Sunday 28 April 2024

Ending Multi-billion Naira Yearly Loss To Lagos Ports Traffic Gridlock

Over the past few years, port users have lost several billions of naira to traffic gridlock and illegalities on the roads leading to the nation's seaports in Lagos. But sanity has been restored following the recent cleaning of the busy port access roads of refuse, shanties, illegal checkpoints and trucks. 

Before now, the federal government, importers, exporters, clearing agents, and other road users were losing several billions of naira to traffic gridlock, illegal activities on the entry points to the Apapa and Tin-Can Island seaports- Apapa-Ijora and Apapa-Oshodi expressway every year. The gridlock and illegal activities defied all known solutions as truck drivers spent a minimum of two weeks before they could access the Ports, thereby, making importers accrue daily surcharges on their cargoes. Aside from storage and demurrage surcharges incurred by importers, the gridlock also increased cargo dwell time and vessel turnaround time.

During the crisis period, Nigerian ports became uncompetitive among their contemporaries in West and Central Africa as importers were diverting cargoes destined for Nigerian seaports to neighbouring countries due to the port inefficiency, a development that became a source of concern to the federal government. To solve the traffic challenge, the federal government through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), rallied the private sector – Dangote and Flour Mills- to firstly, reconstruct the Ijora-Apapa expressway.

The port road rehabilitation cost N4.3 billion out of which the NPA provided N1.8 billion while Dangote Group and Flour Mills provided N2.5 billion to get the road motorable and the premier port accessible to trucks. The effort included the introduction of an E-call-up system to enhance port efficiency and wrestle lost cargo from neighbouring countries.

Oshodi-Apapa Expressway Filth

After making the Ijora-Apapa expressway motorable and the evacuation of cargoes out of Apapa port seamless, the NPA in collaboration with the Lagos State Government (LASG) turned their focus to the Oshodi-Apapa expressway where they cleared the ever-busy road of shanties, illegal checkpoints and trucks. Apapa-Oshodi Expressway is a major artery into Tin-Can Island Ports in Lagos. The road also leads to several oil and gas tank farms, which explains the volume of tankers that ply the road daily. But, for over a decade, movement in and out of the two ports through the road was a serious challenge due to the bad state of the road and protracted traffic congestion resulting from the indiscriminate parking of trucks. Also, security personnel, ‘area boys,’ and local government officials mounted several checkpoints and truckers spent an average of N10,000 to N30,000 per trip. The situation was so bad that port users were only able to access the port either on commercial buses that ply one-way or motorcycles popularly known as ‘okada’, which claimed many lives. This also created room for petty traders, security operatives, and other non-state actors to take over the road. In addition, residents, for several years used the expensive road as a dumpsite for refuse as heaps of waste was left on the road unattended.

Cleaning Mile 2 -Tin-Can Axis

The minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, December 2023, held a stakeholders’ engagement, which preceded the setting up of a committee to see to the problem of extortion and illegal checkpoints on the port access roads. The minister promised to eliminate extortions of truck drivers, illegal checkpoints, and unapproved parking of trucks along the port access road within one week. The minister blamed the above-listed illegalities for traffic congestion along the port access roads.

According to Oyetola, the maritime industry is germane to the development of the economy and the goal was to ensure that stakeholders do not lose money due to delays. True to his promise, sanity has returned to the Tin-Can Island Port corridor as the perennial traffic gridlock along Mile 2 and Tin-Can in Lagos disappeared following a recent clearance operation.

It is worth stating that for close to a decade, the Apapa gridlock had been a bone in the neck of federal and state law officers. The persistent gridlock, which hitherto defied all known potent solutions, has now become a thing of the past and the port community is hoping that the effort can be sustained. A recent visit to the road showed free movement of vehicles along the corridor as commercial bus drivers and private motorists now have access to the port without having to drive against traffic.

Also, there seems to be orderliness in the movement of tankers accessing tank farms, thereby eliminating the need to park on the road and deny other road users the right to move freely.

Stakeholders’ Reaction

Industry stakeholders have commended the efforts put into sanitising the Tin-Can- Mile 2 road.

Reacting, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), commended the clearing of the perennial traffic gridlock that hitherto impeded movement in and out of Lagos Ports.

Also, the Customs Area Controller of Tin-Can Island Port Command, Dera Nnadi, commended the Lagos State Government, the Comptroller General of Customs, and the NPA on their collaborative efforts to ensure sanity returned to the port access road.

Since 2017, he said, the corridor was not in use because of the menace of truck drivers leaving their vehicles on the major road. He added that opening this corridor will increase cargo throughput, enhance trade facilitation, and ensure more revenue collection for the government.

A haulage operator, Bala Mohammed said, “The Tin-Can road clearance would further heighten security within the Tin-Can Port, promote free-flow traffic, and enable the Eto call-up system to function effectively for seamless evacuation of cargo and trade facilitation. This tempo should be sustained.’’

He called for the acquisition of acres of land, around Mile 2 axis to serve as a truck marshalling yard for both containerized and tanker trucks to prevent the indiscriminate parking along the Tin-Can Port corridor. He said it would facilitate the integration of tanker trucks into the call-up system where tankers’ movement into their respective depots would be scheduled and batched based on requests from fuel depots in contrast to the present arrangement.


 Leadership Online 

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