Apapa traffic: Lagos Govt sets up Mobile Court to try traffic offenders

…As Police evacuate 2000 trucks

…NUPENG begs FG to resuscitate fuel depots nationwide

By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Olasukanmi Akoni, Evelyn Usman, Godfrey Bivbere & Monsuru Olowoopejo

LAGOS— FOLLOWING a 72-hour directive issued by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo last Friday, in Lagos to restore order in Apapa and its environs, the Lagos State Government has resolved to set up a Mobile Court within the axis to summarily deal with recalcitrant drivers of articulated vehicles.

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Apapa gridlock

This came as the Joint Task Force set up by the government has evacuated no fewer than 2000 petroleum tankers and containers to holding bays.

Also, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, yesterday, extended the operation of the Task Force by another 48 hours, even as he said he will convene a meeting involving all the stakeholders in Alausa, Ikeja, today,  with the aim of finding a lasting solution to the gridlock.

Mobile Court

The State Government said members of the state Executive Council accompanied Imohimi, included Lagos Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr Hyginus Omeje; Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, General Manager, Mr. Adeshina Tiamiyu; heads of military formations in Lagos, among others were part of the inspection tour yesterday, to assess the operation in Apapa and environs.

Police evacuates 2000 trucks

The 2,271 members of the Task Force, made up of the Police, Nigerian Army, Navy, Airforce, NSCDC, FRSC, LASTMA, LASEMA, Amalgamation of container truck drivers, Nigeria association of road transport Owners, NATO; National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas, NUPENG and road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, were reportedly deployed  to the locations for the evacuation of over 20,000 petroleum tankers and flat belt trucks causing gridlock from the service lanes and expressways to the six holding bays at Ijora, Isolo, Amuwo-Odofin, Orile and Apapa.

Vanguard learned reliably that one heavy-duty truck called Goliath was deployed to Lily Pond holding bay in Ijora and Capital Oil Bay at Amuwo-Odofin respectively for the lifting of containers while Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Imohimi  Edgal and other officers were on ground monitoring the operations which recorded appreciable level of success.

This led to the evacuation no fewer than 2000 petroleum tankers and containers to about six other holding bays at Coker bus stop, Apapa/Oshodi expressway, Toyota bus stop, Rainbow bus stop and Tin-Can Island.

Investigations showed that prior to that, the police boss held a meeting with heads of all the agencies involved in the operation to appraise the worsening traffic gridlock on the affected roads which are to serve as alternative routes during the closure of 3rd Mainland bridge from repairs and to strategise on the containment measures to be adopted to curtail the menace of recalcitrant tankers and truck drivers.

On-the-spot visit

It was followed by an on-the-spot visit to the locations to assess the situation and identify both private/government unoccupied Holding Bays where the articulated vehicles blocking the expressway could be temporarily relocated.

Reports said that thereafter, a letter was written to the owners/operators of the identified vacant trailers/trucks parks to solicit for their consent to temporary use their facilities to relocate the articulated vehicles in the interest of the public.

It was, however, gathered that after the evacuation of the first batch of trucks, some owners of the holding bays which have been dormant for long started grumbling alleging that their properties were forcefully broken into by the government.  This did not stop the task force from continuing with their assignment especially with the 72-hour ultimatum issued by the Vice President and reports that the number two citizen will be back in Lagos to monitor the level of compliance with his directive.

The designated holding bays are Lilly Pond at Ijora Badiya, Vacant space opposite Coker bus stop owned by Mitchel Bonded Terminal, Sapid along Apapa/Oshodi expressway, MRS Loading bay at Toyota bus stop, Capital oil at 2nd Rainbow and Vacant parking lot opposite 2nd gate, Tin-Can Island.

Vanguard learned also that the efforts of the task force are being hampered by lack of heavy equipment like Goliaths and heavy towing vans which will help in lifting the containers and towing grounded vehicles away from the road.

Service lanes cleared of heavy duty vehicles

As at 6 pm, yesterday, the service lanes stretching from Cele bus stop to Mile two bridge axis had been cleared of heavy-duty vehicles.

Gridlock

The presence of policemen and other security agencies involved in the operation was noticed along the road while heavy-duty trucks still occupied the expressway from Ijesha bus stop towards the Apapa axis.

Bad roads hamper free-flow of traffic

It was reliably gathered that efforts of the task force towards extending the clearance of service lanes towards Apapa wharf was being hampered by the bad state of the roads with gulley and craters dotting significant portions thereby making it impossible for trucks and containers to park on the expressway.

For over two years, vehicular movements, particularly along the ever busy Oshodi/ Apapa expressway, leading to the nation’s busiest sea ports has been hampered following its hijack by truck drivers and bad roads.

