…LASG abandons works on truck terminals …Osinbajo’s task force ineffective …Lagos/Badagry road now impassable By Evelyn Usman & Monsur Olowopejo
LAGOS-MOTORISTS plying the Oshodi/Apapa expressway in Lagos, yesterday, blamed the perennial gridlock on what they described as the insensitivity of the Federal and Lagos State governments to the state of the roads.
As at yesterday, when the expressway was expected to be free for vehicular movement, owing to the Easter break, motorists were still trapped in traffic, from Ijesha to Mile Two.
Some motorists, who attempted to use the Easter break to visit relations and friends living around the Apapa axis, were shocked to discover that the situation was not different from how it was during work days. Some motorists were forced to wind down their glasses, while others opened their doors for fresh air. Motorists flay FG, Lagos govt A motorist, Mr. Gboyega Ishola, lamented that he spent three hours between Ijesha and 2nd Rainbow, from where he was compelled to make a u-turn. He expressed shock that the situation was like that on an Easter Sunday and attributed it to failure on the part of both the Federal and Lagos State governments. Mr. Ishola said: “This is appalling to say the least. To think that we are undergoing such a situation under same party government, at the state and federal levels, is even more disappointing. This is an indication of failure on the part of government.” Another motorist, Mr. Chukwudi Nwanazie said: “I was on my way to visit my eldest brother at Wilmer Crescent, Olodi Apapa, only to be trapped in-between heavy duty trucks at 1st Rainbow. What is government doing about this? This crazy situation did not just start today. Why would government be insensitive to our plights? Or are they waiting for calamity to occur before they take action?”
Truck drivers lament
Surprisingly, truck drivers, who have been blamed for the gridlock, lamented that they were also affected by the situation. Some of them lamented that they spent weeks on the queue waiting for their turn to load at the port, a journey that ordinarily should have taken less than 24 hours. They, however, said that government should be held responsible for the gridlock. A truck driver, Shehu Mungeri, said: “We don’t have government in Nigeria. If we did, we won’t be experiencing such situation. Whose responsibility is it to fix the roads, truck drivers? What is preventing government from finding a lasting solution to this problem? It is really disturbing. We have decided not to talk again because all the time we have been talking; nothing has been done to address the situation.” Another truck driver, Lamidi Onabode said: “With the visit of the Vice-President here and the subsequent meetings with stakeholders, one would have expected the situation to be a thing of the past. Government should be bold to tell Nigerians that its agencies failed in their responsibility to address this menace. “I have children to feed and I have school fees to pay; but with the prevailing situation, I have not been able to meet that obligation. Government should rise to the occasion by proffering a lasting solution.”
It’s affecting our business — Clearing and Forwarding agents
Some Clearing and Forwarding agents, who spoke with Vanguard expressed worry that the traffic situation has plunged them into hardship, as they can no longer fend for their families.
An agent, Mr. Nwokonye Okechukwu said: “Before now, we used to clear between 10 and 20 cars in a month from the Port. But the present traffic situation is affecting us because by the time you clear vehicles, it would take time to get to the owners. As I speak with you, I have not cleared a vehicle since January 2019 because our agents abroad have resorted to using ports of neighboring countries. I am not the only one in it. Most of my colleagues have left because of hardship.”
Osinbajo’s Task Force directive flouted
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had directed the commencement of a 72-hour joint operation to restore sanity along the Oshodi/Apapa expressway and other routes affected by traffic. This was after he made an unscheduled stop at Apapa Port for an on-the-spot assessment of the gridlock. According to the Vice President’s directive, the operation would be carried out by the Police, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Air Force, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC and the Nigeria Civil Defence and Security Corps, NSCDC.
Others included the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, LASTMA, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Container truck drivers, National Association of Road Transport Owners, NURTW, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas, NUPENG, and Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria. Aside this move, stakeholders, including the Nigerian Military and the Lagos State Government sometime ago, gave a 48-hour ultimatum to all truck drivers to vacate Lagos bridges. The resolution was reached during a stakeholders meeting at the Naval Base in Apapa, last year. Vanguard observed that the taskforce put in place has failed to clear the gridlock as trucks are still parked on the bridges allegedly in the connivance with members of the Federal Government Joint Task Force, who collect money from truck drivers.
LASG abandons works on truck terminals
Meanwhile, there are also indications that the Lagos State Government may have abandoned expansion works on the ongoing Orile truck terminal and the proposed 5,000 capacity truck terminal in the Ojo axis, eight months after the flag-off ceremony. Both truck terminals were conceived as short-term and long-term solutions to the gridlock that had crippled commercial activities in Apapa and Tin Can Ports. The Orile truck terminal, which is being expanded to 1000-capacity was flagged off by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, last August, with assurance that the project would be completed eight weeks after. But at the moment, the level of work done is less than 60 percent. Also, Vanguard observed that progress has not been made on the 5,000 capacity truck terminal. Sources close to the office of the governor hinted that paucity of funds was responsible for the continued delay of the project. Sources also stated that the project would only receive a boost when the House of Assembly passed the proposed 2019 budget estimated at over N800 billion.
Lagos govt keeps mum
Efforts to get the Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Ladi Lawanson and the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Taiwo Salaam’s reactions proved abortive, as calls and Short Messages sent to their lines were not returned. Earlier, when our correspondent visited the site, it was gathered that the contractors had re-deployed its staff and major equipment. But Salaam, had last year countered the assumption, arguing that the “contractors are presently testing the soil. Once the results of the tests are out, the work will continue.” But despite commencing the project behind schedule, Vanguard gathered that the contractor spent several weeks excavating the top soil from the site but did not deploy the needed heavy equipment early. It was further learned that after commencement, persistent rainfall slowed down the pace of work on the terminal According to a staff of the firm, “the weather was not friendly. So, the contractor battled daily with removal of water from site.”
Motorists, commuters lament Lagos/Badagry expressway
Similarly, motorists and commuters have frowned at both the Federal Government and Lagos State Government over their travails on the Lagos/Badagry expressway.
Recounting the pains he goes through daily, a commercial bus driver, Peter Oluwaseun said the roads are in a terrible state. He said: “The Federal Government and Lagos State government are deliberately subjecting us to so much suffering with their nonchalant attitude towards the construction of the Lagos/Badagry expressway. This government is the most insincere government I have ever seen. But the rains are here and the road has gone from bad to worse. Now, they have gone blind and become insensitive. So, they cannot see or feel the plight of motorists and commuters who are gradually dying because of this road.”