Stakeholders in Nigeria’s maritime sector have blamed the unending traffic gridlock in Apapa, location of the nation’s busiest ports on the twin evils of over concentration of tank farms in the area and poor state of the port access roads.
The gridlock, which has of recent assumed a more crippling dimension, has now ceased to be just a nuisance to maritime operators and residents, and has become so serious a threat to the nation’s economy, that industry experts estimate is in the billions.
The acting Port Manager of Lagos Ports Complex, Apapa, Abdulraman Lamina in decrying the poor state of Wharf Road, one of the access roads estimated revenue loss by the port due to gridlock to be at 50%.
He said, “Presently, the Wharf Road is unmotorable and it has affected the cargo dwell time at the port. Ships cannot come and our revenue fell by about 50%.
“Vehicles cannot take delivery and those that go into the port cannot come out because of the traffic. That is why we are taking the GM around to see so that he can meet up with management for solutions to these problems.
“All the palliatives we are getting from our customers are no more coming because they have done that in the past and there is no solution to it so that is the situation along the Wharf road Apapa,” he said.
In a similar vein, the Port Manager, Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC), Babatunde Longe also lamented that the gridlock on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway has shut down operations at the port.
“The repair of the road is beyond Tin Can Island Port. We expect government to come to our aid because it has stopped port operations.
“Government should repair the road so that stakeholders that have left can came back to work.”
Mr. Lucky Amiwero, President of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), also speaking on the issue of gridlock has said the concentration of tank farms in Apapa was not in the interest of the maritime industry.
He suggested thatas a solution, the nation should first consider critical actions like building of refineries, rather than remaining import-dependent for petroleum products.
Amiwero urged the ministries of transport, finance, works and petroleum resources to convene a critical meeting where the issues should be addressed in the interest of the nation’s economy.
He blamed the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for not doing its job according to the provisions of the NPA Law, Section 32A, which prescribes that the Authority should regulate traffic within the particular radius of the port.
The bad roads have always caused gridlock in Apapa, but the gridlock has assumed cataclysmic dimensions due to the fact that with petroleum petrol tankers come for loading at the tank farms simultaneously from all over the country.
This has led to unnecessary economic wastage and loss of manhours in the maritime sector. Maritime activities halt because stakeholders have no access to the port. Ship waiting time, cargo dwell time and turnaround time have also been adversely affected. Small and medium maritime organizations are going bankrupt and even large organizations like the Nigeria Customs Service are not left outof the hardship as they depend on the services they render to smaller organizations for revenue. In fact, so serious is the effect on Customs that it has been projected that they will miss their revenue target this year.
For the ordinary Lagosian,who has nothing to dowith Apapa in terms of business location or residence, he is alsonotleft out as the gridlock often necessitates that commuters to Apapa park their vehicles in other areas and then trek to Apapa.
So, what should bedone? The solutions are known to everyone:
- The Federal Ministry of Transport should move the tankfarms away from Apapa, and encourage them toset upin other parts of the country where they would be supplied by barges and rail.
- The Federal Ministry of Works should fix all access roads to the Apapa area, as that area, being the major maritime gateway to the country is of great strategic importance.
- The FederalGovernment should institute a probe to find out how the NPA which by law is incharge of maintaining traffic flow in the access roads to the ports has faltered seriously in doing so.
The issue of gridlock should not be treated with kid-gloves because if left unchecked it can ground not just the maritime sector, but the whole economy, leading to serious socio-economic problems.
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