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    Categories: ColumnsPublic Sphere

The Lagos highway to hell

“Those who know the Oshodi-Apapa expressway in Lagos will testify that the road is now a highway to hell. From Oshodi to Mile 2 Oke (Up), there is a road, but it leads to nowhere.”

Onuoha Ukeh

When the popular rock and roll group, AC/DC, released one of its greatest tracks, Highway to Hell, the band was just exhibiting creativity and artistic finesse. The track was such a monstrous hit that it shook the music industry. It became one of the most celebrated rock music tracks in history.

The songwriters of that track, Ronald Belford Scott, Angus Mckinnon Young and Malcolm Mitchell Young, had written: “I’m on the high way to hell/On the highway to hell/Highway to hell/I’m on the highway to hell/No stop signs/speed limit/Nobody’s gonna slow me down.” They also wrote: “Hey mama, look at me/I’m on my way to the Promised Land, whoo!/I’m on the highway to hell/Highway to hell.”

Although AC/DC was talking about a different thing altogether in the Highway to Hell, the meaning and import of the lyrics of that track are manifesting in Lagos, where an important expressway and other major roads have become a source of pain, sorrow and agony. Those who know the Oshodi-Apapa expressway in Lagos will testify that the road is now a highway to hell. From Oshodi to Mile 2 Oke (Up), there is a road, but it leads to nowhere. It is a hell of a road that has been taken over by hundreds of thousands of fuel tankers, container-laden articulated vehicles and sundry trucks heading for the Tin Can Island Port or the fuel tank farm at the Trinity Bus Stop area. And from the Mile 2 portion of the expressway towards Tin Can Island Port, there is literally no road. What used to be the road is now a dilapidated, potholes and craters-infested stretch. Using it is a journey “through the valley of the shadow of death,” a journey to the hottest part of to hell.

The Oshodi-Apapa expressway is a nightmare of monumental proportions.

READ ALSO: Lagosians groan as trucks continue to block Apapa-Oshodi expressway

Using the road is as torturous as it is an attempt at suicide. On this road, motorists and other road users struggle with fuel tankers and articulated vehicles that are bearing containers (trailers) and trucks, which have taken over the main carriageway and service lane, standing bumper to fender. The gridlock and the chaos on the road have been like that for months without the government, at the state and federal levels, arresting the situation. The last three days have been terrible, being days of torture and pain. The gridlock caused by fuel tankers and trailers/trucks has been overwhelming and devastating. Stationary vehicles, en route Apapa, have taken over the stretch of the main expressway and service lane, from Iyana Isolo to Tin Can Island Port area, a distance of more than 10 kilometres.

There is the tendency that it would stretch further. Owing to this traffic bottleneck, motorists going to Apapa from Oshodi now prefer running against traffic on the opposite side of the expressway, with the attendant risk of accidents.

It is most unbelievable that the government has abandoned an all-important road such as the Oshodi-Apapa expressway, which runs through two major seaports in Lagos (Tin Can Island Port and Apapa Wharf), leaving it to become a parking lot, where fuel tankers and trailers are parked round-the-clock, not because the vehicles operators like it but simply because they cannot easily access their destinations. And the drivers and vehicle attendants, who have been trapped, have turned the whole place to their emergency abode, where they defecate indiscriminately, sleep and eat.

When Vice President Yemi Osinbajo inspected the mess on the Oshodi-Apapa expressway, using a helicopter, Nigerians had thought there was going to be an end to the menace. How wrong they were, as nothing has happened since then. The Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had also visited. Speeches were made. Yet nothing tangible has happened. Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Amabode, and the state’s Commissioner for Police, Imohimi Edgal, have variously visited the area. Nothing positive has come out of it. The funny part of it is that the Lagos State government had issued evacuation orders to operators of fuel tankers and trailers on many occasions. Nothing happened. The drivers have defied government, somewhat daring it to do its worst. And the government does nothing.

It is most shameful and embarrassing that the government of Lagos State, the supposed Centre of Excellence, and the Federal Government have failed to solve a problem as simple as traffic congestion in a country that prides itself as the giant of Africa. By their failure, the Lagos State and federal governments have indirectly proved that operators of fuel tankers and trailers are stronger than them combined. When evacuation orders have been issued and defied with impunity, when regulation or restriction of the movement of fuel tankers and trailers has been mooted and announced, when tanker drivers have made government look pathetic and helpless, they show one thing: Government incompetence or refusal to do the right thing, or both.

There have been allegations that the go ernment concessioned the parking lot at the ports to a company and by so doing collected money only to cause havoc. It is like someone gaining the whole world to lose his or her soul, as the Bible said. The Lagos State government had, at a town hall meeting organised by the Federal Government, accused the Nigerian Shippers Council and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) of connivance, which it said was responsible for chaos on the Oshodi-Apa- pa expressway, whose spiral effect has affected other major and minor roads. Weeks after the allegation, nothing has happened.

A time has come for the Lagos State govern- ment and the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on the Oshodi-Apapa expressway. They just must do something to clear the mess, irrespective of who created it. They should act before the total paralysis of Lagos and the collapse of flyover bridges, which is a disaster waiting to happen.

Fuel tankers and trailers park on Mile 2, Ijora, Eko, Berger, Ojuelegba, Kirikiri and Na- tional Stadium bridges, among others, as they queue en route the ports. The bridges were not designed to carry the weight of sedentary vehicles. Such weight will weaken the foundation of the bridges and make them vulnerable to collapse. This is why the Federal Government should rise up to its responsibility and deal with the matter decisively once and for all. The parking lot at the seaports, which were in use before, should be made function- al. Where they would not function, a parking lot should be provided for the fuel tankers and trailers somewhere else, where a clocking in and clocking out method should be used to regulate movement. In such an arrangement, only vehicles that have been booked to load
at the seaports should be allowed to leave the parking lot. Also, the Federal Government should take measures to make other ports outside Lagos functional. It is rather sad that government neglected other ports in Nigeria, and by so doing concentrated most imports in Lagos. This is strange and makes no sense whatsoever. Were other ports working, all im- ports would not centre around Lagos. And the congestion, which has caused the fuel tanker and trucks menace would not be.

If nothing is done fast, Lagos State would soon be grounded by fuel tankers and trailers. At present, the gridlock on the Oshodi-Appa- pa expressway stretches from Tin Can Island Port to Iyana Isolo. All adjourning streets around Mile 2, Kirikiri, Trinity, Maza Maza, Amuwo Odofin, Okota as well as Ikorodu road, Orile Igamun and Apapa have been taken over by fuel tankers/trailers. Move- ment in these areas is difficult and sometimes impossible. The accumulation of these would bring the city to a complete halt sooner than we expect. This is why the Lagos State govern- ment should take the lead in finding a solu- tion. Its orders must be matched with action. This has been lacking in Lagos State of late.

The Lagos State government must rise up to the occasion and do what it must. Not doing anything will leave residents with a feeling of nostalgia, as they believe that previous Lagos State governments would not have tolerated this. This is not a good testimony on the conduct of the Ambode government.

Tokunbo David :Writer and editor.

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