…Stakeholders finally take gridlock bull by the horns!***
Genuine hope of effectively tackling the current gridlock in Apapa, Lagos again rose on Tuesday as stakeholders identified grey areas and proffered solutions towards tackling the challenges.
The stakeholders who gathered at the Rockview Hotel, Apapa Lagos included chieftains of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Shipping Council, the Presidential Tasks Team, Shipping and Terminal Operators; as well as residents of Apapa who came to beg stakeholders to do the needful and save them from unending pains.
One of such areas was the deliberate incarceration of the Lily Pond Truck Terminal, which all stakeholders now have agreed must be made to work. To reach the decision, the Presidential Task Team had to present drone images, showing the sanity already entrenched, and the enhanced traffic flow achieved, before the Lily Pond was sabotaged and the gains earlier recorded went down the drains.
In the emphasised view of the PTT Boss, Kayode Opeifa, there is no real gridlock in Apapa, except for the one entrenched in the road users minds, and thus amplifying the road congestion.
Though, neither the stakeholders nor the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) unraveled why Lily Pond was incarcerated, the participants totally mandated the PTT to go all out, in synergy with all relevant agencies, particularly the NPA, to restore the Lily Pond to its strategic relevance.
Encapsulating the minds of the participants, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) also called for proper optimisation of the Lilypond Park to reduce congestion on the Apapa port access roads.
Mr Hassan Bello, NSC Executive Secretary, who was represented by Mr Akintunde Makinde, NSC Head of Inland Transportation, noted that Apapa gridlock was the concern of all stakeholders; and buck passing was no longer in anyone’s interest.
“It is a shame we are discussing about traffic on our port access roads.
“Lilypond park must be put to use to help decongest these trucks on the access roads,” he said.
The executive secretary said further, that the Council would liaise with the Lagos State Government, so as to provide a mobile court in a bid to ensure on the spot punish for corrupt personnel on the road.
He therefore stressed the need for compliance, urging truck owners to ensure that they have call-up letters before embarking on trips.
He advised terminal operators to be efficient and know the number of trucks to be attended to in a day.
According to him, non-performing terminals will be sanctioned.
Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), decried the number of armed men on the bridges passing trucks and warned against illegal collection of money.
Bala-Usman represented by Mrs Olufunmilayo Olotu, the Port Manager, Lagos Port Complex (LPC), urged truck drivers to ensure they rely on call-up system to help resolve the gridlock.
“There is gridlock in Apapa because many illegalities happen on the roads. Security officials drive or escort trucks while some are collecting illegal toll.
“The introduction of the use of barges is a good thing. The APMT terminal should give a barge space.
“They should also allow shipping companies to use APMT cranes to compliment theirs,’’ she said.
Ms Saratu Aliyu, National President, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), said that corruption played major role in the Apapa gridlock.
Aliyu represented by Mrs. Margret Orakwusi, a former Chairman, Nigerian Trawlers Owners Association (NITOA), urged stakeholders to think more about the economy of the country.
Also, Mr Kayode Opeifa, Executive Vice Chairman, Presidential Task Team on Restoration of Law and Order in Apapa Port Area, said that Apapa gridlock was driven by corruption which must be tackled.
Opeifa said that stakeholders in Apapa should desist from unhealthy rivalry and collaborate to tackle the gridlock.
“Government is not looking for new ideas. It has consulted with everyone and they know what is happening,” he said.
Opeifa said that the system and everyone involved in port business should do the needful to stop the gridlock, and stressed that those feeding corruption by paying “owo mugu’, a euphemism for subscribing to extortion should desist immediately.
He maintained that the issue of Lilypond should be solved because it was a critical part of tackling congestion.
“If terminals don’t work, congestion will prevail.
“Someone is bringing illegal trucks into Lilypond park. There is the need for transparent call-up system.
“To station trucks on the bridge is not the standard. They should be removed to avoid extortions.
“Terminal operators should have towing trucks to help remove broken down trucks,” he said.
Opeifa also noted that issues to be tackled include: transit parks for trucks, road worthiness of trucks, stakeholders’ engagement, call-up system that is operational, extortion and free port access process.
Mr Akin Omole Managing Director, GDNL Terminal E Apapa, represented terminal operators, the chairman Apapa Residents Association, Brigader General Ayo came with his people, while Mr. Dera Nnadi represented the Nigeria Customs Service, amongst several stakeholders.
Similarly, Mr Olaleye Thompson represented the truckers and stated the need for an effective Badge system, Femi Olaore who stood in for Shipping Companies stressed the need for improved port access roads, while Engr. Kuti, representing the Federal Ministry of Works highlighted the ongoing activities in Apapa Metropolis and elsewhere.