The Senate Committee on Marine Transport visited the Lagos Port Complex and the Tin-Can Island Ports to assess the impact of the gridlock that has done much damage to business on the access roads. At a meeting with the committee by government agencies and stakeholders, how to tackle the gridlock was discussed.
Led by its Chairman, Senator Ahmed Sanni Yerima, the committee had a feel of the gridlock as its convoy was trapped in the traffic.
The committee members which were Senators Kabiru Gaya; Ighoyota Amori; Isiaka Adeleke; Theodore Orji; Clifford Ordia and others, were forced to drive against the traffic from Liverpool end of the road to the port.
After passing through the second entrance of the Tin Can Ports, their vehicle got stuck in between the container-laden trailers. At this point the lawmakers alighted from their vehicle to assess the failed portion of the road
After the assessment, the vehicles could not move forward or make a u-turn, but had to reverse under a very dangerous condition.
Seeing the problem they were faced with, one of the lawmakers lamented: “This is a disgrace to our country. I didn’t know that the situation in Apapa is as bad as this. There is an urgent need for us to address this problem because this is where the government makes a lot of money.”
The Committee Chairman could not agree less. Describing the situation as “a serious national disaster” which must be tackled, Senator Yetima said the gridlock had severe consequences not only on the road users and the state, but also on the national economy.
Govt agencies make presentations
At a stakeholders’meeting with the lawmakers, the Managing Director, Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Malam Habib Abdullahi called for the revival of the rail system, noting that efficient rail lines connecting the ports with other states would decongest the ports and reduce the pressure on the Lagos roads.
The NPA boss urged the Committee to look not just at the ports, but at other issues that contributed to the menace. Abdullahi said there was the need to import petroleum products through ports outside Lagos.
On his part, the Acting Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Pastor Haruna Baba Jauro, lamented the effect of the gridlock on the economy. He complained that staff productivity had also been affected, as many are emotionally and physically drained and harassed by armed robbers on their way to and from work.
The NIMASA boss bemoaned a situation where staff of the agency are forced to sleep in the hotels at Apapa because of the gridlock.
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello, corroborated NPA’s position and lent his voice to a trucking policy that would set standards and regulations.
According o him, between 5,000 and 7,000 trucks ply the Apapa corridor daily, when the roads could only support between 2,000 and 3,000 trucks. The remaining numbers, he said, constitute nuisance by causing the gridlock in the area.
The NSC boss called for the immediate repair of all the failed sections of the road, registration of trucks coming to Apapa under a company name, install electronic gate system and call-up cards and institute a sound legal framework.
Another way out of the Apapa gridlock, according to Bello, is the construction of loading bay or parking lots for trucks coming into the ports to pick consignments or drop empty containers.
It is on record that most of the trucks parked along the port access roads such as Wharf, Commercial and Creek Roads are laden with empty containers. Many of the drivers of such trucks use the roads leading to the port for parking their vehicles, thereby reducing the space meant for other road users.
Agents urge Buhari to address gridlock
Speaking with The Nation after the stakeholders’meeting with the lawmakers, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) urged President Muhammadu Buhari to address the gridlock on the major roads leading to Apapa Ports in Lagos.
Its National President, Alhaji Olayiwola Shittu, said vehicular congestion, which is at the root of the gridlock, has added to the cost of clearing goods from the port, besides driving away businesses in the area.
He pointed out that importers were diverting their cargoes to neighbouring countries because of the gridlock, while new investors are being discouraged from coming to the area. Residents, it was said, are also looking for homes outside the area.
Shittu said Apapa is not only reputed for maritime activities, manufacturers have also taken advantage of the ports to site companies in the suburbs for quick access to imported raw materials and for easy export.
Stakeholders record N5b loss daily
The gridlock takes toll on the Federal Government and relevant stakeholders with daily revenue loss estimated at N5 billion. The gridlock hampers free movement of goods and persons, with tanker drivers converting major access roads into Apapa ports to parking lots.
Consequently, containers, which ought to have been cleared and evacuated from the ports still litter various terminals, accumulating demurrage. Vessels are also stranded on the high seas as there is no room at the terminals to discharge cargoes.
ANLCA spokesman, Dr. Kayode Farinto, while speaking with The Nation on the poor state of the ports said agents have given the Federal Government a 30-day ultimatum to address the situation or risk the ports being shut down in protest. According to him, the N5 billion daily loss is only a conservative estimate, pointing out that a lot of businesses located in Apapa have folded up since workers can no longer access their working places.
The Chairman, Seaport Terminal Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Victoria Haastrup, said the gridlock being experienced in Apapa is a direct consequence of system failure in the oil and gas industry logistics chain.
Haastrup, who is also the Executive Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium Limited, operators of Terminals C and D, Lagos Port Complex Apapa, said the only way to solve the gridlock is to immediately suspend the lifting of imported petroleum products from tank farms in Apapa by road.
“There must be immediate suspension of the evacuation of petroleum products from Apapa by road. The authorities must immediately activate the use of barges for petroleum products evacuation. Petroleum products meant for the northern part of the country should be moved to Lokoja and Baro Ports by barges while the trucks collect them from there rather than coming to Apapa,” she said.
For Senator Ordia, another way to tackle the gridlock is to address the indiscipline of motorists on the roads, especially drivers of old vehicles. He said because of the indiscipline and unruly behaviour of the drivers, all lanes on both sides of the roads are occupied. “They are the kings of the roads. They do not bother about any other road user,” he said.
The Senator also observed that drivers use these roads as makeshift toilet facilities. They also drive against the traffic and cross the demarcation and embankment separating the two lanes of the roads at will. Apart from being an eyesore, he said the sorry situation gives the country a negative image.
Senator Yerima added: “We have noticed the challenge and we believe that this is not only affecting the operations of the port and residents in Lagos, but the entire economy.
“We hope that at the end of this interaction we are going to come up with a permanent solution…we will look at the short term, the medium term and at the end of the day, our objective is to achieve a permanent solution.”
He promised that whatever the Committee is able to take along to the Senate, it has resolved to pursue to a logical conclusion. He also assured that in a bid to provide a lasting solution to the gridlock, the government would mobilise contractors building the 500-truck capacity holding bay opposite the Tin Can port so that work can resume immediately.