The frustrating gridlock on the Tin Can Island and Apapa ports link roads in Lagos, two of the nation’s premier seaports, appears to be getting progressively worse by the day .
Over these years, the gridlock has taken a huge toll on businesses along the two nation’s seaports, even as economists and concerned stakeholders lamented that the N18 trillion lost as a result of the unending traffic jam within the zone..
Apart from its loathsome infrastructural degradation, including failed road networks, disused rail lines, abandoned houses and businesses, several exclusive residential areas around the port city, hitherto the preferred home for white colonialists and the supper rich because of the harbors and beautiful waterfronts of Apapa Government Reserve Area (GRA) years ago are now ghost towns, a indication of how official negligence had ruined the port city.
Stakeholders are still wondering why it is so difficult for the Lagos and Federal Governments to fix the port access roads of less than five miles, despite being able to fixe longer roads across the country.
Apart from poor access roads, the Nigerian ports also suffered obsolete infrastructure, which include trailer parks, holding bay, rail system, quay, buildings, equipment, and yard and remained heavily congested leading to insecurity and pilferage, delays in cargo clearance and inefficiencies in cargo handling largely due to manual processes.
Due to the gridlock, many businesses have since collapsed while some have left the Apapa corridor completely. Even commercial bank branches in the Apapa business district are lamenting that the gridlock has shrunk their customer patronage by over 40 per cent. The huge drop in the volume of transactions was attributed to the relocation of about 90 per cent of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) from the port city.
Speaking during the road inspection recently in the company of Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, said his company lost N25 billion to the poor state of Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. Even stated that the state of road network was responsible for the Apapa ports congestion.
He said the congestion, which was caused by the gridlock in the area, made the company record losses between 2017 and 2019.
This was as the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee On Privatisation and Commercialisation, Victor Akinjo, said the gridlock costs Nigeria about N600 billion monthly..
According to him, Federal Government concluded plan to engage relevant stakeholders to address the persistent traffic gridlock at the nation’s ports.
Meanwhile, stakeholders said that no amount of taskforce or military and efforts deployed by the by the Federal Government can solve the problem of Apapa road gridlock unless government introduces modern transport infrastructures to tackle the bottleneck.
Speaking with newsmen, the former member Presidential Taskforce on the Reform of Nigeria Customs Service; Presidential Committee on Destination Inspection and Ministerial Committee on Fiscal Policy and Import Clearance Procedure, Lucky Eyis Amiwero, said that government needs to engage experts to find lasting solutions to the problem, and not politicians with no stake at the ports.
Conversely, he said Nigeria has the problem because for a very long time, Government has not actually engaging experts but politicians.
He added: “Politicians don’t have stake at the port. They can’t do thing that are in the interest of the economy, which explains why many countries don’t engage politicians when it comes to critical areas of development because they bring in experts who will do the jobs and go.
“On how to recover what was lost over the years, we will continue to make losses until we are able to address the issue by engaging experts. These issues are man- made and must be fixed by experts. There is an expert on procedures and infrastructure. These things were done in 2006. From 1999, there were a lot of reforms in the port. These reforms were regarded as the platforms that brought about the changes in the economy at that time.”
He said the Apapa gridlock is responsible for more than 70 per cent of the companies that have left the port corridor, stressing that many people have already lost their jobs as a result.
He added: “It is just of recent we began to have some respite, even with the respite, people are still complaining about the traffic jam and all the rest. Majority of our consignments are in the port without being cleared. It takes a very long time before goods can be cleared at Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports.
“Most of the trucks cannot go in, if they go in, it takes days before they come out. We have bad roads, many people have lost their lives due to this menace. In some countries, the government would have been sued for damages. The roads are not up to five miles, yet it is taking so long to fix it.”
He stated that port is a trade facilitation area, and those access roads; by the provisions of the NPA act, section 32A actually empowered the minister to maintain the roads, control the roads and ensure management of the roads are done properly.
“So for now, there is a small palliative job going on. But you don’t leave your port in that states for a very long time, it creates a lot of problems. In terms of gridlock and procedures, we are losing out. If you look at conventions, we don’t comply with them and we have a system that is not growing. The system is static. Sometimes, moving forward a little bit and go back. That is in two -fold.”
“So in terms of trade facilitation, we are lacking. In the whole set up, we need process and expert procedures. And this expert will come and redesign the way we do things, that is what we did in 2001. When the port was congested, a backlog Committee was set up and we reorganised the whole Lagos ports and things started moving up.”
Source: Business – TODAY NG