When His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode appointed me the Chairman, Wharf Landing Fees Collecting Authority, I was excited that I have been given another challenge and opportunity to explore another critical sector in the economy of Lagos State. I was happy because I like great challenges but the Apapa situation and the horrible traffic chaos scared me stiff. My friends and associates called to celebrate with me but added a proviso that traffic in Apapa may be a big stumbling block.
I have gone to Apapa to see things for myself. In search for a new office complex for the Authority, I came face to face with trouble in Apapa and Tincan Island Ports. Apapa, the goose that has been laying the golden eggs lies in ruins in the midst of plenty. The two National Mirrors are broken into pieces, mercilessly plundered and ruthlessly pillaged. I lack words to describe these two great Ports, the largest in the country except to add that our past leaders are wicked, irresponsible and totally heartless.
They must have traveled severally to different parts of the world. They must have seen their seaports and the state of art infrastructure available. I have seen the ones in China, US and Singapore. Our leaders have returned to continue the business as usual. After all, to have ears is not to listen, to listen is not to hear, to hear is not to understand, to understand is not to put into practice.
What of the big Managing Directors and CEOs of blue chip companies, the Customs, the Ship owners, the Shippers Council, the Ship owners, the business magnets etc who do business in Apapa and Tincan Island ? For years they have been making trillions at the Nation’s Ports but lack the capacity and capability to look through the windows of their Cars and offices to see the ruins and the devastations around the ports.
Commuters going into Apapa, Lagos now spend between three to four hours in traffic both from the Ijora end and the Mile 2 end
If they cannot collectively repair roads through Corporate Social Responsibility, what stops them from drawing the attention of the Federal Government who takes all the money from the ports? It pains me to no end that people with full dose of western education who should know better turn out to be the problem because they have refused to do what is right.
The pandemic problems we have in Lagos ports remain an indictment to all of us, the political leaders, managers of blue chip companies, business managers etc. If we cannot work hard to develop this country for our young ones and generations yet unborn, let us accept the obvious and painful truth that we have all failed. No wonder the Republican Presidential candidate in the United States, Donald Trump described African leaders as meretricious mediocrity, empty heads and ethical failures.
But how did we get into this dead end in Apapa. Both Apapa and Tincan island ports have only two major ingress and egress – Apapa-Tincan-Mile Two-Oshodi expressway and Apapa-Ijora-Western Avenue axis and nothing more. Despite the growing business in these two major ports, the two roads have remained the same for nearly fifty years.
To demonstrate how wicked, hopeless and helpless our leaders have been, even the two roads have been left to decay for years. Soon the racket called the importation of petroleum products led to the massive building of Tank farms in Apapa. Today all the petrol products trucks head to Apapa and what we see is chaos all the way. The Whites who built Apapa Wharf knew then that only the rail system will be suitable for evacuating the containers leaving the roads free for other users.
The rail system that runs from Apapa to different parts of the country lies in ruins and today trucks moving containers out of Apapa and Tincan Island remain the biggest problem. People have been killed by container laden trucks, vehicles and bridges destroyed. We need to restore the rail system in Apapa as a matter of urgency. We must also have the courage to move the Tank farms away from Apapa. We must make our Refineries to work to stop the importation of petroleum products.
Another biggest problem is the concession of the ports few years back by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to private individuals. These concessionaires soon converted the huge truck parks in Apapa Wharf and Tincan Island to places where empty containers are parked for years. Consequently, the parks which are capable of housing 3000 trucks at any given time have been rendered useless.
Tin Can Island port
Today trucks use highways as parking lots constituting monumental traffic problems and robberies in the metropolis. The roads and volume of trucks that go in and out of Apapa on a daily basis have ruined Apapa GRA. In the course of trying to secure an office space for the Wharf Landing Fees Collecting Authority, I discovered that Apapa has been destroyed and decimated. Residents of Apapa GRA have left in droves. There are so many houses for sale and many to rent but no buyers and even those to rent.
Roads, drainage systems, security, orderliness have been crushed in Apapa beyond imagination. It is that bad. Situations in Apapa should prick the conscience of any responsible and responsive Nigerian. No strangers from other lands came to destroy the peace and serenity of Apapa. Our leaders destroyed Apapa. They took everything in Apapa and left nothing. They plundered, pillaged Apapa and did nothing to add values to Apapa. Estate developers are counting their losses in Apapa. They are the worst losers. When leaders fail to do their job, everybody goes down.
Thank God our own Distinguished Senator Oluremi Tinubu has risen up in the hallowed chamber of the Senate of the Federal Republic to draw our attention to the broken national mirror called Apapa. His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has been intervening and proffering solutions. Thank God president Buhari is on the throne. It is either we build Nigeria or we perish.
Apapa remains a big challenge to all of us. We cannot be taking trillions from Apapa every year without giving anything in return. Federal Government owns Apapa GRA, Apapa wharf and Tincan Island. We want concrete actions now not idle talks.
Revenue from the oil sector is dwindling and it behooves on all our leaders to be pro-active and hyper active now in looking at the alternative sources of Revenue. Our ports in Lagos offer an alternative and may we not joke with this. Restoring the rail system, rebuilding the road networks, creating additional access roads and rehabilitating Apapa GRA is the way to go at least for now. We need to quickly create additional roads to Apapa wharf and Tincan Island no matter the cost to the existing two ways in and out of Apapa. Houses may be demolished to achieve this. We need to look for the funds and do the needful now or never.
Joe Igbokwe, Lagos State