The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) on Thursday blamed the Federal and Lagos State governments for the for chaotic traffic situation on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, challenging them to relocate the tank farms in Apapa if it could not manage the traffic situation on the road.
While absorbing members, especially its Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) branch of any blame, NUPENG, through its Lagos Zonal Chairman, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, said only tank farms in Apapa had petroleum products, hence tanker drivers were besieging the area.
He said: “Nobody should blame us for the gridlock or the chaotic traffic situation on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. We are just doing our normal job, which is to lift petroleum products and supply to Nigerians. We did not locate the tank farms in Apapa. In fact, we were never consulted before the siting of tank farms. You will see tanker drivers anywhere you have petroleum products. If you like, locate the tank farms in the forest; once we are aware that there are products there, we will go there, get the products and distribute to Nigerians.
“We are tired of this blame game. If the government cannot manage the traffic situation on the expressway, they should relocate the tank farms. People should ask government why they concentrated the siting of tank farms in Lagos, and Apapa in particular. Why are Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) depots across the country not functioning?
“We are not out to inflict pains on Nigerians. Right now our task force on traffic management is working very hard to ensure free flow of traffic. This thing is not easy. We are dealing with a situation where tanker drivers come from all parts of the country to Lagos to lift fuel. Tankers are not what you park in your car garage and there are no parks for these tankers.”
On why tanker drivers cannot maintain one lane and leave the other to other road users, Korodo said: “If you know the number of trucks that come to Lagos on daily basis, you will be amazed. If we start parking on one lane, it will stretch beyond Ibadan in Oyo State. Sincerely, it is the responsibility of government to provide parking space for these trucks. It is also the responsibility of government to manage the traffic situation. If the government has no solution or alternative, they should relocate the tank farms.”
However, assurance by the former Minister of State for Defense, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, two months ago that plans were underway to relocate tank farms along the expressway as a way of finding a lasting solution to the unending traffic gridlock, may be a mirage after all, as traffic gridlock has returned to the route.
Obanikoro, who was on a tour of the expressway two months ago, had raised an alarm over the security implication of allowing trucks to use the route as a park. Before his visit, the Western Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy launched an operation code-named Gbale— a Yoruba word for ‘sweep,’ where 120 personnel were deployed to the various locations for 24-hour daily operation.
With the deployment of the personnel drawn from the Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS Beecroft and Wey, led by former Beecroft Commanding Officer, Commodore Ovenseri Uwadiae, to the flash points, recalcitrant tanker drivers were moved away from the route.
Their presence witnessed a relief on the route for about three weeks, only for the traffic gricdlock to return— but this time around, worse than it was.
On Tuesday last week, motorists, who were trapped in the gridlock till about 2a.m., were at the mercy of hoodlums who dispossessed them of their cash and other valuables.
The hoodlums do not only operate at night, but also in broad day light. Several motorists have had their windscreens shattered for refusing to wind down their glasses, on sighting the hoodlums.
Inspite of the hue and cry by helpless and defenseless motorists, security operatives seem to pay deaf ears.