The recent measure of success recorded came following a 72-hour clearance operation ordered by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

Cosmas Omegoh

Motorists plying the Oshodi-Apapa expressway in Lagos have begun experiencing some reprieve after several weeks of total lockdown on the road.

Right now, the road’s main carriageway and service lanes have been reopened to traffic, up to Mile 2 Bus Stop. So, motorists going to Badagry and Orile from Mile 2 can now enjoy near easy passage, which was impossible in the last few weeks. Other vehicles can now access the service lane up to Berger under the bridge, giving those going to Wilmer and other parts of Ajegunle a lifeline. But that is as far as anyone
can go because the road to Apapa is still inaccessible by cars. Only heavy-duty trailers and tankers can muscle through the road because a large portion of the road has failed; only commercial motorcyclists provide transportation there.

The recent measure of success recorded came following a 72-hour clearance operation ordered by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

READ ALSO: Oshodi-Apapa road gridlock: Lagos suspends fresh tank farms’ approval

Osinbajo paid a visit to Apapa last week Friday, accompanied by the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, and some senior naval and police officers. In the course of his visit, he directed that serious action be taken to clear the embarrassing gridlock on the Oshodi-Apapa expressway, after the situation had hit horrible heights.

Truck drivers had, over a number of months, caused severe gridlock, which made vehicular movement in Apapa impossible. Part of the Vice President’s directive was for all the agencies at the ports to speed
up action to resolve the lingering traffic situation.

It was in a move to break the ice that the Lagos State government set up the task force codenamed “Operation Restore Sanity on Lagos Roads.” The task force had its 2,271 personnel drawn from the Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police, Nigerian Army, Nigeria Air Force and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). There were also operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA).

The task force had members from unions in the maritime sector, among them the Amalgamation of Container Truck Owners Association, Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) and Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN).

By Monday, the task force had achieved some degree of success. Before it hit the ground running, operators of the articulated vehicles had completely locked down the road, forming queues that stretched from Tin Can Island Port in Apapa to Ilasamaja, some 15 kilometres away. The drivers and their vehicles occupied the whole of the carriageway inward Apapa. Beginning from Ijesha Bus Stop, they completely took over both the carriageway and the service lane, leaving other motorists who were caught in the fiasco marooned and cursing their luck.

The task force had begun by preventing commercial bus operators from plying against the run of traffic. The action of this group of road users had introduced more traffic chaos on the road outward Apapa beginning from Mile 2.

On Sunday, soldiers from the task force were seen at Ijesha Bus Stop stopping bus drivers who were facing oncoming traffic. Their presence helped to scare way the commercial bus drivers thus helping to leave the road free.

At Sanya Bus Stop, tens of the task force members directed traffic. By yesterday, they had succeeded in getting the long vehicles to form a single queue, which now stretched a little beyond Ijesha, lengthening or shortening, depending on the rate of arrival of the trucks. Truck drivers who failed to adhere to their instruction were forced to return to the queue.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Ladi Lawanson, expressed gratitude that the task
force was able to open up the road significantly from Toyota to Mile 2 (at least to the extent that some vehicles could squeeze through) within the 72-hour framework that lasted between Friday and Sunday.

Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, told newsmen that over 2,000 articulated vehicles were taken away from the road, explaining that the operation was expanded to cover areas around Funsho Williams Avenue in Surulere and Mile 2-Orile Road. The trucks, he said, were taken to some designated holding bays.

“Personnel for the operation was mustered at the state headquarters of the police, Ikeja, at about 22:00hours on July 20, where they were addressed by the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Edgal Imohimi.

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

Bamigbetan also said that the state government resolved to set up a mobile court in the areas affected by the gridlock in order to decisively deal with articulated vehicles drivers who might disregard its moves to instil sanity on the affected roads.

Considering the fact that removal of the container-laden trucks and tankers is no mean feat, the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, had directed an extension of the operation of the joint task force by 48 hours.

On Monday, the governor met officials of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), the shippers’ council, tank farm owners and the Department of Petroleum Resources at a forum that Lawanson said was intended to look for medium to long-term solutions in support of the palliative measure the governor had started.

Although details of the outcome of the meeting with the stakeholders were sketchy, Daily Sun gathered
that the state government had begun collaborating with owners of various loading bays along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, where some trucks could be accommodated before they are called up for loading at the ports, with a view to decongesting the roads.

In the meantime, the deplorable state of the Oshodi-Apapa road, beginning from Berger, is a major setback to efforts to resolve the crisis on the road. Because of the numerous bad spots that dominate the area, the trailers going to Apapa to either load imported petroleum products or containers spend weeks before arriving at their point of loading.

According to our correspondent’s investigation, both sides of the dual carriageway, beginning from Berger, are in terrible condition. Not even the biggest of the trucks can navigate the spots. Even the service lanes have failed. The vehicles manage to pass through with caution to avoid their cargos falling off. The situation is the same up to Tin Can Island port.

Further investigations revealed that the road was awarded for construction in the past – and there were signs that some construction activities were started – but progress on it was later stalled, leaving the facility abandoned. Now, it is occupied by both flood and filth. The road is even inaccessible by motorbikes, which are the only means of transportation.

A trailer driver told Daily Sun that any lasting solution for resolving the crisis must first seek to reconstruct and rehabilitate the failed portions of the road.

“Every other thing they are doing now is palliative. They might be doing this now that Osinbajo has given a directive that the road should be cleared.

“Any effort that fails to address the bad nature of the road is eye service. We are waiting to see how they will sustain this without making the road motorable or fully addressing the delays being experienced at the ports.

“It is only then that we will be free from the extortion we experience in the hands of the police, unionists and miscreants who harass us every day that we are on this long queue.”