Nearly one week after articulated truck drivers were told to leave Lagos highways, nothing appears to have changed. Major highways and streets leading to the ports are still on lockdown.
The task force charged to clear the trucks met in Lagos last week Wednesday and warned that, from Sunday, September 23, every articulated vehicle that does not proceed to some undisclosed holding bays established by the terminal operators would be forced to do so.
The chairman of the task force and the commander of NNS Beecroft, Commodore Okon Eyo, said that the decision was necessary to decongest the roads and open them up to other motorists. The body was expected to
have started enforcement of the order, latest, on Monday, September 24.
Eyo had stated that container-bearing trucks should no longer go directly to the ports because that is not the best practice.
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He recommended that the holding bay operators, the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the terminal operators and shipping agencies should work together to generate call-ups from the holding bays. He promised that the task force would be checking the call-ups to ensure that only trucks that were called would be on the road.
According to him, any truck that fails to comply with the directives would be sanctioned. He was confident that respite was on the way for residents and commuters in the affected areas of Lagos.
At the meeting, it was reported, the chairman of Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Area, Ayoola Fatai, lamented the traffic situation in his domain, declaring that the situation was dealing devastating blows on business activities in the area. He also urged government to attend to the dilapidated roads in the area, as they contribute to the gridlock.
Similarly, the chairman of Apapa Local Government Area, Mr. Adele Elijah Owolabi, urged government to work towards easing the traffic situation in the area as it was also causing the Apapa community lots of harm.
Chairman of the Amalgamation of Truck Owners’ Association, Mr. Olaleye Thompson, had allegedly lamented that the truck owners were not being carried along, adding that they have asked to be included in the task force but they were turned down.
A truck driver, who did not want his name in print, told Daily Sun that the drivers were not to be blamed for the protracted traffic situation, contending that they too were victims of circumstance. He explained that they were being directly affecting by the situation because they were losing money, time and comfort by being on
the queue. However, days after the ultimatum was handed down, nothing has changed.
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According to Daily Sun’s investigations, rather, motorists and commuters are still suffering the same ugly fate with the long vehicles firmly in place. The agony they are unleashing on residents is still being felt deep down, with some people insisting that it has attained frightening heights.
A cross-section of the city’s residents believes that the gridlock caused by the trucks seems to have defied all logic and solutions.
Some people even affirmed that the latest ultimatum given by the task force amounted to blowing hot air.
While this report was being filed, the trucks were still occupying the city’s roads, bridges and highways, days after the ultimatum expired.
Nearly every inch of asphalt road was still on a lockdown. Chaos and confusion reigned supreme. Lawlessness was enthroned as the people daily manoeuvred their way in and out of the truck-occupied areas.
This correspondent observed that the trucks were yet to be chased away from the popular Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. They were still there in great numbers, blocking access to both the service lane and main carriageway. Many of their drivers were still spending weeks on the road before reaching the wharf area. The trucks have also taken over streets in Agboju, Kirikiri, Wilmer and other adjoining areas, with the police, navy, army and hoodlums waylaying them at every turn and extorting money from them.
From Ojuelegba, believed to the heart of Lagos, tens of trucks were still headed for Apapa. They occupied the roads and bridges, leaving other road users just one lane. They were also there on the Eko Bridge and areas
around the National Theatre. Even on the Mile 2-Badagry Expressway, the trucks were there. They kept making the roads hellish and impeded traffic up to the Trade Fair Complex area.
The entire major road from Ijesha inward Apapa was almost completely seized by the trucks and tankers. The service lane was not spared; there were trucks parked everywhere, leaving barely an alley for other motorists.
Last week’s ultimatum was not the first one handed to the drivers. In the recent past, the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, as well as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had made moves to find a lasting solution to the ugly development.
Until recently, there have been a series of meetings to see how the impasse could be resolved, all to no avail. The governor, on different platforms, had admitted that the problem was beyond what the state alone could tackle and submitted that the challenge needed more concerted efforts to bring it under control.
While seeking solutions to the gridlock, many of the truck owners and operators have shifted the blame to the terminal operators and the shipping companies. They explained that terminal operators were unwilling to receive
trucks when due, hence the gridlock.
Some residents believe that life has become unbearable to the people. The persistent traffic congestion has continued to cause grief to residents and upset their balance. On many occasions, motorists and commuters have had to spend an upward of eight hours on a shuttle that ought not to last more than 30 minutes.
There have been unfortunate fallouts of the truck menace. One is that it has created room for hoodlums to attack stranded motorists and commuters. Even the truck driver themselves are not left out. Many vehicles trapped in the gridlock have had their windscreens shattered by robbers and their passengers dispossessed them of money and other valuables.
A worker at a manufacturing company in Kirikiri, Chigozie Uche, told the reporter that working in Apapa could pass for serving a punishment for a sin not committed.
“Within five months, I have been admitted in the hospital three times. The stress is killing me. The traffic issue is making life valueless.
“When going to work, one panics; after the close of the day, it is another type of headache to get home.
“I live in the Iba area of Ojo. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a smooth ride coming to work and returning home. It is not funny, especially when there is a government in place.
“Even if we have committed a particular sin that attracts this kind of punishment, we have suffered enough to be pardoned,” he said.
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A boutique operator at Maza-maza bus stop, Mr. Donatus Ibe, described the situation as an “emergency” that needed to be tackled by the authorities. He lamented that his sales have sharply dwindled in the last few months.
“I’m sure government has forgotten that people still live in this axis. Sadly, the politicians will only remember us now that the 2019 elections approach; they will come here canvassing votes.
“Looking at what the trucks have made of the roads. It baffles me why government fails to be proactive in averting a crisis such as this,” he said.