By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Federal Government of Nigeria (FRN) has been advised to set up a group of experts who will be charged to find solution to Apapa seaport area traffic gridlock.
Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council, Comrade Adeleye Ajayi, gave the piece of advice at a maritime summit held in Apapa, Lagos on Wednesday 14th April 2021.
Ajayi lamented that the gridlock “has brought the nation’s economy to its knees,” causing calamities such as hike in prices of goods, loss of jobs, among others.
He noted that the traffic gridlock has brought about the collapse of industries and has caused billion Naira losses in business.
As a solution to the severe traffic congestion which has stretched to Ikorodu from the seaport, the NUJ leader declared: “Government needs to boost transport infrastructure. Government should constitute a team of experts to provide lasting solution to the gridlock.”
The subject of the summit is: “Apapa Perennial Traffic Gridlock: Has It Defied Solution?”
Chairman of the occasion, Chief Eugene Nweke, a former President of NAGAFF, expressed dissatisfaction that Nigeria’s ports are not competitive, predictable, business-friendly and efficient.
Nweke established that ports in the country are not Information and Communication Technology (ICT) driven, and that the call-up system at Apapa seaport has been cloned in less than four months of beginning operation.
His other observation is that ports system in Nigeria is not carried out based on “First Come, First Served” mode of operation.
“Whereby the call-up system has been cloned, we have to go back to the drawing board; we have to take appropriate steps,” Nweke said.
He recommended that stakeholders have to consider the necessity of going to the National Assembly (NASS) to present a position paper in the form of a protest calling for the intervention of the lawmakers to rescue Apapa seaport from the the menace of gridlock.
Mr. Francis Omotosho in presenting the lead paper traced the origin of the Apapa seaport gridlock to year 1990.
On the causes of the traffic congestion, he said it was started by tankers in Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) depots. He added that the gridlock was worsened by the collapse of the country’s underground fuel transporting pipelines in the seaport area. This development led to the resort to roads for transporting petroleum products, he narrated.
According to Omotosho who is the Registrar of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Academy, the collapse of Nigeria’s refineries contributed to the escalation of the gridlock.
“It all started in 1990,” he stressed. “By 2017 the queue reached Ikorodu.”
He pointed out that the traffic problem was also caused by failure of truck owners to train and manage their truck drivers very well – a shortcoming that has resulted in the drivers exhibiting problematic attitude.
The NAGAFF registrar said that truck owners maintain their trucks poorly, resulting in regular breakdown of vehicles.
He recommended that government should revive pipeline transport system, provide other alternative means of transportation, such as rail, barges, feeder vessels, at the port for the movement of goods.
The NAGAFF chief called for the revocation of Apapa tank farm owners’ lincences, and the relocation of the tanks “with immediate effect.”
He suggested that the authorities should reclaim lands for proper review of port master plan, and expansion and development.
Omotosho said there is the need for effective frequency scheduling in the Apapa port corridor, and the provision of adequate transport infrastructure and e-call-up system, as well as control tower.
“Keeping up law enforcement agents on the road will not solve the problem,” Omotosho said. “All heads of government agencies in transport sector should be held responsible for what we’re experiencing.”
The event was organized by Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN) and The Powerful Pen newspaper crew.
Editor of the newspaper, Ray Ugochukwu, in his welcome address said: “Nigeria is the only country in the world where a huge exercise like port reform took place without Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before commencement.”
He pointed out that Nigerian ports are not only described as the costliest for doing business in the world but seen as a pariah in shipping.
“Ships coming to Nigeria are seen as trading in a war zone with the consequent high insurance premium and freight cost,” he related.
Ugochukwu regretted that many people have been maimed or killed as motor bicycle (okada) remains the major means of transacting business in Apapa, due to the gridlock.
He said, “according to the Organized Private Sector (OPE), stemming the stifling traffic would remove the estimated 140 billion Naira weekly economic loss and another 10 billion U.S. Dollar products wasted annually.”