For too long, driving experience on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway had been a nightmare for motorists who navigated that expressway with stress and bitterness.
The expressway is the major route leading to one of Nigeria’s busiest seaports–Tin Can Island.
But today, these motorists are singing a new song, courtesy of a Lagos State Taskforce on Environmental Sanitation who came on a rescue mission.
The Taskforce arrested about 51 members of a gang that mounted different check points to harass and extort truck drivers.
The expressway, which was reconstructed a couple of years ago by the Dangote Group, had been rendered impassable by trucks packed recklessly and mindlessly, occupying over 50 percent of the road along with shanties and extortionist rent-seekers/collectors.
The excited truck drivers commended the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for its efforts at getting this done.
They noted that the presence of the dismantled collection points also added to the high haulage cost on the expressway.
One of them, who identified himself as Tolu Awoshika, said they were enjoying the free movement in and out of Tin-Can Port–an experience, he said, was exciting to him.
Ibrahim Sani, another driver, said he couldn’t believe it when he drove into Lagos after the new year holiday to see that, “unlike before, when it takes not less than three weeks to drive from Mile 2 to Tin-Can, right now it is easier as the return journey takes less than 10 minutes.”
At the peak of its worst moments, going to Apapa was like a journey to eternity when no one was sure of his return journey. Besides that, the travel time and cost were better left to the imagination.
Gbadeyan Abdulraheem, the Taskforce Director, Press & Public Affairs, noted that the arrested gang operated with impunity, in a manner that subjected many drivers to physical harm, especially when they resisted extortion.
“We have been on the trail of this gang for a while after receiving several complaints from road users who ply this corridor. We even heard of instances of how drivers who refused to comply later faced violent threats, including the removal of essential truck components such as batteries and mirrors right on the expressway,” Abdulraheem said.
He expressed bitterness over the manner in which the miscreants wreaked havoc on the Highways in the name of Parks and Garages despite the official pronouncement banning all illegal activities late last year.
For him, the guts to perform these acts were quite baffling, saying that the miscreants threatened their victims at day time and night without regard for existing law and order in the state.
“But we have come to put an end to this jungle justice and they will no longer be allowed to operate anywhere in the state,” he assured.
Victor Aiyegbosi, a truck driver with one of the transport companies who was at the mercy of the gang recently, described them as inhuman in their dealings, disclosing that they damaged trucks by ripping off cables and shattering the windows and mirrors just to have their way.
“The Taskforce assisting us here is the best thing that has happened to us this year so far,” he stated.
All the 51 apprehended suspects have been charged to court where eight of them pleaded guilty and were sentenced to seven months imprisonment with an option of N65,000 fine. The remaining 43 pleaded not guilty and their hearing adjourned till March 1.
The arrest is in line with the existing collaboration between NPA and the Lagos State government, which is aimed at ensuring seamless movement of vehicles along the Mile 2 – Tin-Can expressway.
The collaboration has also seen both NPA and the state government clear the entire stretch of the road of shanties and extortion points mounted by urchins.
Petrol tankers and trailers were also affected as they have been evacuated from the Cele Bus Stop inward Tin Can Port axis along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
The move was to curb the indiscriminate parking of heavy-duty vehicles causing traffic congestion in the area.