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 years, an unprecedented gridlock caused by bad roads and proliferation of oil tank farms has created serious challenges for port operations.
It is not as if traffic congestion had not been associated with the port community all along, but it has now become much more accentuated.
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 for petroleum 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 recent times.
Spokesman of the Apapa Area Command, Nigeria Customs Service, Emmanuel Ekpa, said recently that the command’s revenue had 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 for one business or the other have lamented the ordeal of having to park their cars in other parts of Lagos before commuting to Apapa on foot. This, combined with other challenges of living in the city, has made life unbearable for many Lagosians.
In addition to the proliferation of tank farms, the absence of trailer parks and the bad state of the major roads leading into and out of Apapa are key factors responsible for the perennial gridlock.
The economy of Nigeria is bleeding profusely not just because of the declining value of the naira and the crash in the international prices of crude oil but also due to the persistent traffic congestion that has practically brought the nation’s major port community to its knees. This is so because not less than 80% of Nigeria’s trade by volume (and 70% by value) is carried by sea. 75% of Nigeria’s seaborne trade is conducted through Apapa and to allow this important community to be crippled by the menacing gridlock will mean creating more harm to the nation’s economy.
The Honourable Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and his Power, Works and Housing counterpart, Mr. Babatunde Fashola – who is very much familiar with the problem having served as Governor of Lagos State for eight years – must work assiduously together to address this major challenge to port operation.
Urgent measures to take to tackle the gridlock include repair, reconstruction and expansion of the Ijora/Wharf Road and the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway; creation of satellite park(s) for trucks that can hold a minimum of 10,000 trucks per time; and the discontinuation of petroleum products delivery by road.
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