The situation, which forced some companies along the route to pack-up, assumed a tensed dimension last Monday, as truck drivers totally took over the expressway and service lanes, inward Apapa, without consideration for other road users.

Some motorists, who were sandwiched between heavy-duty trucks, spent the night on the road.

Three die in traffic

Also, last Wednesday, three persons, a commercial motorcyclist and two passengers, lost their lives, after a commercial motorcycle, popularly called Okada, was hit by a truck coming from an opposite direction.

Police give assurance

However, rising from a two-day stakeholders meeting held at the conference hall of the Lagos State Command, the Command boss, Imohini Edgal, assured that the situation would soon be a thing of the past.

Ambode extends 72-hr operation by 48hrs

Giving details on the operation, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan said over 2,000 articulated vehicles were removed from the road including Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Funsho Williams Avenue and Mile 2-Orile Road and taken to seven designated holding bays.

Bamigbetan said: “Personnel for the operation were mustered at the State Headquarters of the Police, Ikeja at about 2200hours of 20/07/2018 where they were addressed by Imohimi.

“This was followed by their deployment to the locations for the evacuation of the petroleum tankers and flat belt trucks causing gridlock from the service lanes and the expressway to seven holding bays at Ijora, Isolo, Amowu-Odofin, Orile, Apapa and Ijesha with the help of two Goliaths deployed by LASEMA.”

Lagos to hold stakeholders’ meeting

Similarly, the Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Ladi Lawanson has disclosed that: “Tomorrow, (Today) the Governor is engaging all the stakeholders to brainstorm and to come up with lasting solutions.”

GRIDLOCK

Mr. Lawanson said: “The Governor will specifically be meeting with the Nigeria Ports Authority, Shippers Council, Tank Farm Owners, Department of Petroleum Resources, among others because that is where the problem is really emanating from.

“What we are doing now are just palliative measures and we have to solve the problem from the source. Even though this is not within the Governor’s jurisdiction but he is adopting a collaborative approach with these agencies of the Federal Government which are the root cause of the problem to look for a medium to long-term solutions in support of the palliative measure that the Governor has started.”

We’ll enforce FG’s directive —NPA

Also, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, has promised to ensure strict implementation of all stakeholders’ agreement reached on the Vice President’s directive.

The Assistant General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications of the NPA, Ibrahim Nasiru, said: “It is the Federal Government’s directive and we have to abide by the directive by enforcing it. We have met with stakeholders severally, we have tried to find a solution to it and solutions were proffered.

“We insisted that shipping companies must provide holding bay and even gave them an ultimatum but they did not abide by it and we sanctioned them.

“This is to show that we are concerned and we will do whatever it takes to ensure that the policy of Ease of Doing Business is achieved.”

Protest on holding bays

On the protest by Maerskline for being unjustly sanctioned for not having holding bays, Nasiru said: “They cannot be surprised, let them prove that now. NPA cannot just be that irresponsible to just sanction them.

Also reacting to an argument that one of the sanctioned company, ABS failed to provide shipping services, he said: “I do not think NPA would just include an organisation that does not provide shipping services.”

NUPENG begs FG to resuscitate fuel depots nationwide

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, has urged the Federal Government to immediately resuscitate petroleum products pipelines and petroleum products strategic depots across the country and be adequately secured from vandals to ease gridlock in Lagos.

This came as the union also proposed that the designated Orile petroleum tanker parking space be urgently given to a competent construction company to build within  three months.

Its General Secretary, Comrade Adamu Song, said: “NUPENG had ,over the years, been worried on the seemingly intractable traffic debacle of Apapa port and has severally offered different options for solutions. Unfortunately, the hapless tanker or trailer driver has been the only object of attacks and criticisms by every other person or institution.”

Nevertheless, our union will keep giving our objective and pragmatic advice.

Firstly, since Apapa Port, for now, serves as receiving port for more than 75 percent of goods imports and road transportation is majorly the means of taking these goods inter land, Petroleum tankers and other articulated vehicles must necessarily come to Lagos. And in same manners, these articulated vehicles must have a place to park.

“Secondly we write to propose that the designated Orile petroleum tanker parking space should be urgently given to a very competent and reputable construction company to build within a timeline of three months.

“We also suggest a strategic plan to reduce the concentration on loading petroleum products from Apapa area by repairing petroleum products pipelines and petroleum products strategic depots across the country and be adequately secured from Vandals.

“The access roads in and out of Apapa are long overdue for expansion and reconstruction, yet successive governments have been avoiding making the infrastructural investment that holds the key to the door of the nation’s wealth and prosperity. We wish to reiterate the commitment of our union to cooperate with the government to find comprehensive and sustainable solutions to the traffic challenges.”

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