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Respite underway as Hitech mobilises for work on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway

…Trailer Park gets new delivery date as work progresses on shoreline…but analysts foresee worse congestion within port environment

Apapa-Oshodi Expressway
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For motorists on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, port users, business owners, and Apapa residents, it is a piece of good news as Hitech, one of Nigeria’s frontline construction companies, is getting set to start reconstruction work on the dilapidated expressway which has remained a nightmare to them.

Hitech, which has started demarcating the expressway with concrete breakers from the Oshodi end of the 32-kilometre road, has been engaged by the Dangote Group for the reconstruction work. Aliko Dangote, President/CEO, Dangote Group, disclosed last year that the group would be engaging another construction company to join AG-Dangote to do the work.

Dangote Group is undertaking the reconstruction of the expressway which stretches from Apapa through Oshodi and Oworonshoki to Ojota and will be spending N72 billion on the project which, according to the CEO, would be completed in 24 months.

“Yes, Hitech is about to start work on the expressway. I would say work has started already, but we are just waiting for a stakeholders meeting that will be holding soon. Hitech is the construction company Dangote has engaged to do the work,” Adedamola Kuti, Federal Controller of Works, South West Zone, confirmed to BusinessDay on phone on Wednesday.

The expressway, which has been in deplorable condition, made worse by indiscriminate parking of trucks, is a dual-carriageway constructed between 1975 and 1978. It has in each direction three and two lanes in the main carriageway and the service lane, respectively. It connects the Eastern part of the country and Lagos-Ibadan Expressway at Oworonshoki. It is one of the two major routes to Apapa and Tin Can Island ports, Nigeria’s busiest seaports.

Expectation is that when the expressway is reconstructed, it will ease gridlock and congestion in and around the ports in particular and Apapa in general and the roads will be free for other motorists.

But analysts have their reservations. They reason that all the efforts to fix Apapa and Tin-Can port access roads in order to address the problem of congestion within the port environment may see the problem disappear for about four or five years, only to return worse than the current state.

Apapa problem, they explain, will only go away if the government provides inter-modal transportation for cargo evacuation and rebuild critical transport/road infrastructure.

The analysts estimate that hundreds of thousands of vehicles transit around Apapa, Oshodi and Ebute-Metta at the peak time, saying that if the nation continues to prosper and the volume of cargo traffic increases, Nigeria would discover that it is more difficult to manage prosperity than poverty.

Dangote Group is undertaking the reconstruction of the expressway with money it would have paid as tax to the government. The reconstruction work will be done with concrete. Dangote CEO assured that the reconstruction work would be done speedily and completed on schedule, saying, “we know how important and strategic this road is and so, we are not going to disappoint Nigerians. This is going to be the first road project that will be finished ahead of scheduled date.”

Meanwhile, after the initial hitches posed by the delay in importing and clearing of materials at the ports, work has started on the shoreline protection of the Trailer Park being construction along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway to provide parking bay for the trucks currently parked on the roads and bridges.

When BusinessDay visited the project cite Wednesday, workers were upbeat and, according to Kuti, more of the imported materials might be arriving the ports that day, assuring that baring any further delay, the park which would have been delivered last month (March), would be ready by month end.

In spite of all these, however, the analysts insist that respite can only come when government does what is right. “Until we install a multi-modal system of transport and build other infrastructure at the ports, we would continue to have a recurring decimal of congestion at the ports. Within the port environment up to 4km should be only warehouses for cargoes, roads for movement of port cargoes by trucks or railway. There should also be a ring road exclusively reserved for the port,” said Kunle Folarin, chairman of Port Consultative Council (PCC).

Folarin, who spoke at the maiden quarter business roundtable organised by MMS Plus Newspapers recently in Lagos on ‘Economic Outlook: Quarterly Verdict’ with the theme; ‘Post Election Economy: Exploring Strategies for Growth” said the port corridor must be reserved and restricted as an exclusive economic zone.

According to him, in Nigeria, several residential houses are surrounding the ports and some of them are 10 meters away from the port, meaning the port, which supposed to be an exclusive zone, is now a corridor for other social activities.

Citing example, Folarin disclosed that when the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway was constructed, it was perceived that it would only service Tin-Can Island Port, but today it has become a municipal transport area.“The port is a transit area, a holding bay and not a storage area. It should be an area where ships discharge cargoes and the cargoes should leave the ports just as the ships also leave the ports,” he said.

Kingsley Anaroke, CEO, Kings Communications Limited, said government has not been able to fix the Apapa-Oshodi road because of paucity of funds as it has not been factored in the nation’s budget in the last three years.

Anaroke, who said that Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) in the country had been limited by the frequent policy changes and lack of confidence in the government, disclosed that several people have shown interest in investing in Nigeria or financing one project or another, were discouraged by government policies.

He decried the PPP model, which copied the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), from foreign countries without rejiging it to suit the peculiarities of Nigeria.

In a separate forum, Iheanacho Ebubeogu, general manager, Security of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), blamed gridlock in Apapa area to lack of port mileage due to municipal interference on port roads.

According to Ebubeogu, it is only in Warri Port that a trailer or truck can come out of the port, and join the highway, which enables ease of traffic management. “We must have port areas where the NPA would collaborate with city administrators to manage traffic for ease of movement of passengers and cargo,” he added.

 

CHUKA UROKO & AMAKA ANAGOR-EWUZIE

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