Now, we can’t sleep again: Lagos residents battle with effects of truck relocation from Apapa port …

Recently, men of the Nigerian Navy forcefully removed articulated vehicles from ports’ access roads and bridges at Apapa, Lagos, to restore sanity to the area. But TOLA ADENUBI reports that what the seaport gained through that action by the Navy has turned out to be woes for residents in other parts of the mega city.

A trip to the Apapa Port, Lagos, in recent times, would have left a visitor who, judging from the chaotic history of the place,  wondering why a bridge as big as that leading to the nation’s busiest ports could not have conveniently accommodated vehicles and other commuters doing business at the ports. In the absence of the riotous sight caused by articulated vehicles, visitors can now appreciate the full expanse of the bridge and its capacity. A few months back, the opposite was the case. The articulated vehicles, which had turned the bridge to their garage, had taken their regular space across the large expanse of the only road to the ports, awaiting their turn to gain access into the ports.

During the siege laid by the articulated vehicles (which led to traffic gridlock on both access roads and bridges that lasted for months), the Ijora Bridge and Wharf Road were no-go areas. Thus it was usually war for commuters and other road users on any typical day. Many businesses on the Apapa Ports road had suffered. Some workers told Sunday Tribune that they had to sleep in their offices sometimes to avoid the stress of plying the road during traffic gridlock that, in some cases, would last for days.

But all that was in the past. The articulated vehicles had been made to disappear. In a commando-styled operation, some personnel of  the Nigerian Navy had struck at the heart of gridlock monster  and ordered the trucks to be moved from the port’s access roads and bridges.

But while the monster of articulated vehicles-induced gridlock had been chased away from the Apapa ports’ roads, Sunday Tribune’s findings revealed it has, unfortunately, resurfaced elsewhere. It has only changed location but still very much inside the mega city.


Ojuelegba besieged

When Sunday Tribune visited Ojuelegba Area of Lagos State, some of the articulated vehicles that had hitherto blocked the Ijora /Apapa Bridge were seen parked along Funso Williams Avenue and Lawanson Road.

For residents of this neighbourhood, it has been hell living with the nightmare. Speaking to Sunday Tribune, some of the residents narrated their tough ordeal during traffic rush hours. According to Mr. Benson Eromosele, “the rush hour in Ojuelegba is now crazy due to the presence of these articulated vehicles on the highway,” he narrated.

“We really don’t know why they were relocated here? If they were a menace to the seaports’ users, why bring them here? Is it because Ojuelegba is not a seaport; meaning they won’t constitute madness here? These days, I no longer look forward to driving home in the evening because I spend hours in the Ojuelegba traffic.”

Mr Eromosele further shared the harrowing experience he and other residents passed through on a daily basis.

“What usually cost me around 30 minutes to 45 minutes stay in traffic along the Funso Williams Avenue now lasts for more than an hour because the articulated vehicles have reduced the space on the tri-carriage road to one lane.

“Ordinarily, the road is supposed to be a three-way expressway, but with the allocation of a lane to the BRT buses along the expressway, we private commuters make do with the remaining two lanes and still are not complaining. But now that the articulated trucks have been relocated from Apapa to Ojuelegba, and they have occupied a lane, leaving road users to jostle for only one lane, it is so terrible, either in the morning or in the evening.

“If government does not have where to relocate these articulated vehicles, why bring them to a residential and very busy area like Ojuelegba? Why not take them away to areas like Ibeju /Lekki where there is large and unoccupied expanse of virgin land?” he queried.


Ajegunle distressed

Apart from Ojuelegba, Ajegunle is also another area that is gradually relapsing into chaos. Road users in Ajegunle are also feeling the heat due to the prevalence of articulated vehicles on the Marine Road, the only link road from Ajegunle towards Ijora, Apapa and Lagos Island. Speaking to Sunday Tribune, a lawyer who resides in Ajegunle, Mr. Dipo Kuku, wondered why Marine Road should be an alternative destination for articulated vehicles moved away from the port.

“Connecting the Marine Bridge towards Lagos Island has become a herculean task since the articulated vehicles were moved to the Marine Road. The whole place is so congested. The roads are narrowed, and the volume of traffic is too much for the available space left by the articulated vehicles. It is terrible driving these days.

“Most times, I am forced to leave my vehicle at home, and take a motorcycle to Ijora before getting a bus to Lagos Island. It is quite pathetic. Maybe the trucks were relocated to the Marine Road because it is not far from the Apapa Port,” he lamented.


Truckers bemoan vandalism

However, debunking claims that its members had been terrorising Lagos residents, owners of articulated vehicles have lamented daily extortion and vandalism of their trucks by street urchins on the streets. Speaking to Sunday Tribune, Chairman of the Association of Maritime Truck Operators (AMATO), Chief Remi Ogungbemi, explained that relocating articulated vehicles to the inner streets of Lagos is not the best solution to the Apapa gridlock issue.

“Relocating trucks from Apapa to streets in Lagos is not the best solution to this whole issue, but as they say, a journey of  hundred miles starts one day. I must commend the security agencies for relocating articulated vehicles from Apapa to other places, but it is not the final solution because they have only succeeded in shifting the Apapa problem to other locations in the state.

“The original places that were constructed to serve as truck parks or terminals are being converted for other uses. Our members are being extorted daily by street urchins. If they refuse their demands, their trucks are vandalised.

“That is why we are clamouring for the establishment of truck transit parks and terminals. We have identified places readily available. The place can accommodate a minimum of one thousand trucks. However, the owner of the place wants outright payment. He is not interested in a lease arrangement. Our members are not safe on the streets of Lagos. Street urchins are vandalising our trucks. They are extorting our members,” the AMATO Chairman lamented.

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Relief in sight

With residents distressed and besieged, the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) has appealed for calm, stating that the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (ABAT) Park at Ijora/Iganmu area, now under constrcution, is a final solution to the indiscriminate parking of articulated vehicles on Lagos roads.

Speaking exclusively to Sunday Tribune, spokesman of LASTMA, Mahmood Abass, lauded the relocation of articulated vehicles away from the Apapa Port. According to him, “Concerning the relocation of the articulated vehicles away from Apapa, we are not relenting in our effort to ensure the trucks are neatly parked somewhere that will not disturb vehicular movement in Lagos.

“My General Manager met with the Commander of the Navy at Beecroft penultimate week, and they both agreed that they will intensify their effort to bring total sanity to Apapa, and that whatever spill-over arises in other areas of Lagos from the trucks relocation exercise, it will also be taken care of.

“That effort will continue until we find a permanent solution, which is the completion of ABAT at Ijora /Iganmu area. We are not relenting in our efforts, so Lagosians should please bear with us,” the LASTMA spokesman explained.

While ABAT trailer park is still a while away from completion, it means the permanent solution to the nightmare being experienced by the new ‘hosts’ of the truck drivers may take a while to abate; this is just as residents of other areas are apprehensive that it may soon be their turn to face the nightmare of the truck drivers.

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