Prior to President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit for his presidential campaign in Lagos, February 9, all roads leading to Teslim Balogun Stadium from all axes were cleared of trucks and tankers.
With this, the menace of trucks on Apapa roads that had apparently defied all efforts suddenly disappeared in less than 48 hours prior to the president’s visit.
So, from Friday to that Saturday, all roads leading to Apapa were free and one could go into or leave Apapa in no time. That was the dream Lagosians thought had come to stay.
But the dream of having a smooth ride on Apapa roads was short lived. Just minutes after the departure of the president, the trucks were back to their ‘normal’ parks on the bridges.
Earlier, some of the Apapa residents had thought the trucks within the area would remain and Apapa would not benefit from the clean-up process for the presidential visit since the president’s itinerary did not include Apapa.
Surprisingly, the clearing of trucks off the presidential route extended to Apapa and its environs.
Words from the Lagos State government quarters and other government agencies entrusted with the handling of the visit indicated that the president could use the opportunity of his visit to Lagos to visit Apapa and see for himself the people’s plight, which also triggered the recent demonstration by Apapa residents. This uncertainty possibly led the authorities to include Apapa in their areas of consideration for the president’s itinerary.
Another quarter had it that the security operatives felt that the president would not be safe with the presence of the trucks littering Lagos roads. It said this was why the security operatives enforced the removal of all trucks and trailers from the roads during the visit.
However, this dream was short-lived. No sooner had the president departed Lagos, than the trailers were let loose like specially bred, starving dogs and made their ways back to Apapa. Those who witnessed the free flow of traffic on Saturday were disappointed to see the trucks back minutes after the departure of the president. Worshippers had hectic experience getting to their worship centres in and out of Apapa on Sunday. Workers and residents of Apapa equally lament ugly experiences they had in trying accessing Apapa, especially after the departure of the president.
“They’re hypocrites, the people in government know what they’re doing. In one minute they removed the trailers, in another minute, the trailers are back”, fumed Kunle Ologa, a motorist who has his business in Apapa.
“Buhari is the number one servant we have. It’s a slap on us because the president isn’t above the people. The president’s responsibility is to serve the people,” said Aderemi Olikuntuyi, chairman, Apapa Community Association. According to the retired military officer, for the president to come and the security outfits could clear the roads shows that they have the capacity to make life better for us. “But why are they not doing it,” Olikuntuyi queried.
“If they can clear the roads for [President] Buhari because of his safety, why can’t they clear the roads for millions of people living in Lagos?” asked Stella Williams-Oke, a resident of Apapa and secretary of ‘Keep Apapa Safe Initiative’, a nongovernmental organisation.
“Buhari has only one vote; I’ve one vote. Is he more Nigerian than I am, or is he more important than the millions of people living in Lagos that our lives and businesses will have to be at risk?” Williams-Oke concluded rhetorically.
It is no longer news that the presence of trucks in Apapa has crippled businesses in Apapa, except for the commercial motorcyclists referred to as okada and security personnel who allegedly extort money from the truck drivers.
“We’re feeling the pains. We’re unable to access our houses, businesses have closed down. Our houses are not rentable, not leasable and not sellable,” laments Ayo Shola-Vaughan, chairman of Apapa GRA Residents Association (AGRA)
Vougham alleged that Rotimi Amaechi (minister of transport), Babatunde Fashola (minister of power, works and housing, Hadiza Bala Usman (managing director, Nigerian Ports Authority), Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos State governor) and the nation’s vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, know the solution to Apapa problems, but for the reasons best known to them, had decided to pay lip service to the problems.
“These highly placed government officials have deliberated on these traffic problems and its imminent dangers but have all chosen to play the ostrich by looking the other way and pretending to be doing something while our lives are hanging on a threat,” said Vougham.
“Government has to come now. If they don’t come now, we’ll shout again and again. We can’t have all these trailers on the bridges and expect us to keep quiet”, Veronica Chaka-Awatai, an Apapa resident and executive member of AGRA, laments.
Recall that the vice president had on various occasions visited Apapa and given directives ordering that all the trucks should disappear within a stipulated time. The Lagos State government too had equally given an ultimatum by which the trucks were expected to disappear. But, according to Vougham, the government needs to come out clean and say if “they are incapable of solving their own problems or implementing the orders they gave.”
Ladi Lawanson, commissioner for transport in the state, came out clean recently to say that the task of removing the trucks from the roads is a joint effort between the Federal Government and Lagos State government. “It’s beyond what Lagos State government alone can handle,” Lawanson said, adding, “To keep the roads free requires a directive from the presidency.”