• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Tin-Can clean up: Promoting traffic flow, efficient cargo evacuation

png_20240414_095853_0000

With motorists, residents and businesses spending quality manpower on gridlock along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway due to long queues of tankers and activities of roadside market sellers, the recent cleaning of the ever-busy road of shanties, illegal checkpoints and trailers by the Nigerian Ports Authority and Lagos State Government could not have come at a better time.

Apapa-Oshodi Expressway is a major artery into Nigeria’s two economic gateways, Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports in Lagos. The road also leads to several oil and gas tank farms, which explains the volume of tankers that ply the road daily.

Read also: NPA moves to sustain traffic flow on Tin-Can Port access road

For over a decade, movement in and out of the two ports through the road has been a serious challenge due to the bad state of the road and protracted traffic congestion resulting from the indiscriminate parking of trucks.

The situation suffocated port businesses by inflicting additional costs on port users who not only pay dearly to evacuate their goods from terminals in Tin-Can Ports due to delays but also loss of man-hours on gridlock.

To settle the issue of a bad road, the Federal Government in 2017 handed over the 35 kilometres long Apapa to Oworonshoki to the Dangote Group to rebuild using concrete pavement and a 10-year tax holiday.

The contract for the road, which comprised Creek Road, Liverpool Road, Marine Beach to Mile 2, Oshodi, Oworonshoki, to the Lagos end of the Toll Gate on the Ibadan Expressway was signed with the Dangote Group on September 12, 2017.

After expending enormous resources using Dangote tax revenue to rebuild the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, the road was taken over by trucks and trailers, particularly tankers accessing the tank farms along the Berger and Coconut bus stops.

“The Apapa bound lane of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway was inaccessible for months after completing the road, especially between Mile 2 and Tin-Can Port Second Gate. The tankers and trucks took over such that vehicles only make use of the outbound Apapa to Mile 2 lane to go in and out of Apapa,” said Tony Anakebe, a port industry stakeholder.

According to him, the Mile 2-Second Gate axis was very challenging in the past due to the presence of checkpoints for collecting illegal tolls from truck drivers.

Then, security personnel, area boys, and local government officials mounted several checkpoints and truckers spent an average of N10,000 to N30,000 per trip.

Also, port users only were able to access the port either on commercial buses that ply one-way or motorcycles popularly known as okada, which claimed many lives.

Read also: Nigeria govt completes Tin-Can Road, set to award Onne road

This also created room for petty traders, security operatives and other non-state actors to take over the road.

In addition, residents for several years used the expensive road as a dump site for refuse as heaps of waste was left on the road unattended for a long time.

After several public outcries by port users, motorists, businesses and residents along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, the State Government and the NPA decided to weld into the issues by cleaning up the road to bring sanity to Apapa.

Clean up of Mile 2 -Tin-Can axis

In December 2023, Adegboyega Oyetola, minister of Marine and Blue Economy, held a stakeholders’ engagement which preceded the setting up of a committee to see to the problem of extortion and illegal checkpoints on the port access roads.

He promised to eliminate extortions of truck drivers, illegal checkpoints, and unapproved parking of trucks along the port access road within one week.

The minister blamed the above-listed illegalities for traffic congestion along the port access roads.

According to him, the maritime industry is germane to the development of the economy and the goal was to ensure that stakeholders do not lose money due to delays.

Today, sanity has returned to the Tin-Can Island Port corridor as the perennial traffic gridlock along Mile 2 and Tin-Can in Lagos disappeared following a recent clearance operation jointly carried out by the NPA and the Lagos State Government.

For close to a decade, the gridlock had been a bone in the neck of federal and state law officers.

The persistent gridlock, which hitherto defied all known potent solutions, has now become a thing of the past and the port community is hoping that the effort can be sustained.

BusinessDay’s recent visit to the road shows the free movement of vehicles along the corridor as commercial bus drivers and private motorists now have access to the port without having to take one way.

Also, there seems to be orderliness in the movement of tankers accessing tank farms, thereby eliminating the need to park on the road and deny other road users the right to move freely.

Stakeholders’ commendations

Industry stakeholders have commended the NPA and Lagos State Government for the efforts put into sanitising the Tin-Can- Mile 2 road.

