Following sustained media campaign on the deterioration of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, the Federal Government in November 2010 awarded the contract for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the expressway to Julius Berger, the German construction giant, and Borini Prono, the Italian construction firm.
The rehabilitation work was to cover a stretch of the expressway starting from Km0-Km7 (Apapa-Tin Can Island Port-NNPC Atlas Cove) and from Km7-Km15 (NNPC Atlas Cove-Cele Bus-stop) to be handled by Borini Prono and Julius Berger, respectively.
The expressway, a 27.5km highway that originates from Apapa and terminates at Oworonsoki junction, is important and strategic as a major gateway to the Apapa and Tincan Island ports where billions of government revenue comes from. Regrettably, this only major route to these revenue spinners is a pain in the neck for motorists because of snarling gridlock.
The government in its wisdom thought it necessary to construct a trailer park along the expressway as an accompaniment of the reconstruction work with the aim of taking about 500 trailers off the expressway where they are mindlessly parked, causing terrible traffic gridlock.
The park, which was awarded to Borini Prono, has been in perpetual construction and, gradually but steadily, it is drifting into the Nigerian story where a combination of politics, personal or group interest and rudderless leadership conspire to frustrate and defeat economic expediency of otherwise viable projects.
It beats the imagination that the Federal Government does not see the urgency and necessity of that park as a relief to the congestion in the ports and on the expressway which causes huge revenue losses to government, businesses and individuals through loss of quality man-hour and delay in port operations.
We recall that the expressway rehabilitation contract to Borini Prono was revoked early last year by the government which directed the company to concentrate on the park with an ultimatum to deliver it by December of that same year. So sad to note that after that ultimatum and the one before it in August 2013, the park is still largely uncompleted.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration repeatedly assured on the completion of the park by the end of 2014 and those assurances came at the peak of the Apapa gridlock last year when Apapa literally became a theatre of war and of the absurd with trailers and tankers taking over every available space in the port city, grounding all activities.
This is eight months into a ‘new’ year and three months of a new government in the country, yet the park is lying there, a ghost island, while trailer and tanker drivers continue their wicked acts on the expressway, denying other road users access, laying siege on Apapa and turning the hitherto alluring port city into a wasteland.
We are worried that the Federal Government seems comfortable dancing on the graves of Apapa businesses and residents many of whom are relocating, at great cost, to saner parts of town while the government sits in Abuja and enjoys the huge revenue from the ports.
We have heard sundry idle talks out there about some inappropriateness in the award of contract for the construction of the park, and also the rumoured concessioning of the park to Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), but those are not our concern. Our concern rather is to see the park completed and delivered for use.
The Lagos State government had before now blamed inaction on the park and the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-led Federal Government, accusing it of political persecution. Today, both the federal and the state governments are of the same party and, so, we appeal to them to synergise and bring succour to Apapa by not only urgently completing the park, but also rehabilitating all routes to the port city, bridges inclusive. And time to act is NOW!