(SHIPPING DAY MAGAZINE EDITORIAL)
For Lagos ports users, businessmen, workers, residents of Apapa and others, it has been a nightmare for a very long time now. It was just few months ago that the Apapa Wharf road was fixed through the efforts of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Dangote Group and Flour Mills Limited. Although gridlock had not ended owing to the number of trucks that use the road, there appears to be an improvement. However, this is not the same for the road leading to the Tin Can Island port area, either coming in or going out. The roads have remained death traps on both sides because of dilapidation caused by years of neglect.
The problem is such that many have lost their lives patronizing commercial motorcyclists to get to the ports to clear their goods. It has been more than a decade that the Apapa gridlock has remained unsolved. So many Presidential Task Forces had been set up in the past without solution. One can recall Presidential Task Force headed by the former Minister of Finance, Dr. Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala which was set up during the time of President Goodluck’s administration but which failed to address the issue. This was despite all the promises and resources committed to addressing the problem. The Federal Government had even partnered with the Lagos State Government , the host government, without success.
Like before the same effort is being made to address the issue by the federal government. The Presidency few months ago announced a Task Force headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Two weeks after this announcement, there was some relief and the Task Force was given more time. During this period, government also announced the award of the contract for the construction of the roads leading to Tin Can Island from Oshodi Express Way. The Vice President visited few weeks ago to see things for himself. During the visit, he gave his assurance that the government is determined to end the nightmare suffered over the years by port users, residents and all others who have something to do in Apapa.
President Muhammadu Buhari had himself recently expressed concerns over the lingering Apapa gridlock and the hardship it has brought to many residents and businesses. He had assured members of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) that every effort is being made to end the problem. He was quoted saying, “I must admit the Apapa gridlock still remains a challenge. It saddens me that businesses have had to suffer as a result of this.
“We are doing our very best working with the Lagos State Government to bring an end to this issue.”. With this coming from the President is indeed cheering news.
We hope that this will lead to government taking more decisive action to end the problem. We urge the government to ensure that the Lagos ports gridlock ends with this administration and does not have to wait for another administration. The ports remain the gateway to the national economy. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) last year generated as much as N1.2trillion for the government. It is believed that about 90 percent of this revenue came from Lagos. Other agencies of government under the maritime sector also generate hundreds of billions of Naira each to the national economy annually. The Lagos ports also compete with neighbnouring ports of West Africa with the wish to being the transshipment base being denied Nigeria apparently because of her poor infrastructure. This should be of serious concern to the federal government for it to rise to the challenges of rehabilitating the roads leading to the ports and other infrastructure. In other climes, the Apapa gridlock would not be allowed to last considering the trauma on citizens and contributions to the national economy. The issue has denied Nigeria of hundreds of millions of dollars that would have been earned from being a transshipment centre in West and Central Africa. Nigerian shippers have also been made to pay for this poor infrastructure through surcharges by international shipping lines whose vessels are delayed over congestion in the Lagos ports. The shippers are also compelled to pay high demurrages charged by terminal operators and shipping lines as the gridlock affects fast clearance of containers. Similarly, the truck owners also impose their own surcharges by way of high transport fare to drop containers after spending days on traffic. The worst hit are truck drivers who have turned the roads their homes, sleeping in their vehicles and messing up the whole environment. The efforts made so far in addressing the gridlock need to be sustained. Government needs to complete work on the trailer park at Tin Can Island port area. There is also the need to develop more trailer parks where every truck must remain until it has business to do at the port. The electronic call system for trucks needs to be introduced. Similarly, government must like other countries connect the ports with rails. This will all add to free the roads and enthrone ease of doing business.
(SHIPPING DAY MAGAZINE EDITORIAL)