Apapa gridlock and the economic implications

By Nchekwube Nwabunnia

Nigeria will witness another round of hike in the prices of commodities, especially imported items, in the days ahead. This time, the price increase, is not as a result of the sliding value of the national currency, the Naira against the American Dollar, from which the country is yet to recover. The hike will rather be as a result of Federal Government’s failure to see the need to declare Apapa Road Rehabilitation a national emergency.
Aside crude oil, the next major source of revenue for the federal government is from import duties. 85 percent of the import duties, incidentally, accrue from Lagos Ports, given that other Ports in the country, are under various levels of underutilization, or totally abandoned, in some instances. But the revenue accruing from the Lagos Ports, may soon witness a drastic drop if not complete halt, if the government keeps paying lip service to the challenge of inaccessibility to or from the Ports.
At present, it takes at least one month for any truck to make a Round Trip in and out of any Lagos Ports. By Round Trip, I mean accessing any of the ports from any part of Lagos, picking a container, taking it to any location within Lagos and returning the empty container to the port or any of the Bonded Terminals. The situation has in fact, become so bad that currently, an average truck spends lesser time going to Onitsha or Kano than transporting goods within Lagos. This may sound unreal but it is the true situation of things in the maritime sector. This is no thanks to the poor state of the roads leading to and out of the Ports.
Consequently, a Lagos local delivery which would ordinarily take a day or two, depending on time of loading and exit from the ports, now takes one month or more. The impact of the situation on the importers and prices of goods, in the long run, can better be imagined.
But the immediate result of the poor state of the road and obvious insincerity of government in tackling the ugly situation, is the huge loss to government revenue profile, aside crippling other business activities.
For example, haulage owners who had borne the brunt for too long, have resorted to raising their fares, if only to accommodate the losses they incur on account of the weeks and months their trucks are on queue. In the process, the cost of delivering goods from the Ports to any destination in Lagos, has jumped from less than N100,000 to N600,000 - a cost that is ultimately borne by the final consumer, in this case the already starving poor masses.
These queues are, indeed, not funny. In a typical day, they stretch as far as from Apapa to sometime beyond Cele Bus Stop along Oshodi - Apapa Expressway; Apapa to Barracks Bus Stop along Badagry Expressway. The other axis of the State, from Apapa through Ojuelegba, is not better. In similar vein, both ends of Old Ojo Road have literally been turned to Truck Park. Amuwo-Odofin section of the FESTAC Town, is not left out of the menace. Such is the situation with other roads leading in and out of Apapa and environs.
On account of the frustrating situation or acting out their innate disorderly tendencies, some container-laden truck drivers resort to forming multiple queues instead of maintaining one, thereby blocking the entire road. This has caused immense hardship to motorists plying the affected roads for work, business or social visit. Many people have had to sleep in their cars overnight, while others are known to have abandoned their vehicles on the road after spending several hours.
In the midst of the uncertain situation, petty criminals have been on the prowl, attacking the stranded motorists and dispossessing them of their belongings in the absence of security personnel on the affected roads.
Sadly, while the confusion lasts, not even the Lagos State Government, nor the Federal Government, has put up measures at assuring Nigerians of any end to the situation being in sight. Some months ago, in what seemed a response to the travail of the road users on the Oshodi – Apapa Expressway, the Vice President, Yomi Osinbajo and Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, had paid a visit to the Apapa Ports for on-the-spot assessment of the situation. A Task Force was immediately set up to create a corridor for other motorists. The measure however did not last beyond two weeks for the road to get choked again. Nothing concrete has been done ever since.
Faced with this daily frustrating experience, one is forced to ask; “Where is leadership in Lagos? Have both the Lagos and Federal Government lost idea on how to salvage this situation? How much longer will Nigerians bear this brunt”? The questions become germane, given that Lagos is an APC state and we have an APC government at the centre.

.Nwabunnia, Maritime analyst, wrote from Lagos, Nigeria

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