic size.
“So, if the traffic size increases either in volume or in terms of the structure of that traffic, then policy makers need to make adequate provisions and ensure there are roads to take care of the new development.
“The problem we have today is that we haven’t seen the benefits of development in infrastructure, developing additional roads and redesigning the areas that are very close to the port. In actual fact, I was moving around Apapa recently, I was pointing out the fact that there were lots of decayed buildings at the port environment that are not really of economic use any more.
“Additional infrastructure might be a good idea really if you can have people who are really forward looking to look at the possibility of acquiring some of these places, knocking them down, developing additional infrastructure by way of truck parks, access roads, and the problems we have now will not be there.
“But in a situation where the development of infrastructure in relation to roads and truck parks is static, and population is continuously growing and a growth in population results to growth in trade and there is also a dimension in terms of the types of goods that we now see passing through the ports, you are bound to have the chaos that we have now.
“But it isn’t something we can endure forever, it is something that I think that a special task force should be empowered to look at these problems and look at possible long term solutions to them”, Iheanacho said.
Many factors contributed — CRFFN boss
Similarly, former chairman of the Council of Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, CRFFN and Managing Director of Talod Oceanair Freight Limited, Alhaji Hakeem Olanrewaju, said several factors contributed to the present situation.
Olanrewaju said the collapse of the rail system, the use of portion of the port for production purposes, the neglect of port infrastructure by government and the roads are responsible for the problem.
In his words, “You see, I’ve been in this environment for a very long time. I schooled in Apapa and have been living in Apapa for almost all my life. When you look at the structure of the port, no matter the construction of the road they are doing today, it will not ease the congestion; it will only reduce it to about 20 percent.
“Go and write it down. We are still coming back there. The way the port is designed, the roads leading to and from the ports are not meant for all these fuel tankers. That is number one reason for the congestion. The railway you talked about, we have Dangote cement factory packaging cement inside there.
“The trucks are moving. That is in addition to what is on that road, that is number two. The way Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc was designed was not to bring trucks to their facility but to use train.
“That is why we have those warehouses in Iddo, Oyingbo and towards Yaba and that is why we have that Iddo market. The trains those days were to move imports to Iddo and that is why the lorries are there.
“So when you move your containers there, those going to Onitsha, Maiduguri and so on are offloaded from there and the trucks go back to the port to return empty containers. You would only see trucks in industrial areas like Agbara or Ikeja.
“Those are the trucks going out of the port. That is why you do not see traffic but now the railway has collapsed, everybody comes by road. That is where we first started having congestion. Now the tank farms came from nowhere.
“When Folawiyo and all those on that axis were doing cement in those days, they came to take cement by batches. I remember when the congestion was trying to build up, Flour Mills quickly arrested the situation by loading in the night.
“Their trucks come in at night around 10pm and before 4 am, they have distributed what they need to deliver for that day. So, you won’t know what has happened. So, daytime you’ll find container. But now, that programme is not working.
“The congestion started from there. Then Dangote Cement wants to do its own with other companies that are springing up everywhere, and nobody is thinking about the waterways, nobody is thinking about the movement of barges.
“When you go to Port Harcourt, go to Onne, 50 percent of what is coming to Onne moves by barges to various locations. When you see trucks moving from Onne, they are the ones going to non-riverine areas like Aba, all those areas, traders’ zone.
“But all those oil servicing companies go by barge. So, if the government wants to do something now, it is to quickly work on the rail. That is the solution” he noted.
Poor concession programming, major factor — Ibeke
In his reaction, Managing Director of Kotzmatz Media Konsults Ltd, Okey Ibeke, stressed the need for the effective utilisation of both Tin-Can 2nd gate and Lily Pond to help control the traffic.
“Apart from other factors, one of the major contributors to the Apapa port gridlock today is concession programming. Before the private operators took over the terminals, NPA used to be the sole operators of terminals and there were these common usage areas (areas dedicated for trucks/parks holding bays where trucks go in to the ports and wait till it is their turn to be loaded.
“The place was taking up to five hundred trucks at a time. During concession those places were concessioned out and were added to areas concessioned. All the terminal operators in a bid to secure their boundaries erected fences and took over those common bay areas and once they were walled off they covered those spaces reserved for trucks and they started stacking containers and cargo in those areas and denied trucks access. So, it is a major contributor.
“Instead of trucks to berth there they now park on the roads. Some of these former common usage areas have been presently converted to office blocks and plazas by these private companies. A typical example is Eleganza Plaza which was formerly a common usage area but it has been converted to an office block.”
“However, in a bid to resolve this issue, the government needs to buy such property off their private owners and re-convert them to parking lots and common usage areas”.
“Fashola was the governor of Lagos and we know that he fought the then federal government under former president Goodluck Jonathan, for allegedly neglecting the Apapa road. He even accused the government of deliberately crippling the Lagos economy.