By Alvan Ewuzie
If work commences this week on the rehabilitation of Oshodi Apapa expressway as was hinted by reports last week that Julius Berger, the Constriction firm, would commence their suspended rehabilitation of the 32-year old road, it would be evident reaction to public out cry over the deplorable state of roads and the seeming intractable traffic gridlock that have made Apapa an anathema in recent times.
But if nothing happens it would only enter the flip side of history amidst several other promises that came to nought . Ironically agencies in Apapa wharf and other commercial concerns in the place contribute no less that two trillion Naira to Nigeria’s annual income. The outcry came in the wake of prolonged neglect of a section of Lagos habouring the nation’s premiere port, Tin can and other agencies whose revenue to the Federal authorities come in trillions.
Increasing closure and relocation of businesses within the area consequent upon waste of man hours and traffic snarl resulting from the virtual take over of sizable portions of the road by trailers queuing to load at the two oil tank firms located in Apapa necessitated drastic action by Governor Raji Fashola to rid the place of unwanted elements that result in traffic gridlock. He was apparently working alone since the momentum on that clear out was not given any fillip by the federal authorities who own most of the roads in that vicinity.
Hope hovered in the horizon with the visit early last year of a powerful delegation from Abuja led by Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala Minister of Finance and coordinating Minister of the economy on instruction of President Goodluck Jonathan. Nearly one year after the visit, there have been no signs that the Federal Government would do something about improving the infrastructure there to forestall the alarming rate of business closure within the area and the unwanted figures added to already scary unemployment situation in the land.
Reports from there show that federal roads in and out of Apapa have become death traps because they are not maintained, adding to indiscriminate parking of port bound trailers resulting in severe traffic nightmare. Losses of lives have attended the horrifying development. A newspaper report last week showed that nine containers fell in one week in November, killing two people and resulting in financial losses of over two hundred million Naira. Over five hundred businesses around creek road are said to be collapsing in alarming rapidity because the place has become evidently hostile to business.
Many roads within Creek roads and Liverpool have virtually been blocked by trucks waiting to load from the oil tank farms. This newspaper found that a firm on Creek road involved in the packaging and production of beverages ran into murky waters, forcing the Lebanese owners to sell it off to some Indian businessmen who invariably moved the firm out of Apapa for survival. Governor Raji Fashola’s move to arrest the deterioration seemed to hit the rocks. In a memo which he addresse to Vice President Namadi Sambo who chairs the National Economic Council , he had sought to present a comprehensive plan he had worked on to stem the tide of deterioration. The memo dated September 17, 2012 was replied by the Vice President on October 3, 2012.
The governor was pointedly told to take the matter to the office of the President ‘for further consideration’’. Fashola speedily sent a memo to President Goodluck Jonathan wherein he said his government had developed a restoration plan and a budget. At that point the matter tended to have gone into its apparent state of inaction until recent public outcry. Last week professor Sylvester Monye Presidential Adviser on Monitoring and Evaluation who also heads the port Reform Committee announced that the Federal Government had agreed to collaborate with Lagos State to clear the mess in Apapa and thus save the golden –egg goose.
Monye said he would be in lagos this week to put heads together with authorities of the state in order to get Apapa working again. This is a move in the right direction. But the fears of inaction as expressed by some stake holders is not unfounded given the tendency to allow political sentiments to play out in such ventures even when the public stands to reap bounteous dividends of democracy. The hope is that this would not be a move to avert public angst, get the frayed nerves soothed on the hope of intended action that would die with receding outcry.
The matter is a national shame which ought not to subsist. Suggestions have since come from stake holders including Chief Remi Ogungbemi chairman of Truck Owners Association who pushes the blame to the Bureau of Public Enterprises [BPE] for failing to designate portions within the port for trucks, a practice he said was the norm in most ports around the world. He said his association has resorted to self-help by embarking on the construction of a truck terminal cum holding bay at Ilu-Eri in Ijora area of lagos.
Ogungemi told Daily Sun recently that Lagos and Federal government should tinker with the idea of helping his association complete the project it had initiated or take the bold step of relocating the Army signal barracks in Mile two and convert the space to a truck terminal. Ogunbemi holds that as long as trucks remain a means of moving goods from the wharf, any solution besides a terminal is tantamount to begging the issue and at most, a short term palliative. Every suggestion ought to be considered to stem the tide of this national embarrassment.