By Benjamin Omoike
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has admitted that the challenges being experienced at the Apapa axis of the state is multifaceted.
He equally stated that to find a lasting solution to the problem of gridlock and huge presence of articulated vehicles in the area, all hands must be on deck as all stakeholders must be prepared to contribute their own quota in order to find a lasting solution to the lingering challenges along that corridor.
The governor made this submission on Monday while on an inspection tour of the area. The tour included some members of his cabinet and other key stakeholders in the state.
He said: “This is not the first time, certainly not he second and, infact, this is about the third or the fourth time in my government that we are trying to see how we bring better solution to Appapa gridlock.
“On all of the time we have come, we knew that we were having a road construction, but you can see now that inside Apapa, there is significant progress in this area, particularly on the road construction site. A lot of road has been done.
“Today, even being a public holiday, it is even difficult for us to say that we have achieved 100 per cent traffic free flow into Apapa. And we have all heard all the complaints from the various stakeholders, the unions, freight forwarders, drivers. Everyone has said their own side of the story and you can see that it is multifaceted.
“There has been accusations around cabal colllecting money from operators and accusations around being hijacked by some people and there has also been counter accusation.
“What are we solving at the end of the day? We are trying to bring about a cohesive metrics where all the stakeholders in Apapa understand and appreciate the various roles that everybody needs to play, and let everybody identify and solve it.”
He stressed that since last year, the presidential task force had been working, and that now, there is a process that is starting, in which the State Government needs to take over that task force. He added that one of the reason for the trip is to start that process and to see things for himself.
“The State Government is to set up a seamless operation to have a team of LASTMA about 400 to 500, dedicated to Apapa gridlock, have a team of police men from Area B dedicated to the same gridlock. Understand what the airport police command is doing, because they are also part of the problem.
“More importantly, be able to speak to all the big men in the office, the ship owners, the port terminal operators, freight forwarders, who are not here with the port drivers, who we see that they are the ones carrying the brunt. So, when somebody is supposed to go and deliver a container and he is being charged a demorage, that cannot be a working operation.
“When it takes eight to 10 hours for operations to handover to another team, for that whole eight to 10 hours, the ports are locked, the trucks cannot come in because someone is just trying to take over.
For me, is to be in the heart of it, be inside and understand what the issues are and I have seen it again and will go back to see and plot a template.”
He said some of these issues will be escalated to the IGP, also, conversations with the Minister of Transport should be held and NPA needs to understand what their roles are.
“As a government, we don’t own the Port, but we have a responsibility to our citizens. With this turnaround,
It becomes most expensive turnaround Port that you have around. I am hoping that this trip will give us another opportunity to resolve this issue and identify the roadblocks. I have said to them, give me the evidence of those people that are collecting money from you. That is also important. We are going to make people as scapegoats.
“It is part of ensuring that we reduce the ease of doing business. If the process is not properly handled, businesses are expensive to run, and they will pass on the cost to the customers. It is a process and we will not say that we have all the solutions, but we have seen the process again, and we have seen that we can improve this process and we have identified the stakeholders.
“We need to also go back and see how we can normalise those things and bring about especially these people in the offices and understand that we have a problem here and we have to solve the problem,” Sanwo-Olu said.