Apapa gridlock: MWUN shelves planned strike

The Federal Government has said repair works on access roads to the seaports in Apapa, Lagos, will be completed in two months while awaiting the execution of the main contracts to cushion the effect of the gridlock on the busy Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.

At a meeting between officials of the federal government and leaders of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) to avert the union’s threat to shut the ports, government officials and the union agreed that a standing committee for the evacuation of tankers from the Apapa-Oshodi expressway would also be set up.

The meeting attended by three Ministers, Inspector General of Police, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and leaders of MWUN was to stop the strike threat by the union over the menace of tankers and other heavy duty trucks on the access roads Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and other ports, among others.

The meeting called by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, was attended by Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umaru, Minister of State for Works, Prince Adedayo Adeyeye, Managing Director of Nigeria Ports Authority, Alhaji Habib Abdulahi, representative of the Inspector General of Police, CSP Olusegun Omojuwa, Force Marine Officer and leaders of the union led by its President-General, Com. Anthony Nted.

Participants at the meeting appreciated “the maturity and understanding shown by the trade union at various times in the pursuit of its members’ welfare”.

Also the concern the trade union has exhibited in the nation’s welfare was equally appreciated. The meeting noted that some of the trailers have been moving out of the area gradually, and the Federal Government is already addressing the issues of concern to the Trade Union by the award of contracts to Julius Berger to do preliminary assessment, palliative measures, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the roads.

In consideration of the demand by MWUN for immediate palliative measures/works while awaiting the execution of the main contracts, the meeting concluded that palliative works will be concluded in 60 days. The meeting also agreed to reconvene in thirty days to re-assess progress made, while a Standing Task Force Committee would be put in place to ensure clearing of tankers and trucks from the port access roads. The Standing Task Force Committee will have MWUN and other relevant stakeholders as members.

The meeting also noted that the issues of relocation of tank farms from Apapa would involve the input of the Minister of Petroleum Resources who was not present or represented at the meeting.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Tuesday, urged Lagos State to build permanent holding bay for trucks and tankers to park, to ease the logjam around the Apapa area of the state.

The government said it was working on plans to relocate tank farms from Apapa. The Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, made the call when he visited the Western Naval Command headquarters, in Apapa.

Obanikoro said the permanent bay would keep the trucks and trailers off the roads and would no longer hinder free flow of traffic.

He also said the 500-truck capacity park being constructed by the Federal Government at Tin Can Island would also serve as a holding bay.

He added that plans were underway by the government to relocate tank farms from Apapa, citing security implications as the reason behind the move.

Obanikoro said, “There are plans and we are also working with all the stakeholders to ensure that the area is kept under check. It is not easy to close all these things overnight but what is important is to call for more vigilance on the part of the operators.

“Let me assure you that all the security agencies in the country are well at alert to what is at stake and everything humanly possible is being done to curtail such misfortune.

“There is a need for the state to have a permanent holding bay for trucks. It is when that is provided that there can be a radio link between the port and the bay, so that whenever the port is ready to have them, a radio message would be passed across to indicate and the affected trucks can go to Apapa.

“We need to do it as quickly as possible. I believe that Lagos State Government will act fast.”

H added, “The park at Tin can Island is still under construction. That is why you did not see trucks there.

“We will do everything possible to complete it in the shortest time possible but have it in mind that that is not a permanent holding bay.”

The Flag Officer Commanding WNC, Rear Admiral Sanmi Alade, said it took the Navy about four days to achieve sanity after the operation to clear the congestion began.

He said, “For now, we are still on the road. The operation is still active and until we call it off, naval personnel will remain on the road.

“We have faced challenges such as logistics, which we are trying to cope with. Getting the stakeholders together to key into the process was also a challenge but most of them have realised the need to work with us on this.”

And the traditional ruler of Ijora, Ojora of Ijora, Oba Abdulfatai Ojora has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that the gridlock in Apapa and its environs is addressed  to discourage  the situation from being exploited.

He also proposed for  a summit of all traditional rulers in Nigeria, adding that the war against Boko Haram insurgents would be won through grassroots efforts. Ojora spoke on Tuesday in Lagos  during the Eid-el-Fitri celebration.

His words: ”The gridlock on the Apapa expressway is a major security risk. The constant traffic on that road could cost us several human lives. How can the Federal Government fail to manage that road which leads to the nation’s major ports where ernomous revenue is generated for the country?

“We are appealing to the Federal Government to come to our aid  before we start loosing lives on that road. The traditional rulers are at the grassroots  and  are the ones that everybody sees. It is wrong when the government plays politics with human lives.

“About eight years ago, my family donated a piece of land to the Lagos State government at Orile for the tankers but the tanker drivers are not using the land. This is surprising. I do not know why that land is not being used. Governor Babatunde Fashola commissioned that land.”

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