– Lockdown means more pain, anguish for residents, as Apapa gridlock extends to Isolo

– We spend 2 weeks from Mile 2 to ports, truck drivers lament

Cosmas Omegoh

The gridlock on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway in Lagos and other adjoining areas has worsened. As at yesterday, it had attained phenomenal heights. The road, at the moment, is on lockdown. The situation is quite grim. Motorists, commuters, residents of the city and their businesses are suffering unspeakable harm. Everyone is in pain.

READ ALSO: Lagos fuel fire ignites panic in Apapa, Mile 2, Kirikiri

On Sunday, the gridlock – which over the past months has been a dominant feature – attained such disturbing proportions as no one had ever thought about. In no time, queues of articulated trucks heading to the ports will be stretching nearly as far as Oshodi, about 20 kilometres to the Tin Can Island Port. This is the new dimension that many residents of Lagos are dealing with.

Until this moment, the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway has been experiencing chaotic traffic. It is brazen. Every passing day, the situation continues to grow both in size and scale. Articulated trucks going into Apapa have laid claim to the highway, taking every inch of space, doing so in such a brutal manner. Now, they have killed lots of businesses and chased away motorists, leaving no one any of chance of freely driving to Apapa. Only sweet memories of the pleasure of driving into Apapa are what most people can now recollect.

The current challenge on the Apapa road has its roots in the past. The road to this misery began at the point when various organisations began locating tank farms in areas along the road. The facilities stored imported petroleum products. Between Sunrise Bus Stop and Tin Can Island port, there are a number of them. Hundreds of tankers arrive at these facilities daily to lift petrol and diesel. This element in the chain of pain is followed by the siting of various container terminals in communities off the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. Each of the terminals, on a daily basis, entertains a high number of monstrous trailers, each coming to pick up or drop containers. Then add all that to the unbelievable state of the roads leading into and out of Apapa, home to Apapa and the Tin Can Island ports, what stares everyone in the face are chaos and confusion in their raw forms.

Yesterday, the correspondent set out to see how the tankers and trailers have usurped the road meant for all. Beginning at Ilasamaja, traffic had begun to build up. From Iyana-Itire, trailers and tankers had taken up two of the three lanes on the road. The entire service lane had also been claimed.

From that point down to Mile 2, that main artery to the ports was on complete lockdown. Every part of the road is no-go area. Every vehicle on the queue, big and small, was stationary. Every car owner who ran into the traffic by accident was marooned.

Since the road to Mile 2 inwards Apapa had become impassable, traffic managers told Lagos residents through the Lagos Traffic Radio to use alternative routes. Some of the routes include the Ijesha- Apple Junction road, through the Lord’s Chosen Church, which by early yesterday and become totally blocked, and the Ago Palace Way through the Cele-Okota Link Road.

But by noon yesterday, both routes had also become impenetrable, as all traffic from Oshodi to Mile 2 was now diverted to the Cele-Okota link road so as to connect Ago Palace Way.

Ago Palace soon became blocked, and getting to Mile 2 from Oshodi became an impossible venture.

Long before now, this amazing fiasco had brought out the worst in motorists and commuters in Lagos. Drivers of commercial buses, aka danfo, have long contrived ways of beating the traffic to ensure that people get to Mile 2 and Apapa. They have long learnt to claim the alternate road out of Apapa and Mile 2, doing so in a manner that has also in part increased the pain of residents and the chaos on the road. Many non-discerning pedestrians are being knocked down and killed; vehicles have been involved in head-on accidents resulting in deaths, injuries, and loss of property.

At the moment, the bridge-top portion of Mile 2 is a beehive in every sense. At the spot, there are scores of commercial buses driven against the traffic. Vehicles from other parts of Apapa are always fighting
to avoid them. Then there is an army of commercial motorcyclists competing for passengers there, thus making the spot a real theatre of confusion.

Now, because of the terrible state of the road, Apapa can only be reached from Mile 2 on motorbikes. It is a dangerous adventure that clearly holds nothing but danger. One needs to be lion-hearted to embark on such a mission.

Somewhere at the Berger Under Bridge, the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway has completely failed and fallen into disuse. Not even the trailers and tanker can pass through it. Every one of them is squeezing through the service lane.

At Sunrise Bus Stop, a part of the failed road is completely blocked. There are signs of construction work there in the past but it has long been stopped. Refuse has taken up every space and the spot reeks of a putrid garbage. An excavator was recently deloyed to clear the drainage. The sight was sordid – it was unbelievable that such a scene existed in Lagos.

Further down to Trinity Bus Stop and then to Tin Can Island Second Gate, the road is even worse. Only articulated vehicles can pass through on both sides. The area is impassable for cars. Even the big trucks that navigate the area do so at a snail’s pace. The implication is the long queues of vehicles now stretching as far as Oshodi.

In the meantime, both the tanker and trailer drivers are having very rough times. Some of them spend two weeks on the queue before reaching the point of loading.

Some of the drivers sleep either in the vehicles’ cabin or on the road median. One of them, Ayodele, said, “I arrived on this queue at Ijesha Bus stop on Monday two weeks ago.”

At that time, he was stuck somewhere between Berger Underbridge and Sunrise bus stops.

“I have been on this queue for 10 straight days. I have not seen my family. I barely have my bath; I visit public toilets to ease

myself. I sleep in my truck’s cabin. You can imagine what kind of life this is.”

Ayodele told the correspondent that the problem was not with paperwork at the wharf but bad roads. “Once I arrive at the port now, I’m sure that I will be attended to fast. My problem is getting out of this terrible traffic.”

He wants the federal government to urgently come in to resolve the problem. “Each time I see a situation like this, I wonder whether we still have a government in this country. We can’t understand what is happening.

“The other time, they started work on the road and we rejoiced in the hope that they would save us from this quantum of pain, but after some days nothing happened. We want the government to step in now. The situation is really bad,” he said.

An official of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, (NUPENG), who did not want to be named, said that referring to the traffic situation as bad was an understatement. The man, who works with one of the owners of the tank farms in the area, lamented that, “The challenge on this road has killed most businesses in this area. In all these areas, there used to be thriving businesses before now, but that does not happen anymore.”

He then referred the correspondent to the NUPENG zonal office on Marine Beach for details.

Back at Berger Under Bridge, some officials of NUPENG wearing vests with “task force” emblazoned on them were stopping the tankers and collecting N500 toll each.

Ayodele told Daily Sun that the sum was insignificant, compared to what some truck drivers paid if they wanted to go through other routes inside Wilmer area just to beat the traffic: “You have to pay touts, police, and even the residents’ association. That is the situation.”

Meanwhile, a resident of one of the streets in Wilmer told Daily Sun that trucks had taken over the residential area. He recalled that the landlords’ associations on account of that had to quickly construct gates to prevent the long vehicles from taking over their area.

“But unfortunately, at night, they brought the police to destroy the gates. Right now, we are no longer safe. We are under the siege of long vehicles,” he said.

Many people are blaming the apathy by the state and federal government for the chaos on the Oshodi-Apapa expressway.

“The government is behaving as if we don’t matter,” an angry man who operates a laundry venture at Mile 2 noted. “Governor Ambode is behaving as if we, the people of this area, do not matter. The other day, we heard that a park was being rehabilitated. Since then, we haven’t heard anything again. For how long are we going to remain this way?”

Another man, who resides in Amuwo Odofin, wondered why it was difficult for the state government to keep the trailers off the roads for some time until the roads would be free again.