If information available to BusinessDay, that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has set up a new taskforce aimed to deal with Apapa gridlock, is anything to go by, Apapa with its traumatised residents and their degraded environment might be facing the task of re-writing their current story of woes.
BusinessDay was told exclusively by Ladi Lawanson, Lagos State commissioner for transportation, that the gridlock currently being experienced in Apapa would disappear “in the next 21 days.”
“I can tell you categorically that within 21 days the Apapa gridlock will be revolved permanently,” Lawanson assured, explaining that the permanent solution was expected from the initiative taken by Vice President Osinbajo.
For an average Apapa resident, business owner or port user, this is good news but one received with reservations. To them, this is one taskforce too many because Apapa has seen too many taskforce initiatives for anyone to be excited about a new one.
The question on every lip therefore is how far the Vice President can go with the new taskforce which, the Lagos commissioner said, has only 21 days to clear the gridlock. The question becomes all the more imperative given that the taskforce set up by the same Vice President last year ended up being counter-productive.
At the peak of the gridlock and congestion that paralysed all business activities not only in Apapa but also in Lagos generally, Osinbajo as Acting President touched down in Apapa in August 2018, gave a 72-hour presidential order for the gridlock to be cleared. A task force comprising the army, navy, police, LASTMA, FRSC, the transport unions and other stakeholders followed almost immediately to effect the order.
But that order was never complied with even for one day. The gridlock persisted and was made worse by the unwholesome activities of the taskforce who saw their assignment as opportunity for other purposes than controlling traffic. The gridlock escalated and government seemed indifferent.
It remains a matter for the imagination what difference a new taskforce is coming to make in Apapa. Already, the Lagos commissioner, who revealed he was a member of the taskforce with the responsibility of making sure there’s free flow of traffic on Lagos roads, is complaining of infrastructure challenges.
“Part of the challenges is that some of the infrastructure needed to ease Lagos traffic are owned by the Federal Government. There are federal roads to which Lagos State government has no authority,” he complained.
A close look at Apapa gridlock shows that whatever will bring permanent solution to the problem goes beyond infrastructure. Unless the taskforce, which includes the chairman of Apapa GRA Residents Association (AGRA), Sola Ayo Vaugham, will not be one that will mount checkpoints for toll collection, the success of Osinbajo’s second coming to Apapa remains hazy and seemingly unachievable.
Any solution to Apapa problem must look beyond just stopping trucks coming into the port city mid-way into their journey. A functional railway system that will take over all haulage activities in the port city is the way to go coupled with the opening of new transit parks and an efficient, fool-proof call up system.
Additionally, government must demonstrate commitment and sincerity of purpose in implementing short term measures being explored by the stakeholders which includes the government. The completion of the Trailer Park being constructed along the Apapa Oshodi Expressway is one such measure.
The contractor handling the project explained to BusinessDay last week that the delay in opening the park was as a result of the delay in approving funding request they made to the government. This is after the same government assured that the park would be open for use a week earlier.
Besides following through the new temporary measures in place which are yielding observable results, the new Osinbajo taskforce should also concern itself with long term measures that will return Apapa to its good old days. Though relocating the numerous tank farms in Apapa will take great effort and enormous political will, it is doable and the next best thing to do.
Until this is done along with a functional rail system, the hope of driving through, as before, straight from Mile 2 to Apapa Wharf to link Eko Bridge into the Island will remain a day-dream no matter the kind of resurfacing Dangote Group in their magnanimity will give Apapa Oshodi Expressway.