By Kingsley Adegboye, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Godwin Oritse & Franklin Alli
FOLLOWING the announcement, weekend, by Minister of Power,Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola that Apapa Wharf Road, Apapa will be shut down for one-year to enable its reconstruction, stakeholders and concerned Nigerians have been reacting over the decision and its implication on port operators.
The minister had made the announcement at the official signing of Memorandum of Understanding and handing over of the project to the sponsors led by AGDangote Construction Limited, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc and Nigerian Ports Authority. The two-kilometre road which cost is put at N4.3 billion is being jointly fund.
He explained that the use of AGDangote for the reconstruction was to give the road a better outlook with the use of concrete, adding that the reconstruction is to resolve the challenges usually encountered on the road. While commending the sponsors of the project, the minister appealed to road users and stakeholders to persevere.
According to him: “We are embarking on what will be the final solution to the massive inconvenience. Businesses and residents in Apapa and its environs have had to endure for a couple of years. I like to acknowledge the leadership role of Dangote and Flour Mills who are operators and have also contributed to make this a reality. They are doing this as a total Corporate Social Responsibility without asking for tax holiday or reduction.
“From today that we are handing over the project, the road will take one year to be completed. We need the cooperation of all the stakeholders. There will be some discomfort on the way but we appeal for tolerance and perseverance. It will continue to get better, people should please ensure more to solve the challenge.”
The minister who equally hinted that the Federal Government would soon intervene at the Tin-Can – Coconut axis of the Apapa/Oshodi Expressway and Creek Road, said with the break down of the 2017 Budget expected to be made known this week, it is hoped that the Federal Government’s intervention in the axis will soon begin, as the budget covers the area.
Fashola said that having got the approval and certification from the Federal Government, the reconstruction of the road has been handed over to AGDangote Construction Limited, adding that the reconstruction works would be carried out in sections, which entails that portions being worked upon will be closed.
He, therefore, appealed to members of the public, especially commuters and other road users in the area to bear with government during the reconstruction of the road, stating that their movement would be restricted, pointing out, however, that it is better to endure and persevere now and enjoy the road after a year.
FRSC, LASTMA and Police to control traffic
He also urged companies and owners of trucks and tankers using Apapa-Wharf Road as a parking facility to leave, saying that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered for 24 hours port operation, disclosing that members of Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC; Lagos State Transportation Management Authority, LASTMA and the Police will be on ground to control traffic during the period of the project.“
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Ms Hadeza Bala Usman, disclosed that sanctions will be meted out to tank farm owners that do not have holding bays for their trucks. Usman noted that the Authority and other government agencies are already mulling such sanctions for erring tank farms owners.
Erring tank farms owners
She called on other stakeholders operating at the ports to ensure that they comply with all the regulations that will guide the rehabilitation of the road.
However, since this announcement, port operators have been reacting on the decision and its implication on port activities.
Reacting to the announcement, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG warned that commuters, business owners, residents and other users of the Apapa/Oshodi Expressway would suffer untold hardship following the closure of Wharf Road.
Only PPMC can ease Apapa gridlock, says NUPENG
The union told Vanguard that there was nothing it could do to arrest the influx of tanker drivers from the Northern part of the country to Lagos, especially Apapa where only few tank farms had fuel to dispense to tanker drivers across the country.
Speaking on the gridlock often caused by petrol tankers and other articulated vehicles on Apapa-Oshodi Dual Carriage Way, Lagos Zonal Chairman of NUPENG, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, claimed that only the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, PPMC, could ease the influx of tanker drivers from the North and other parts of the country into Lagos by opening its System 2B for products loading.
According to Korodo who oversees NUPENG activities in the South West and Ilorin, Kwara State, if the PPMC could open the System 2B, tank drivers outside Lagos would have no more reason to come to Lagos. He said: “The pipeline is all right, we do not know why they are not using it to pump products to Mosimi, Ejigbo, Apata in Ibadan, Oyo State, Ore in Ogun State and Ilorin in Kwara State. When this is done, tanker drivers from other parts of the country, especially the Northern part of the country will have no reason to come to Lagos. They will instead go to these depots.
“As at today, only few tank farms have products that tanker drivers from other parts of the country are scrambling for. The influx of tankers from the North to Lagos is massive and there is little or nothing we can do about it. We cannot stop them from coming to Lagos. Most of the tankers you see on that road are not Lagos based. If you evacuate them from that area, there will be fuel scarcity. In fact, as it is today, we cannot even guarantee that there will be no scarcity. We are only trying to manage the situation. We raised this issue when we met with the Minister of Power, Works and Housing.
“He said we should exercise patience and bear with the Federal Government. So, we can only do our best to ensure that we distribute products to Nigerians. But we cannot stop the tankers from coming to Lagos. Only the PPMC can decongest Apapa by opening its system 2 B. You should also realise that there are other articulated and heavy-duty trucks also plying the road and we have no control over them”, Korodo noted.
OPS kicks against total shutdown of roads to ports, proffers solution
In its reaction, the Organised Private Sector, OPS, which applauded the Federal Government’s response to fix the access road to the Lagos ports, warned that total shutdown of the road for one year will cripple the economy. The OPS chieftains, MAN President, Dr. Frank Udemba Jacobs, and Muda Yusuf, Director General , Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, said the poor state of the roads requires urgent reconstruction and called on the government to create alternative routes for traffic diversion instead of total shut down for 12 months.
Said Dr Jacobs: “It is my hope that they must create alternative route; we need the road to be rebuilt because of its poor conditions; the kind of road they want to build is welcomed, it is good for the economy and manufacturing; we can’t dictate to them how long the reconstruction should last but we feel that the shorter the duration, the better for all stakeholders.
“Instead of total shut down for 12 months, government should consider these two options: One, divert ship or cargo to other ports throughout the duration of the construction , and Two, close one side of the road for six months and when you finish it, open it and start work on the other lane,” he said.
Corroborating this, Muday Yusuf , added “LCCI, commends moves by the government to reconstruct the road. The ports account for about 70 per cent of the total revenue generation from import duties in the country. The pace of cargo evacuation is being affected by the state of the roads. This in turn results in high demurrage charges, high rental costs by the terminal operators and high cost of freight. However they should create alternate routes so that there won’t be complete shutdown of businesses to and from the ports.
“They (government) can’t afford to shutdown the ports; it is not practical, the shock on the economy will be much,” he said.
According to him, LCCI wants government to create alternative routes and even direct use of rail to drag out containers outside the ports to where they are needed. We should avoid a total shutdown of the port; it will cripple the entire economy,” he warned.