Lagos State Government Gives Tanker Drivers 48 Hours To Quit Congested Apapa Road

For the Lagos State Government, there is no going back on its decision to get fuel tankers off its roads and restore traffic sanity. At a stakeholders’ meeting yesterday, it read a riot act to owners of trucks to remove them within 48 hours.
How will you feel, if you have to abandon the house you laboured so hard to build and squat with friends and relations, or to relocate to hotels at the precinct of your home, just to avoid the madness that has taken your neighbourhood hostage with no respite in sight?
Will you be angry, frustrated, depressed, or dejected?
But that is the lot of residents of Apapa, a bustling megalopolis that has been suffering the lot of playing host to the nation’s busiest seaport and a forest of tank farms for the storage of petroleum products.
Those who have reasons to go to the Wharf do so with stress.
The Executive Secretary of Apapa Local Government Area, Mrs. Bolaji Dada, gave a graphic detail of the frustration yesterday. She said residents no longer enjoy the ambience of the scenic seaside for which the Ports metropolis was once noted.
“Not only have these tankers blocked the express road, they have moved even to the inner roads, making life a nightmare for residents. Not only this, the entire environment is now filthy, as the drivers of the trucks have turned the roadside to their homes, urinating and defecating with impunity in the open,” the council chief said.
Mrs. Dada will want the tankers moved. She has allies in the state government and other stakeholders, who believe that is the way to go bring sanity to the axis. But, the only snag is how?
The riot act
Worried by the pains the gridlock has caused for other road users, the Lagos government wielded the big stick yesterday. The trucks must be taken off the roads within the next 48 hours, it insisted.
It read a riot act to the drivers through its Transportation Commissioner Kayode Opeifa, saying it has taken the decision in the best interest of Lagosians. The ultimatum expires tomorrow.
Opeifa told representatives of the unions: “We strongly believe we will not need to enforce but we won’t hesitate to roll out our tow vehicles to enforce compliance. What we want is that Apapa Road, from Coconut Bus Stop must be cleaned up by Sunday and we will not hesitate to do this if your people refused to move.”
According to him, residents of Apapa cannot afford the agony any more.
The commissioner traced the intractable traffic on Apapa-Wharf Road to two sources – petrol tankers that are making commuting nightmarish for other road users from Coconut to Liverpool, where no fewer than 45 tank farms are clustered and trucks heading to the Roll On Roll Off Port (RORO) at Apapa Wharf, most of which have spilled to road arteries in the area – blocking the entrances to the premises of residents.
Opeifa ordered the immediate evacuation of all articulated vehicles out of Ijora Causeway, describing as unfortunate that the illegal parking bay was spilling over to the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos mainland, all through the Ijora fly-over to Apapa.
Accusing the truck drivers of leaving a little room for other road users to manouvre, the commissioner warned that any truck found on the bridge after the expiration of the ultimatum will be confiscated and its owner apprehended for prosecution.
The same verdict was handed down to trucks on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway from Coconut.
He said: “We do not want to see any tanker between 200 to 300 metres away all tank farms at Apapa. Tankers should find their way out of Lagos. For now, they are only welcome when fuel is available.”
Though called at a very short notice, representatives of all the unions involved in the distribution of petroleum products attended the meeting hosted by the Ministry of Transportation.
At yesterday’s meeting were: the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr. Obafemi Olawore; his counterpart in the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPMAN), Mr. Olufemi Adewole; Chairman of Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Chief Ajayi Adebayo and Chairman, Lagos Zone of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Mr Tokunbo Korodo, who doubles as the Lagos State chapter Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
Also at the meeting were: President, Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO); Chairman, National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Chief Stephen Okafor and Chairman, Lagos Chapter of the National Association of Small Scale Investors and Manufacturers Association (NASSIMA), Mr. Olabisi Oluyenumiwo.
Others were representatives of Export Action Group; National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW); Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Lagos Commissioner of Police, who was represented by Mr. A. Adetayo; head of the State’s Special Task Force, Mr. Bayo Sulaimon, a Superintendent of Police; Executive Director of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Mr. Yemi Edu; Lagos State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps Hyginus Omeje and representatives of the tank farm owners.
Lagos’ involvement
Opeifa said though the issues that eventually degenerated into traffic snarl has no connection with his ministry, yet, the government cannot ignore the pains of the lingering fuel scarcity, which is gradually grinding public transportation to a halt.
“We cannot allow the state to be completely choked up before we take any action. We cannot allow the Ikorodu Road to be further clogged than it is already from the Stadium, otherwise, we all will suffer the inactions of the government,” Opeifa said.
According to him, the government is not out to cripple other people’s businesses, yet, it will not fold its hands while the marketers cripple the state’s transportation architecture, noting that MOMAN members have no issue with the government but IPMAN members, who also have a right to be in business, must conduct same with decorum and take their trucks off the roads.
Observing that the state cannot stay without enforcement, Opeifa assured that the government will continue to adopt moral suasion to persuade tanker drivers through their leadership.
He also appealed to the Federal Government and the Finance Minister & Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to resolve the lingering issues relating to outstanding bridging funds to the marketers to pave the way for the resumption of petroleum products’ importation.
