End this madness now

Apapa is an area that was specially designated as a port area. It is the location where most of Nigeria’s port activities take place, but in the past few days,anunprecedented gridlock caused by oil tank farms over concentrated there has forced port operations to come to a screeching halt.It is not as if this gridlock has not been there for years, but it is now much more serious than before.

Every day close to 10,000 oil tankers descend on Apapa from different parts of the country to evacuate petroleum products from the about 60 tank farms located there. This is in a place that was not designated forpetroleum distribution, but rather for port activities.

As a result of the consequent gridlock terminal operators, shipping companies, clearing agents, government and indeed the entire maritime industry have suffered heavy losses in the past few days. Spokesman ofthe Apapa Area Command, Nigeria Customs Service, Emmanuel Ekpa, said recently that the command’s revenue for the month of April declined from a monthly collection of between N27 and N30 billion to N20 billion.

According to him, “Until the agents come down to Customs after making their declarations, nothing comes in as revenue for us. The number of declarations has been very low because even if an importer hands over the bill of lading to an agent to clear, with this kind of traffic situation, the agent may refuse to come over. So if he does not make declaration, there is no way we will generate revenue.”

Other parts of Lagos have also been affected, as people going to Apapa forone business or the other have lamented about how they often have to park their cars in other parts of Lagos and then commute to Apapa on foot.This, combined with the current fuel scarcity has made life unbearable for many Lagosians.

It is saddening to note that despite the very visible signs of worsening gridlock and its unpalatable economic consequences, there seems to be a laid back approach by the Nigerian Ports Authority and other government entities who seem to have folded their hands, hoping the issue will magically fade away, rather than tackling the issue with the urgency and decisiveness it requires.

It is the duty of the Nigerian Ports Authority to regulate traffic within the particular radius of the port. If it was doing that all this while the gridlock problem would not have become the monster it is today.

The Nigeria Ports Authority must wake up to its traffic regulation duties within the port area.

As recommended by the Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, the petroleum products meant for the Northern parts of the countryshould be shipped in barges up to the Lokoja and BaroPorts where tankers supplying the Northern zones would then converge and evacuate them.

And the petroleum products meant for the South East and South South should be shipped to Onitsha Port, Warri Port, Port Harcourt Port and others from where tankers for those zones would then evacuate the products.

That would leave only tank farms for South-West-bound products operative in Apapa and greatly decongest the area, providing a breather for more seamless economic activities.

Failure to address the issue of congestion in Apapa may turn what is currently a serious calamity into an economic cataclysm of gargantuan proportions.

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