Port users blame resurgence of Apapa gridlock on ongoing road reconstruction

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… Decry lack of supervision of contractor

Port operators at the Lagos ports of Tincan Island and Apapa have blamed the recent upsurge in gridlock months after it temporarily disappeared on the massive road reconstructions going on along the port corridor.

Speaking in a chat with Primetime Reporters in Lagos recently, the Administrator, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tincan Island Chapter, Mr. Peter Ojo Akintoye blamed the development on the road rehabilitation even as he decried the attitude of the contractor who he said treated road users as nobody.

Akintoye lamented the absence of regulatory body to supervise the contractor which in turn, according to him, emboldened him (the contractor) to do whatever he likes on the road adding that “they can decide to block the entire two lanes and nobody will say anything, they can block it for two to three days and be doing what is not necessary.”

He said, “As at day before yesterday, three people died in Okada accident at Coconut as a result of the excesses of the contractor. They have been working on that road for close to five months, yet the level of work done is not commensurate to the number of months.”

When reminded that no meaningful road project can be carried out during the rainy season, he stated, “I don’t want to go into the rain issue because that is not my profession but what I am telling you is that these are the people that are doing the road, they should have considered that rain will fall, probably they could have done palliatives or rather wait till the rains subsides to start their work.”

Asked to proffer solutions to the resurging gridlock, Akintoye who is also the Vice President of Oodua Maritime Forum had this to say, “My challenge is that I don’t see any solution. You know why? All the link roads in Apapa are being opened for rehabilitation but what they should have done is to create alternative roads for people and goods to access. From Liverpool to Area B junction, you will agree with me that for the past three months, it has been blocked, so it means that they are working there. The one from Liverpool Bridge down to Tincan, one lane of the road is being blocked. So the only road that is accessible to both trailers and private vehicles of those working in Apapa is one lane. Lack of commitment on the part of the government contributes to the excesses of the contractor. There is no supervision at all.

“The reason why I don’t want to blame those people is that there is nothing they can do. Is it not when there is road that you can say let us plan movement on those roads for people to pass through it? The road is not there. Sometimes I feel for them, the problem between them and trailer drivers is pathetic.”

On his part, the Lagos State Vice Chairman, Dry Cargo Section, National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Abdullahi Inuwa Mohammed opined that although the Presidential Task Team had done enough, it had its own limitations.

He added that the duty of the Presidential Task Team was to clear the road saying that when they clear the road, it was the duty of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to issue call up to the terminals and that if trucks come to some terminals and the terminals were not receiving empty containers, the trucks would have to be on queue.

In his words, “But the main factor that is causing gridlock now is that we understand that there is road reconstruction ongoing and when you look, you will see a lot of diversions and you can see that from the second gate coming outward to Coconut is closed because of the construction and if you go down, going to Apapa, you will see that so many places are blocked which makes the trucks to jam-pack in one place on reaching diversion point very close to the port gate.

“And don’t forget that last two weeks, we witnessed influx of tankers as a result of the closure of the Satellite depot due to bad road. But I believe within the last two day, it has started to normalize because so many steps have been taken, the Executive Vice Chairman is almost on the road by himself controlling traffic, the Commissioner of Police, Odumosu is also on the road, same as AC Suleiman together with other members of the Presidential Task Team controlling traffic.

“Another issue is before the commencement of this work, the Federal Ministry of Works in a stakeholders’ meeting with the contractors promised us that before the commencement of reconstruction, the contractor will carry out palliative works on the alternative roads but today, there is nothing like that, all the alternative routes that are existing, trucks are falling there on daily basis, there is no palliative work on those alternative roads.

“The rubbles that were excavated from other construction sites which supposed to be used to fill up all those portholes are being sold away. So, if any container laddened truck fall or is hooked on this road, then the whole trucks will not move thereby affecting the movement of trucks that are coming out of the ports. It means that trucks will not go in and they will not go out.”

On why reconstruction work is going on in all the major roads in the port corridor at the same time, Mohammed who is also the Head of Operations, Council of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA) said, “I believe that the construction company believed that it has the capacity to handle all the road reconstruction within Apapa at the same time. However, they shared the reconstruction in batches, up to four batches but other places, work is moving but I don’t know why it is not so within the port axis. Here, most of the times, they don’t come to work on Saturdays and Sundays when they should have given priority to this area even to the extent of working day and night in order to ensure that they deliver the job on time to reduce this gridlock.”

He therefore called for creation of alternative routes for port users while the reconstruction works lasted and for palliative works to be carried out on the alternative routes so created even as he urged the Federal Ministry of Works to ensure that rubbles excavated from the construction sites be used in filling the potholes so that there would be free movement of goods and services.

“Let the Federal Ministry of Work ensure that the contractor live up to their promise by creating alternative routes. Yes, I agree that they are doing solid work but they are slow here and they should consider that they cannot stop port operations, for that they have to hasten their tempo of work”, he stated.

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