He noted that the “false” assurances by the finance minister that the Federal Government has paid the outstanding subsidy to the marketers and assurances by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that it has enough fuel has worsened the situation.
The commissioner noted that the two claims resulted to avoidable panic by independent markerters. He therefore called on the Federal Government not only to pay the backlog of the fuel subsidy but to give bank guarantee to assure further imports to ameliorate the sufferings of the people.
Unresolved N200b
subsidy balance
Faulting the Federal Government on the claims, Olawoore said importers are still being owned up to the tune of N200 billion and expressed concern over the payment claim by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.
Saying that no importer will commit himself to any commodity to which he is not assured of a repayment, he challenged the government to come clean on where they have been storing the products they claimed they have been importing.
Federal Government
“Let them tell us the tank farm in which the commodity was being kept and if it is being transloaded on the high sea, or the vessel is on its way, let them tell us, we have adequate machinery to verify any onshore activity,” Olawoore said.
On the plan to rid the Apapa axis of the thousands of illegally parked trucks, Olawoore said there can never be any respite for as long as tank farms and ports activities go on simultaneously within the same environment.
He therefore called for the relocation of the ports as well as the tank farms from the Apapa vicinity.
His words: “I was a member of the panel chaired by the former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu that looked at the situations of the ports sometime in 2001 and I had a letter by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo directing the relocation of the tank farms from Apapa. Since then, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) had licenced the siting of other tank farms within the location, further compounding the crisis that we are about to ameliorate.”
He observed that globally, ports have always been relocated to avoid a clash with human activities.
“It is not out of place to recommend on the long term that the Federal Government consider the relocation of the Ports from
Apapa. The government needs to look for other green locations to absorb the challenges that human activities are bringing to the ports activities,”he suggested.
Towing the MOMAN position, Adewole said the scarcity of products may persist because there is no fuel to distribute.
He said: “Normally, the tankers ought not to be on the road since there’s no product to lift but because of the confusion generated by the tagging and programming, many of them found themselves on the road and have refused to go on the assumption that the commodity will soon be supplied.”
Truck drivers as victims
Adewole, who spoke of a plan to hold a far-reaching meeting with all depot owners and operators to streamline programming, said that no tanker should be tagged and programmed to load when products are not available.
Also speaking, Korodo lamented that tanker drivers are victims of circumstances in the unfolding scenario, saying they should not be made to carry the can.
The NUPENG chief said most of his members are independent workers, who get paid on the load they ferry from the tank farms.
He said: “Many of them will love to leave the road and return to their families but they dare not because they were called by marketers who have been tagged that they have been programmed to lift fuel and they will not be paid for a work not done.
He assured that his men will continue to bear with the government until the intractable scarcity becomes a thing of the past.
AMATO’s President (Odugbemi) blamed the indiscriminate parking of trucks in the Apapa axis on the reallocation the parcel of land earmarked for parking lot for other purposes by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
He appealed to the Lagos State government to give a human face to its decision to enforce the ultimatum, saying it will be unfair to make the truck owners the unfortunate victims of an institutional failure.
His suggestion that the International Trade Fair Complex be allowed as a temporary parking bay was turned down by the government, which said the accommodation of trailers was never factored into the original design of the complex.
Opeifa said a mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be carried out before such steps can be taken, even as he noted that accepting such will amount to transferring the headache from Apapa to Festac Town, a development he said will worsen traffic on the Badagry Expressway.
He urged AMATO, NATO and other stakeholders to use the Kirikiri Truck and Tanker Park, failing which they risk prosecution.
In his own contribution, Oluyenumiwo said government’s actions may fail if the roads leading to the ports are not expanded and dedicated lanes created for trucks from Mile 2 to the Apapa Ports.
He said: “Our roads are becoming increasingly smaller compared to the volume of the activities going on at the ports and the traffic congestion is becoming intractable due to the sheer auto density.
The Apapa Road network needs a new design to accommodate the present realities and until this is done, we will continue to have the same crisis on our hands.”
The communique
Responding, Opeifa told his audience that a new road design was identified in 2012, but yet to be captured in successive budgets of the Federal Government.
He said: “The Federal Ministry of Works had completed a design to convert the entire Creek Road and if this had been done, much of the congestion being experienced on the road would have been avoided.
“Till now, that project has not been awarded. I am aware that new sea ports have taken off in Lekki and tank farms have been allocated spaces there. In fact, we gathered that the allotted spaces are now oversubscribed by tank farm owners. When this eventually takes off, it will take traffic off the metropolis as tanker drivers can access Sagamu, in Ogun State, without coming into Lagos.
“Another deep sea port is almost completed in Badagry and these will eventually absorb the challenges being experienced in Apapa. We are looking forward to the resuscitation of all our refineries and the take off of new ones. When this comes on stream, there will be less gridlock.
“Soon, our train networks will takeoff. When this happens, we see a reduction in vehicular traffic, especially by the commercial 14-seater buses, as commuters will opt for trairail-based transportation.”
Reading a draft communiqué after its adoption by stakeholders through a voice-vote, Opeifa said: “Stakeholders agreed that the major cause of the present clog of tankers in Apapa is traceable to the non availability of petroleum products to be lifted by the tankers at any of the depots and tank farms in the Apapa metropolis.”


Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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