WEEKEND GINGER: Apapa gridlock, a national disgrace

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Traffic-at-Mile-2-Bus-Stop-The Lagos State Government, like most other good-intentioned Nigerians, is beginning to come to terms with its limitation to remove the traffic gridlock on the Oshodi Apapa Expressway.

Gov. Babatunde Fashola
Gov. Babatunde Fashola

A no-nonsense Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola had thought he would in his usual “action-style”, throw the magic-wand and ‘e-fiam!”, the gridlock, particularly, the aspect between the Trinity Bus Stop and Tin Can Island Port would disappear. How wrong he was!

President Jonathan-Goodluck
President Jonathan-Goodluck

Subsequently, he has moved his Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) big boys there several times, to ginger or compliment the already frustrated group of police stationed their. No way!

Refusing to clearly accept defeat on the issue, the Maritime First learnt he took decisive actions that compelled the Federal authorities to draft in the military, particularly, the Navy, to help vanquish the gridlock. Still no way!

On one occasion, he threatened to impound any trucks he found, illegitimately “parking”, and obstructing easy flow of traffic. On another occasion, he carried out the threat. All was still the same!

The Action Governor of Lagos State has defeated almost all the traffic challenges in the State. And gradually, he seems to be coming to term, with the fact that, even for a focused and determined government, the silvery cloud on a sunny day, may still have some dark linings.

Some 15 years ago, the express-way between the Oshodi  and Apapa had no gridlock. Some 10 years away, nobody dreamt of any gridlock. Then, the authorities past failures to put in place, an enduring formulas for provision of petroleum products when and where needed began to take its toll.

The Atlas Cove Jetty, a platform created by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the NNPC to received larger tanker vessels, laden with petroleum products began to suffer more and more hiccups.
It worked intermittently.

During this period, “smart” Nigerians also learned they could key into the authorities shortcomings. So, when the ships berthed at the Atlas Cove Jetty and discharged, enabling the Cove to pump products towards Monsimi in Ogun State; Ibadan in Oyo State and Ore Depot in Ondo State, the big boys also waylaid the products, by “tapping” into the pipelines, and stealing from their. Those who did were in local parlance called”bunkering” or “bunkerers”.  It was regarded as a powerful name, not derogatory appellation. Why?

Poor people do not engage in “bunkering”. Those who do needed information, to know when products would be pumped. Such information, the poor could not afford to pay for. Those “bunkerers” needed co-joined tanker vehicles and the skilled men and materials to perpetuate their hobby. They also needed the outlets to sell off the stolen products; all of these, the poor could not afford.

But, it was also a well paying hobby! Each successful trip, according to informed sources, yielded several milion Naira, overnight!

Perhaps, this was also why the perpetrators usually escaped justice. They could buy their way out of trouble. Consequently, the “business” thrives.

Unfortunately, rather than fight them, the authorities slacked in the responsibility of providing the products. Fuel got scarce. Periodic fuel queues became a norm.

Then, a group of entrepreneurs came to the rescue: they obtained approval from Government to build “tank farms” and supply fuel to Nigerians, via tanker vehicles, who would move the products from their “farms” to the petrol stations. They also paid heavily to obtain the “license”. Many of them took heavy loans, running into billions of Naira, and on which they paid in compound interest. They were into legitimate business. They created the desired employment. But, as their businesses thrived, the trucks and tanker vehicles they brought also created not an ordinary traffic; but a GRIDLOCK!

Unfortunately for the residents and other road users, these group of people are mostly Billionaires. They have powerful friends in high places. They do not need to visit the corridor of power; those in the corridors sometimes, visited them, for campaign funds!

So, how do we remove the gridlock?
Would it be possible to remove the ants, if the granulated sugar, is still lying fallow in the farm? Have we accepted our mistakes, by acknowledging that it is the accumulation of our overall mistakes that created the gridlock? And are we now prepared to appreciate the enormity of the force, behind the gridlock?

A chieftain of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents who spoke on condition of anonymity said he parks his car everyday around Isolo, before coming to Dikko Inde House ANLCA Secretariat, at Mile 2; in dread of the gridlock. The National Council President, Mr. Lucky Eyis Amiwero says he particularly conducted studies on the nature of the phenomenon, which enabled him identified its “high tides” so that he could totally avoid it. A journalist, Funso Olojo described it as pure”hell”.  The doyen of the Nigerian maritime industry, and Ibadan High Chief, Adebayo Babatunde Sarumi once experienced it: he stayed alone in his car, from around 4.00 pm to about 12.45 am!

Perhaps, it is for reasons like this, that Governor Fashola may not rest. And perhaps, it is for these reasons that all Nigerians, particularly the powers that be, in Abuja, must see the prolongation of this gridlock, as a National Disgrace!

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