Ijora Bridge, which is one of the two major routes to Apapa, Nigeria’s premier port city, has been largely free of its usual gridlock in the last four days as a result of the opening of the Lilypond Terminal, taking away a good number of container laden trucks off the bridge.
The opening of the Lilypond Terminal is part of processes stakeholders have adopted for the decongestion of Apapa. Another is the completion of construction work and opening of the Trailer Park being constructed along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway to serve as a transit camp for trucks that have businesses in Tin Can Island Port.
But whereas Lilypond Terminal has been open to trucks since Friday, the Trailer Park is not likely to be completed this week due to what Adedamola Kuti, Federal Controller of Works, Lagos, called “minor hitches,” delaying the provision of critical infrastructure such water, electricity and conveniences at the park.
“We cannot open that park without these facilities, particularly water, because this is a place we will be expecting over 400 trucks, translating into 400 drivers and 400 conductors, giving about 800 persons or more; we need to have those facilities on ground before opening the park so it can ,make sense,” Kuti stressed in a telephone interview.
The Tin Can Trailer Park is today one of Nigeria’s oldest construction sites having been in perpetual construction since 2010 when the contract for its construction was awarded by the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
Expectation for its completion and opening last week Thursday was dashed for the above stated reasons. Though Kuti was hopeful of its completion, he could not confirm its opening for use this week.
But there is something to cheer about as Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has lived up to expectation by opening the Lilypond Container Terminal to truckers Friday and, in the process, aiding Ease of Doing Business within the ports community and entrenching greater operational service efficiency.
When BusinessDay visited the terminal on Monday, empty and export containers were seen exiting the facility to the port. It was gathered that no fewer than 1,000 trucks have so far transited to the port through the terminal since it was opened on Friday.
It was also discovered that the NPA was sending trucks in batches to the road from the terminal in line with what the terminal operators wanted. Also, majority of the container carrying trucks parked along the Ijora Bridge have been cleared off the highway, allowing drive-through experience into Apapa.
Adebayo Toafik, a truck operator, lauded NPA for the truck transit park initiative which, he said, has brought succour to truck drivers who had been going through harrowing experiences daily to enter the port.
He said the NPA call-up system, which is being implemented alongside the truck transit park, has eased the traffic gridlock as truck drivers can now access the port only when they are called upon.
He added that none of his members has complained of extortion from the NPA security personnel saddled with the responsibility of managing the facility.
“The system introduced by NPA is a welcome development and we are happy with this plan to ease traffic. You cannot just put your truck on the road without being called. Trucks that you see going out now are the ones that are ready to do business and you cannot see them on the road; they are going straight to the port, discharge their goods, load another one and go out and if they did not see anyone to load, they will come out and go and park at their garage.
“The traffic has eased. The trucks can only come when there is need and we know when it is needed for them to come and those not to come because we are the ones arranging it within ourselves. We align with NPA as the regulator of the system in order to get a free flow of traffic. Even the drivers are happy because once you get to the transit park, it is certain that you will get into the port to do your business.
Meanwhile, the Lagos state commissioner for transportation, Ladi Lawanson, has said that the gridlock in Apapa would disappear in the next 21 days.
Lawanson, who gave this assurance in an interaction with Business Day in Lagos, Tuesday, added, “I can tell you categorically that within 21 days the Apapa gridlock will be revolved permanently,” Lawanson said authoritatively.
The permanent solution is expected from the initiative being undertaken by the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, to find a lasting solution to the congestion in Apapa.
According to the commissioner, the vice president has inaugurated a tax force committee, which the commissioner is a member, to find a lasting solution to the traffic challenges.
He disclosed that it was his responsibility to make sure that there were free flow of traffic on Lagos roads, but part of the challenges was that some of the infrastructure needed to easy Lagos traffic were owned by the Federal Government.
“Some of the infrastructure around the port are owned by the Federal Government. There are federal roads to which Lagos State Government has no authority,” Lawanson said.
Because of the jurisdiction issues, according to him, there is the need for the agencies of all tiers of government to collaborate in order to achieve effective solution to the problems at hand.
He revealed that the state was collaborating with the central government to bring a lasting solution to the gridlock in Apapa, which would be permanently resolved in the next 3 weeks.
The commissioner blamed the gridlock in Apapa to years of improper investments in logistics that would be commensurate with the growing number of Nigerians that use Apapa ports.
He recalled that the ports which were built when the population of Lagos was less than 3million were still being used with the growing population of 23 million, without improving on the logistics of getting goods out of the ports.
“The gridlock is a consequence of pressure that Nigerians have put on the ports,” he noted.
Corroborating the commissioner’s assertion, Sola Ayo Vaughan, the chairman of Apapa GRA Residents Association (AGRA), said he was part of the said VP’s task force committee, assuring that Apapa residents were about to witness big relief from the gridlock which had paralysed their businesses and degraded their homes.
Vaughan, who declined to speak further on the issue and the steps the committee will be taking, said that divulging information on the way the committee would go against the agreed principles, but he was certain that the vice president would soon make a pronouncement on the issue.
CHUKA UROKO, AMAKA ANAGOR-EWUZIE & JOSEPH MAURICE OGU