By Evelyn Usma, Victor Arjiromanus & Deborah Omojuwa
•Trucks take over Ajegunle
•Reps demand action on Orile-Iganmu Park for tanker drivers
•Setting up task force won’t solve the problem —ACTO
LAGOS—The Presidential Task Force set up by the federal government on Apapa gridlock appears to have abandoned its responsibility to restore sanity in the area, as trucks have again taken over both the expressway and inner streets, making them impassable for other road users.
At Mile 2 on the expressway yesterday, some members of the Task Force were seen even encouraging the truck drivers to park indiscriminately on the highway and its service lanes and this caused serious traffic gridlock, causing commuters to trek to their destinations.
Efforts to reach the Commander of the Task Force, Commodore Okon Eyo, for his comments on the present state of affairs yesterday proved abortive, as he refused to pick calls pulled through his known mobile numbers.
Recall that the Task Force had last week declared its readiness to remove all trucks, particularly those with empty containers off the roads, to designated holding bays.
Commodore Eyo had said that movement of the trucks was expected to have commenced over the weekend but this has not happened since Monday it promised to get empty container trucks off the roads.
But as at yesterday, commercial bus drivers, who drive against traffic, right from Cele bus-stop, to Berger yard inward Apapa, were trapped at Mile Two.
Also recall that the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had ordered the setting up of the Task Force to restore sanity in the area and it was initially effective.
Ajegunle residents lament
Meanwhile, residents of Ajegunle have lamented the untold hardship they go through as a result of total convergence of trucks on their streets.
As at yesterday, the Mile/Two–Orege road, Baale, Mba , streets, Achapo road, to New road, and other adjourning streets in the densely populated area had long queues of trucks, which denied other road users access.
The situation has also affected transport fare as the fare has increased by 50 per cent.
Bemoaning the situation, Chairman, Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government, Mr. Ayoola Fatai, said: “The situation has paralyzed business activities in my area. We have about 1.6 million residents in Ajegunle who cannot go out of their houses, it has affected their business. People are dying in their houses everyday because of these containers and trucks.
“Roads on 14 streets are no longer motorable because of these trucks and tankers. The Federal Government is not coming to our aid, the Lagos state government has abandoned us and the limited resources have exhausted on these containers.”
There were, however, allegations that some youths in the area extort money from truck drivers to allow them pack in the streets.”
Reacting to the allegations, Fatai said: “We are in a state of chaos where life is brutish and short. Nobody is controlling anybody again and right now, we are going to stop the collection with the help of the military.”
As part of effort to stop truck drivers from parking on the streets, Fatai said plans were on to erect barriers on the streets, adding the local government will seek the permission of the Task Force.
Taskforce’ll not solve the problem
However, Chairman of the Amalgamation of Container Truck Owners, Olaleye Thompson, said setting up a taskforce would not bring the anticipated solution to the perennial gridlock caused by trucks in the state, particularly along the Apapa/Oshodi expressway.
Speaking with Vanguard during a stakeholders meeting held at the Officers Mess of the Western Naval Command, Apapa, Thompson said: “Hundreds of taskforce will not solve the situation except necessary actions are taken to address it.
“We have itemized the solution to this gridlock into three. The first solution is to allow our people parley with the taskforce. By so doing, we will tell them where the problem lays, especially the gridlock along Tin-Can Apapa axis.
“For instance, our people are conversant with all the routes leading to Tin-can and can tell the Taskforce where to deploy its men. By doing so, trucks will have to move through inner roads and come out at Coconut. That way, the expressway will be free for other road users.
“The second solution is the need to prioritize some days for each of these trucks.
“The third solution is to open all the gates at the Ports. The Apapa Port has about eight gates while Tin-Can Port has six gates. Out of the six gates at Tin-Can Port, only three are functional.
‘’At the Apapa ports, out of the eight gates, only four are working with others locked up. As you know, free flow of traffic demands an easy flow of exit. If the exit is too narrow, moving out will be difficult.”
Reps demands action on Orile-Iganmu Park for Tanker drivers
Meanwhile, the Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources Downstream, Joseph Akinlaja, said lack of standard parking space in and around Orile-Iganmu, Apapa and Abule-Ado, where majority of private tank farms are located, had resulted to gridlock on Lagos roads creating heavy toll on the health of the road users.
He said this at the 2018 edition of the Lagos State Petroleum Marketers Safety Conference, LSPMSC, held in Lagos.
Akinlaja said: “I said this about 20 years ago when I was still in NUPENG and I am repeating it again that the Orile-Iganmu tanker park that was abandoned is the solution to the traffic gridlock on the Apapa corridor of Lagos and this facility has the capacity to accommodate about 3,000 trucks simultaneously. At present, no depot or tank farm can boast of loading products at their maximum capacity and this has resulted to huge loss to investors on that corridor.
“I laughed the other time when the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo gave the directive for the commencement of a 72-hour joint operation to restore sanity around Apapa and its environs after activities of truck drivers had caused traffic gridlock and made vehicular movement around the axis near impossible because no parking alternative was provided for even up till now.
“Today, the trucks including tankers are back and they will continue to be there. Until stakeholders like government and depot owners, come together and resuscitate that Orile Tanker Park, I don’t see any solution playing out. And if the park must be fixed, it must be in form of social service and not an avenue to make money. If the fees are too much, the tanker drivers might not be able to afford it. For example, if they are chargeed N500, such fee will be used to maintain may be the toilets or to provide security or electricity and other services.
“Most of the roads to these depots are not accessible to tankers because they are in a bad state. So, any truck going through Apapa Marine Bridge road will be struggling with smaller ones and this may result to accident. If our roads are in good condition, many of our trucks would not be damaged on the roads.”