Commuter traffic on Lagos roads is a usual day-to-day incident and, being stranded in road traffic is never out of place in Lagos.
But for truck drivers who journey through the well-known Tin-Can and Apapa ports to either pick up loaded containers or drop empty ones, the congestion on that road offers much more than just a traffic experience.
The trip on the route towards the port welcomes you with a never-ending queue of vehicles unwearyingly waiting for weeks or months, even for their turn as they struggle to negotiate the appalling roads.
The booming businesses along this corridor include local liquor and beer joints where the drivers and motor boys go to cool off traffic stress. These joints are very visible and they serve as relaxation spots to kill boredom.
Obedience with President Muhammadu Buhari’s 72-hour ultimatum for the removal of trucks on the bridges and ports’ access roads in Lagos has been marred by low compliance, days after the expiration of the first deadline.
The order, issued on May 22, directed “the speedy removal of all trucks from the bridges and roads within Apapa and all adjoining streets leading into the Apapa axis.”
The Federal Government has, however, extended by two weeks, the time given the Presidential Taskforce on the Apapa traffic gridlock to resolve the matter, following a request for an extension by members of the task force and other stakeholders.
A visit to Apapa and its vicinities on Friday, 14th June 2019, revealed that trucks still obstruct major roads, affecting traffic to move in scant inch.
Information Nigeria, however, gathered that the roads are still littered with broken down stationary trucks that frustrate traffic flow in and out of the areas.
Drivers and residents continued to contend with the dreadful gridlock caused chiefly by reckless parking by truck drivers.
However, there was slight progress in the movement of trucks in some areas where a joint team of Lagos State Transport Management Authority(LASTMA), Federal Road Safety Corps(FRSC) and police personnel are posted to control and regulate traffic.
Other areas such as the first gate of Tincan Island Port, the bridge between Cocoanut bus stop and Tincan Port up to Mile 2, Berger-Yard, down to Trinity onward Coconut were still in bad shape as ‘at the time of this investigation’.
Along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, truck drivers virtually took over the full five-lanes, leaving only just a lane for other road users.
Residents, commuters and some industry operators, in separate interviews with Information Nigeria, however, said there was a great improvement on the traffic-flow around Apapa axis; while some others opined that the has been no improvement even with President Buhari’s directives.
A commuter, Doyin Akinkunmi, attributed the congestion to inflow of trucks to the ports, adding that “the ongoing rehabilitation of roads in Apapa area has further compounded the problem.”
Another commuter, Lawal Shuaibu, laments that on the bad state of the road. According to him, “that road is more than a mess.
“I once had an emergency to attend to in Apapa, but due to the traffic, I asked my driver to park at Mile 2, while I boarded a taxi from Mile2 to Apapa.
“On this particular day, the road was very terrible, with trucks and containers littering the entire road.
“Nigeria needs a complete overhaul of human beings”, he added.
A clearing agent, who prefers not to be named, said “nothing has changed. He, however, pointed out that inadequate truck parks and holding bays around the port are the major cause of traffic around the port, adding that “the majority of trucks parked on the roads carry empty containers and ideally should utilise holding bays and garages.”
But a truck driver, Kayode Shodehinde, however, maintained that the gridlock has reduced when compared to previous years, adding that” the ease was as a result of President Buhari’s order.
Speaking on the economic implication of the congestion in Apapa, Shodehinde said: “the poor state of the port access roads has led to excruciating traffic, delays and time wastage for both road and port users and results in losses to several businesses operating in the axis.”
Another truck driver, who simply identified himself as Orion, expressed disappointment as he is unable to move his truck off the road, he lamented that he had been on the road for five days and had not made much headway. He blamed the damaged road and poor traffic management at Apapa as part of the numerous causes of the gridlock.
A resident, Tajudeen Ogunaike, in his words, said “there are numerous empty cargoes and containers in the ports occupying space and leading to congestion.
“Orile to Suru-Alaba is full of containers and tankers; trade fair to Oluti bus stop is worse.
“Satellite residents are moving out, they are suffering as a result of the unending traffic.
“We are tired of the situation already”.
Another resident, Steve Anthony, said “the bottleneck is the turnaround at the port itself and the bad roads.
“If the ports in Lagos generate the 2nd largest income for Nigeria, why can’t the Federal government come up with plans for maintenance and development of the port and its environment?
“We all know that FG doesn’t care about the regions that bring in the revenue Nigerians are enjoying e.g. (Ogoni and other areas in South-South) derivative ought to be paying to Lagos state government, percentage of what the port generates per year”.
A clearing agent, Gary, says “the right thing to do is to create a large trailer lot on all the outskirts of Lagos.
“Trailers can park there until they get a call that their consignment is ready and then they can proceed to the wharf directly for loading.”
Reacting, the Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners, Chief Remi Ogungbemi, says the presidential directive has been obeyed and many trucks have left the road and the bridges.
Ogungbemi, who stated this in Lagos, said that the absence of regulation is why most trucks come to the direction of the port at the same time
“What are the measures put in place to regulate the movement of trucks on the road?
“Many trucks are on the road due to lack of regulation.
“Not until when measures and regulations are put in place before we can see sanity and orderliness in the movement of trucks at the port.”
Speaking on the root cause of the unending gridlock, the Chief Ogungbemi says populations are increasing, vehicular are increasing, business activities are increasing, volumes of goods that are coming into the port, vis-a-vis import and export of goods, are also increasing.
“But the necessary infrastructures that are needed to grow and expand this increase remain stagnant.
According to him, “the road that we have been using for 60years is the same road we have been relying on till date, hence, there is no how there can be proper sanity and control without regulation.
“By now, there should have been an expansion or even construction of another road to accommodate more cargoes.
These are things I think the government should do to ensure sanity and orderliness in the movement of trucks and port operation”, he added.