In the last 72 hours, Apapa, the head quarter of traffic congestion in Nigeria, has been largely free and motorists within this period have been having pleasurable, unencumbered ride to the port city.
Given the daily unpleasant traffic experience on Apapa roads and bridges, the gridlock-free experience of the last three days calls for celebration, but in the opinion of residents, business owners, port operators, and sundry visitors to this once revered city, it is too early to clap.
“We have seen gridlock-free Apapa roads and bridges before. Personally, I am not thrilled by what I have seen in the last 72 hours which seem to be a make-up for the failed 72-hour presidential ultimatum for the trucks to vacate the roads and bridges.
“Again, don’t forget that two of these three days were public holidays when there were no activities at the ports. If there is any day to clap for, it is just Thursday,” Emma Ameke, a port worker told BusinessDay on Thursday.
But, in all of this, what is important now is that there is respite here for motorists and even commuters. Anybody who was part of the last week Friday ‘night-vigil’ on all routes to Apapa would appreciate and celebrate even one day that he or she either drives or commutes to this port city without sweat.
It is not yet clear what could be responsible for the fragile respite which is almost total as there are no trucks at all on both Ijora and Eko bridges. But our findings reveal that truck owners have committed to co-operating with the new presidential taskforce by taking their trucks off the roads.
Remi Ogungbemi, chairman of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMARTO) had explained to BusinessDay that part of the reasons for the persisting gridlock amid the presidential order was federal government’s perceived double standard in the application of the new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) developed to guide traffic management in Apapa.
This, he alleged, was why the new taskforce was struggling with traffic management, making motorists and port users continue to surfer long travel time.
“The Federal Government has directed the new taskforce to give priority to and allow free access to trucks belonging to companies such as BUA, Flour Mills of Nigeria, Honeywell, Dangote as well as sided trucks, reefers, silos, fish trucks and flatbed trucks.
“The directive should have been for all trucks to vacate the roads to Apapa in order to enable the traffic management officials to control the traffic rather than treating some categories of trucks differently from others,” Ogungbemi said, stressing, “since SOP is selective, it has failed from inception.”
He pointed out that the same exemption and priority consideration was given to all trucks carrying export containers, adding that the taskforce and the presidential committee that set up the taskforce, needed to review the SOP in collaboration with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to come up with a workable procedure.
“The selective nature of the directive is the cause of the problem. The directive should not be selective. It should have been total by letting all trucks to leave the roads. This is why we are not getting it right,” he added.
Whether the present free state of the roads and bridges is as a result of the harmonization of the SOP or any other procedure, especially the call-up system being promoted and managed by NPA, what motorists, residents, business owners and port users want in Apapa is an environment that is enabling for living and doing business in the port city.