Increasingly, the situation on all routes to Apapa is worsening and frustrating without any solution in sight from virtually all the areas where it is sup- posed to come from- state and Federal Governments.
An otherwise nourishing environment by virtue of its aquatic and maritime ac- tivities, Apapa has become a wasteland, impoverishing its inhabitants by killing their businesses and destroying their envi-ronment, no thanks to the unwholesome activities of ‘aliens’ who come because of what they can take away from the boun- ties the environment offers.
Commuters, residents, business own- ers, port operators and sundry workers take a daily dose of stress, jitters, and frustration on all the routes to Apapa, and these feelings sink deeper given that all stakeholders, especially those from whom respite could come, seem indifferent or helpless or both.
Whether the “journey” to Apapa is through the Apapa/Mile 2- Oshodi Expressway or the Ijora-Apapa route, the story is the same because either way, the commuter is not spared by the reckless driving and mindless, indiscriminate parking of tankers and trailers on any available space on roads and bridges.
Worried by the dying situation of this port city and its impact on the national economy, the Federal Gov- ernment late last year came up with a lame-duck ap- proach that summoned a meeting of all stakeholders aimed at ending the gridlock and the siege on Apapa environment at the time.
The meeting which was chaired by Sylvester Monye, the former Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Monitoring, Performance and Evaluation who represented the Federal Government had most of the stakeholders in attendance, including the Lagos State government which was represented by Kayode Opeifa, the former state commissioner for Transportation.
Others were the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), National Associa- tion of Road Transport Owners, Federal Ministry of Works (FMW), Petroleum Products Pricing Regula- tory Agency (PPPRC), Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Apapa residents among others.
Among other agreements, the stakeholders said that NPA and NSC should strengthen the existing call-up system which would help to regulate the volume of trucks on the road, mandating both agencies to not only ensure compliance, but also to fast-track turn- around in cargo delivery at the ports.
It did not take a soothsayer to know few days after, that both the state and the Federal Governments may have been playing politics because these agreements did not survive one week before they collapsed, and the trucks were back to business-as-usual and nobody turned back to ask why.
Several other stakeholder-meetings have been held ever since with occasional lip-service by the Lagos State government when Babatunde Fashola held sway, all to no avail.
Pained by this situation which has defied all the strategies employed by the immediate past Fashola administration, Akinwunmi Ambode, the new state governor, recently convened a fresh meeting of stake- holders to identify causes of this unfortunate situation with a view to working out an enduring solution to the menace that is negatively impacting the lives of people and businesses.
It would be recalled that the traffic problem has in recent times become a source of worry as it appears to have defied all suggestions proffered by stakeholders.
A few days before May 29 when Fashola handed over to Ambode, the state government had prevailed on tanker drivers to leave the roads following the enormous headache they were causing to commuters on all the routes to the nation’s premier port.
But the agreement collapsed following the biting fuel scarcity.
Today, the situation is as bad as it has always been; and appears worsened by the rains.
Movement into and out of Apapa is like the Biblical expression of “walking through the valley of shadow of death.”
Some workers whose offices are in Apapa have since resorted to going to Lagos (CMS or Marina from where they board a ferry going to Apapa.
Those who have experimented on the option told BD SUNDAY that though it was not the safest thing to do, it however, amounted to settling for a lesser evil.
“I drive to Marina and park my car there and join the ferry. But I have a phobia for water. If I had my way, I wouldn’t be caught dead patronising ferry with the level of risks involved. This is a country that even when an accident occurs on land, I mean auto accident; rescue operations are not prompt, let alone on water. I just patronise it because there seems to be no better alternative,” a port worker, whose office is located in Apapa, said.
Analysts say that the solution to the Apapa gridlock is only in getting the owners of the numerous tank farms in the area to relocate.
According to them, any other experiment may just provide a temporary relief. But BD SUNDAY gathered that stakeholders at the Ambode’s meeting agreed to set up a committee that would implement all the decisions taken at the meeting.
It was agreed at the meeting that the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) would lead other members of the committee to inspect and ensure that shipping companies are operating loading bays in order to reduce number of trucks around the area and only trucks that have been marked for loading are within Apapa vicinity.
By ZEBULON AGOMUO AND CHUKA UROKO