Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, stunned many on Tuesday as he denied a promise he voluntarily made early this year during the gubernatorial campaign and shortly after he was elected that he would resolve the Apapa gridlock within 60 days of assuming office.
On January 13, during a debate organised by ‘The Platform’ in which he participated as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Sanwo-Olu said he had identified 62 traffic gridlocks across the state, which could be resolved within 60 days.
Also, while speaking during an interactive session with his classmates in the Executive Master of Business Administration Class (1998/2000 set) of the University of Lagos, at Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi on May 18, Sanwo-Olu said, “The Apapa trailer issue; it’s a campaign issue, it’s very serious. I’m going to take it very seriously. I believe that it is something that we are going to solve in the first 60 days of our government. Whatever is going to be required of us, we will take them out.
“There is a lot of politics being played around there. But no, it cannot be the way we’ll continue to live. We cannot continue to give excuses.”
However, the governor has started giving excuses three weeks into his administration. While speaking with journalists at the State House, Abuja on Tuesday, Sanwo-Olu did a volte-face and flatly denied the promise he made publicly to Lagosians.
He said, “Interestingly, some media houses have actually been counting down on me. They said that I mentioned during the campaign train that I was going to clear it in 60 days. I have mentioned it before; what I said was that in 60 days we would review what was done but that does not take the fact that even if people give you dateline, it’s because they want you to do well and they want you to be able to be accountable for those datelines.”
Speaking further, he said, “It’s one of the things I thanked Mr President for. What was done was that the federal government has set up a task force. It’s a multifaceted challenge – there are different stakeholders that are involved in one way or the other – as operators, observers, practitioners and stakeholders in the entire Apapa gridlock and most of them are federal agencies in one form or the other. But it is we the citizens of Lagos state that are bearing the entire burden.
The real construction of the road has started, but it’s not at the stage in which we can feel the full impact of it. That’s on one side. The movement of the tanker drivers has also started. There is Lilypond terminal that has been created with NPA and other terminal operators, which I imagined have started doing what we call the call-up system. What I understand by the call up is that it’s a system that needs to be a bit more electronically driven. I think it’s currently run manually but if we can get a software that can enhance it and enforce it, the call-up system can become something that can hold the tanker drivers accountable. If you’re not called on to come unto the port you are not meant to come.
But beyond that, is to look at the entire value chain – who are the users and who are the operators in that space? So you have the shipping companies, the port terminal operators, the Nigeria Shippers Council, you have the NPA who are the major anchor tenant there. Then you also have all sort of operators – LASTMA who are supposed to be the arm of Lagos State helping hand, the police who are also supposed to help out with security and one or two others. So all of us need to complement each other.
Now I understand that the shipping lines have given an extension for when they need to return the containers. So what we have seen as part of the things that are causing the gridlock beyond the road not being in effective order is that when you give somebody a one week order to take a container and return it within a week and all the containers have to be returned within that same week after which demurrage would start counting, so everybody would want to enter the same narrow road all at the same time. But if they give them a bit more space, meaning that you don’t all need to rush at the same time to return the containers, that is one.
Secondly, it’s also to have what we call holding bays – places where the tankers can park off the road while they are waiting to be called upon. There are so many little places that we have around, so we are cleaning up the place. There is a tanker holding bay that the Federal Ministry of Works has just completed and it has started being used. There is another massive one that Lagos State is also refurbishing towards Iganmu area. So some of these things are things that would be tied up within the next couple of months. But ours is to get a team of LASTMA that are dedicated to Apapa issue – they would resume there, they would work there and we have also complemented with the police to make sure that we have enforcement there.
We also need to talk to the drivers there. They have a union. If you don’t have a need to come to Apapa, you don’t have to come now. So culture has to be instilled, the kind of people that drive these trailers need to be talked to and we need to explain to them also that it’s affecting the quality of life of ordinary citizens that need to commute around that whole area. The memberS of the fourth realm also can help us dimension these problems very well.
Sometime next week I am also having a meeting with the shippers’ council, port operators and the shipping lines just so that we all can be on the same page and understand that we are all in this together and we all must find a permanent solution. Like I did mention two to three weeks when I first went there, it’s for us to also have another port. The Apapa port itself has grown beyond where it is now. That is why Lagos State is speaking with investors to see how we can push either the Lekki Port or the Badagary Port as the long term alternative to the Apapa Port because that would be the long term solution in terms of our growth of development as a nation.”