Gradually and unabatedly misery is becoming an integral part of the Nigerian society. In fact, we have institutionalised chaos and normalised suffering. And it does not matter if the suffering has the potential of cutting short human lives or possesses the capacity to adversely affect the economy. We claim to love one another and Nigeria, yet we love to hurt ourselves and the nation. We scream aloud, protest, write and even sing yet the more things change the more they remain the same. Who will save us from this hodgepodge of mess that has encircled our nation? Our nation is still developing and should be business friendly yet our disposition and real life suggests otherwise. All an investor needs to do is examine the state of affairs in the leading states and cities in Nigeria. Arguably the most industrialised and urbanised cities in Nigeria are Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano. Yet each of these cities is faced with one major challenge threatening the peace and serenity of the people. It is soot in Port Harcourt but it is the menace of truck drivers and the attendant traffic gridlock in Lagos.
According to a reports, there are over 12,000 trucks scattered in different areas across the city. The trucks are parked on diverse major roads in the state and have restricted other motorists in some instances. The Oshodi-Apapa expressway has been practically on a lockdown since Monday with motorists and commuters fated to excruciating experience on the road. Trucks are parked on both sides of the road with no provision for other commuters thereby creating an unprecedented level of chaos. For commuters who were caught unprepared, they had to resort to trekking long distance to get to their destinations. Criminals are having a field day whilst the security forces have turned the situation to another opportunity to extort fellow Nigerians. The situation has remained the same since Monday with no end in sight. The funny reality is that after the hue and cry the situation will be abated for a few weeks and perhaps months. But in no distance future we will be here again complaining about the same situation. Truckers did not start parking on the Oshodi-Expressway today but while we have kept raising alarms the government turned a deaf ear and now the situation has been compounded by a combination of factors. The helplessness of the state government has been expressed by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, calling on the federal government to intervene. Earlier in the year when there was a similar lockdown, the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmmi Ambode constituted a Joint Security Task Force consisting Police, military, officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA and the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC to arrest the horrendous traffic and attendant chaos in the area. Consequently, the Navy gave an order for all articulated vehicles to vacate the area. For a week, sanity was restored and thereafter the insanity returned.
The current situation is compounded by the suspension of some shipping companies by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for not providing adequate holding bays. In addition to this is the on-going road construction that led to the closure of Wharf Bridge from Apapa to Ijora. Whilst it must be appreciated that there are no sufficient parks for these trucks, it appears truckers are wielding this as a tool to inflict hardship on Nigerians in order to have their way. A recent study has shown that many of these articulated vehicles do not have business in the port. Sometimes many park on the road in anticipation of opportunities – waiting on the next person that will beckon on them for their service. Hence they could park on the road for as many days as possible until they are called for service and when they are not called, they remain on the road. This painful state of affairs calls for an acceleration of the private sector-driven truck transit parks promoted by the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC). With the abundance of truck parks and efficient execution of the call-up system, we can reduce the menace of articulated vehicles on the road and separate the ones that truly have business at the port from truckers that are just loitering around. In the meantime, the federal government should immediately find a solution to the situation to alleviate the suffering of people in the area. This also calls for a review of the impending closure of the Third Mainland Bridge for repairs. The Minister for Transportation recently asked for Nigerians to provide him with feedbacks on the performance of his ministry. There is no other feedback needed. The ministry cannot be rated high when the most excruciating menace in the country, the gridlock in Apapa and its environs has not been permanently dealt with. Please fix this shame!