Omodele Adigun As the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) prepares to wind down its tax amnesty programme, the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), its data mining component, has been considered the most effective tool to whip tax dodgers into line. Just five months into the nine-month schedule, the scheme was said to have…
•Days after 48-hour ultimatum expired, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Funsho Williams Avenue, Ijora roads rendered impassable by articulated vehicles
Residents of Lagos State are looking to see how the looming confrontation between the military and drivers of articulated vehicles occupying the city’s road and brides will pan out.
Drivers of fuel trucks and other articulated lorries were last week handed an ultimatum to vacate the facilities within 48 hours to allow for smooth flow of traffic.
For five or more straight years, Lagos roads and bridges have remained firmly in the grip of articulated vehicles. Nothing so far said or written about this desperate situation has changed anything for the better. And from the way things are, nothing might change anything – at least not in the near future.
Last week, worried by the worsening state of things, the Nigerian Navy had convened a stakeholders’ meeting to consider the worsening trend and to seek ways of addressing it. The meeting was organised by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Sylvester Abbah. The meeting resolved that an ultimatum to the offending articulated vehicle drivers to leave within 48 hours was the only way out.
“These bridges,” Abbah said, “were constructed as far back as 1973, 1974 and 1975 and are supposed to be carrying weight that is on moving vehicles. But if you go out now, some of those articulated vehicles have been there for the past three weeks, with some of them carrying heavy loads.
“Last Sunday, when we were coming from Lagos Island towards this base, we saw over 15 trucks loaded with rods on top of the bridge. What do you think will happen to those bridges: they will weaken the structure and at the end, if any of those bridges should collapse, it will be an additional problem in Lagos.
“So, we are giving 48 hours’ ultimatum to NUPENG to leave all the bridges. They should stay at their bays until it is their turn to come to the ports.
“Costain is going to be the turning point of the trucks. After 48 hours, no truck will park on the bridge because of national interest, and I hope you will all take the decision of this meeting.”
It was learnt that the meeting was attended by the Nigerian Ports Authority traffic manager, Mr. Ogini Victor, who stood in for Mrs. Aisha Ali-Ibrahim. He said: “Synergy is the keyword that can solve the problem of the gridlock. We have also decided that all empty containers should go to holding bays and we will make sure our men give us report on how many trucks park at the bay daily.”
There was also a representative of NUPENG, Adekunle Adelaja, at the meeting. He said: “We need to have another meeting and call all the tank farm owners. Let us see how we can do the programming that trucks will just go to the depot without parking on the bridge.”
Permanent secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Transport, Mr. Taiwo Salau, called for synergy between security agencies so that the affected areas could be cleared and a checkpoint before the long bridge erected.
However, the 48 hours deadline elapsed last Saturday. But according to Daily Sun investigation, nothing has changed. Lagos still remains helpless in hands of the articulated vehicles. The offending drivers have not moved one inch away from the spots. The traffic chaos and the attendant anguish they cause residents have not abated either. Everything has remained the same.
Yesterday, on Funsho Williams Avenue, formerly Western Avenue, the drivers and their vehicles were right in place. From Alaka Bus Stop, they were up on the bridge, having taken over one of the lanes on the bridge. Motorists were simply squeezing through an alley.
At the point where the bridge to Apapa turns off from the Eko Bridge with Iponri Bus Stop down below, the vehicles were in a queue. Among them were long, open-body trucks, some laden with containers, some belonging to a popular cement firm. There were fuel tankers and other full-body trucks – all facing Apapa.
For long, some of the smart drivers had resorted to going through the Eko Bridge to connect Apapa through the Ijora Causeway. On this occasion, all of them were on the bridge in their numbers. They had all taken over the BRT lanes, leaving the BRT buses no chance of accessing their designated lanes. Even around Brewery Bus Stop, overlooking the National Theatre, Iganmu, stationary, container-laden trucks were everywhere. From that point up to Ijora, inward Apapa Wharf, the vehicles were a menace.
Because of the activities of the truck drivers and the attendant gridlock they have caused to define the area since the challenges began, Apapa has become a no-go area for many. From that area of the mainland, Apapa is only accessible most times by motorcycles alone. Businesses have suffered, and many residents and companies have been forced to relocate and abandon Apapa.
Further investigations yesterday showed that the Oshodi-Apapa road fared no better. Over the past five years, this road has suffered more than every other one in Lagos.
The Oshodi-Mile 2-Wharf Road runs down south like a river in desperate search for the big, blue sea. Many articulated vehicles are on it all day. They are either going to lift imported petroleum products from the numerous tank farms that now dot the area or goods from either the Apapa or Tin Can Island wharf.
On a bad day, fuel tankers and trailers begin to queue up on the road right from Cele Bus Stop, about 10 kilometres from the wharf. Gradually, the situation gets desperate, leading to every space on the road to Apapa being occupied. No one dares to go to the area. Those who venture ignorantly are trapped for long hours or even days. The area has earned notoriety for traffic chaos.
Even with the 48-hour ultimatum handed down by the military, nothing has changed whatsoever for good. It is still business as usual.
Yesterday, from Mile 2, the road’s five lanes were under lockdown. Only the portion leading out of Apapa was fairly free, with motorists going against traffic. In fact, that has long become a tradition that no one frowns upon. Doing that is the lone lifeline for commercial motorcyclists and a few commercial buses whose drivers have the effrontery to do what they do.
Standing on the bridge across the now notorious Apapa road at Berger Bus Stop, everything was still. There were five rows of articulated vehicles, all in complete command. Yet, not even one moved an inch in hours.
Some of the drivers, obviously, knew what it took to get to Apapa and lift goods. It was something akin to pulling a chestnut out of the fire. Call it the sour wine every one of them had long been condemned to drink to the dregs.
Somewhere around Trinity Bus Stop, the road to Apapa was terribly bad. A man who identified himself as Akin Olasebikan noted: “It could have been worse but for the efforts of the nearby tank farm operators who, from time to time, buy rock boulders to fill the craters that keep emerging.”
Apart from the bad road, he attributed the traffic chaos on the road largely to the delay being experienced by tankers before they went in to load fuel.
From that point to Coconut Bus Stop, the road was terrible. Only heavy-duty vehicles dare. All of them were headed for either the Apapa wharf or Tin Can Island wharf to lift goods. On the bridge just before the Tin Can Island Port, a young man was seen peering into the distance, his right hand cupped over his forehead to enable him see farther than he could see.
“I have been here for three days running,” he lamented. “I’m going to Tin Can just about a kilometre away to load goods. But I can’t get there. I have been sleeping and waking up in this rickety truck.” He pointed to his vehicle. “I have been away from my family all these days. That is the lot of all of us who whose vehicles are stuck here.”
In front of the Tin Can Island wharf, the road was a total mess, looking at every turn like it had never been paved for once. Commercial motorcycles were the quickest means of movement.
Then what would anyone say about Creek Road, a road that thrusts through the heart of Apapa, a community that, in its heyday, was the centre and summit of business? It is now a shadow of its once glorious past. Every inch of space on Creek Road yesterday was occupied by trucks waiting for their turn to enter the Apapa wharf.
From the look of things, the vehicles had been waiting for a very long time. The road itself seemed like one in a country on holiday for years.
With the time given to the vehicle owners to evacuate their trucks over and no clear sign in sight that any such thing would be done in days, both the military and the Lagos State government might need something more extraordinary than a mere ultimatum to crack this intractable problem.