Just recently, the Mohammed Bello-Koko -led management of NPA was commended by the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) for clearing the perennial traffic gridlock that hitherto impeded movement in and out of Lagos Ports.

Also, Dera Nnadi, Customs Area Controller of Tin-Can Island Port Command, commended the Lagos State Government, the Comptroller General of Customs and the NPA on their collaborative efforts to ensure sanity returned to the port access road.

“The greatest glory goes to Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State, who gave the political will to ensure the exercise succeeded. We had meetings with NPA, exporters, importers, shipping lines and freight forwarders. We thanked the media for highlighting the challenges we faced on the port access road. The good thing now is that the road has been cleared and the heaps of refuse removed for us to have sanity around the port corridor,” Nnadi said.

Since 2017, he said, the corridor was not in use because of the menace of truck drivers leaving their vehicles on the major road.

He added that opening this corridor will increase cargo throughput, enhance trade facilitation and ensure more revenue collection for the government.

Bala Mohammed, a haulage operator, gave kudos to the duo of Nigerian Ports Authority and Lagos State Government for clearing the Augean stable of Tin-Can.

This, according to him, led to gridlock, the creation of extortion points and shanties that were polluting the environment, and harbouring non-governmental extortion bandits, and criminals using hard drugs and deadly weapons.

“The Tin-Can road clearance would further heighten security within the Tin-Can Port, promote free-flow traffic, and enable the Eto call-up system to function effectively for seamless evacuation of cargo and trade facilitation.

“NPA and Lagos State Government should try and sustain the tempo of the operation to prevent the re-grouping and returning of extortion bandits and other unpatriotic criminal elements that are feeding fat from the artificially induced Tin-Can traffic anarchy to the detriment of port security, import/export cargo delivery trucking business, call-up system and Nigeria’s trade facilitation,” Mohammed told BusinessDay.

Efforts to sustain traffic flow

Mohammed Bello-Koko, managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, paid an unscheduled visit to the Tin-Can Island Port access road on Monday, March 25 as a measure of sustaining traffic flow on the road.

He said the move was aimed at consolidating the gains recorded in the clearance of illegal check/extortion points and shanties resulting in traffic gridlock.

“Our zero tolerance for all forms of impediments to the free flow of traffic is no fluke, and we are poised to consolidate the gains we have recorded first in Apapa and now Tin-Can. We are grateful to Adegboyega Oyetola, Minister of Marine & Blue Economy and the Lagos State Governor for the tremendous support we have received in this regard,” he said.

Describing the port access roads as international corridors, he said traffic gridlock along such sensitive road networks apart from negating port productivity is an international embarrassment that requires the synergy of all stakeholders to tackle sustainably.

“Although the causes of the gridlock are rooted in factors external to NPA, we have a duty as the gateway to the national economy to take the frontline role in tackling this menace,” he said.

On the menace of refuse debris blocking the drainages, Bello-Koko said the NPA has directed the relevant in-house department to commence desilting of the drainages and clearance of the refuse.

He promised that NPA will intensify synergy with Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) and the Federal Ministry of Works under whose purview waste and road management resides to arrest the ugly trend.

Meanwhile, Bala Mohammed called for the integration of the Ports Standing Task (PSTT) into the clearance exercise to achieve a tripod formidable force against national economy saboteurs along the ports’ access roads.

According to him, PSTT has been tackling the obstacles to the free movement of traffic and extortion bandits on the outbound section of the port access roads.

He also called on NPA and the Lagos State Government to come up with a dedicated monitoring task force team that would prevent indiscriminate parking of trucks that don’t have business in the port and fuel depots, the return of extortion bandits causing gridlock, as well as building and hiring of illegal shanties.

He suggested the duo support the acquisition of acres of land proposed by Remi Ogungbemi, AMATO president, around Mile 2 axis to serve as a truck marshalling yard for both containerised and tanker trucks to prevent the indiscriminate parking along the Tin-Can Port corridor.

He said it would facilitate the integration of tanker trucks into the call-up system where tankers’ movement into their respective depots would be scheduled and batched based on requests from fuel depots in contrast to the present arrangement.