Despite the ultimatum by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State ordering sanity along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, truck drivers and touts yesterday dared the governor to evict them.
It will be recalled that Governor Sanwo-Olu, last Friday, carried out an inspection tour of the axis with an ultimatum to the truckers to vacate the road or face the consequences.
Despite the partial compliance on Monday, the traffic situation worsened as touts returned to the Mile-2 axis unchallenged by the Police and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA.
The truck drivers, who claimed to have settled everyone involved in the traffic management along the route, are daring the Lagos State government to address the problem by tackling the root cause and other contributory factors, adding that truck drivers are human beings too.
We’re suffering untold hardship—Truck drivers
A truck driver, who identified himself simply as Abdullahi, said: “From the look of things, everyone is blaming truck drivers, who are suffering untold hardship on the road while the police, LASTMA, NUPENG officials and area boys, who extort us are left to continue with their exploitations on us on daily basis.”
Abdullahi, therefore, urged the state government to convene a meeting of all the parties involved in the management of the axis with truck drivers to find a lasting solution to the problem.
“I am appealing to the government to meet with all the parties to find a lasting solution, otherwise their current effort is like scratching the surface of the matter,” Abdullahi said.
He noted that most of the officials mentioned are living on the sweat of the truck drivers, who spend days under the sun and rain with harassment from the officials and area boys.
Touts return as Police, LASTMA look on
Some of the drivers, in an interview, spoke on condition of anonymity and disclosed that the road has become their last bus stop as the government has refused to provide them with rightful places to park.
One of the drivers, who looked quite tired, asked our reporter if he thought that they were happy to work under the conditions they found themselves in.
The driver said: “Do you think that we are happy to work under this harsh condition without taking our bath for days and with harassment from area boys, Lagos State Transport Management Agency, LASTMA, Police, and other security agencies?”
He lamented that it had been their wish that the traffic should flow but those in authority have refused to do something about the whole thing.
“Why have they refused to do something about the harassment and extortion by the various security agencies and area boys?” the driver queried.
Pressed by the reporter to say their expectation from the government, the young driver said: “You should ask the Nigeria Ports Authority, LASTMA, Police and area boys why the traffic is not flowing.
“They know why they are making everything difficult for us so that they can make more money daily.”
Lagos summons stakeholders’ meeting
Meanwhile, Lagos State Government has summoned a stakeholders’ meeting with port operators tomorrow to address the lingering gridlock along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, particularly at the Mile-2 axis of the state.
The stakeholders include leaders of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG; Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA; National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW; Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN; Lagos State Transport Management Authority, LASTMA; Nigeria Police, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC; Petroleum Tanker Drivers Association, PTDA; Nigerian Navy and the Army, among others.
The Lagos State government had earlier, reconstituted the Joint Security Task Force established to tackle the Apapa gridlock and other security threats within the axis brought about by the blockade of major roads in the area by tankers and containerized trucks.
The Apapa gridlock, in the past few weeks, had worsened due to the breakdown of the earlier Ccall-up system and operations at the ports.
We won’t tolerate lawlessness—State govt
Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Sola Giwa, said the state government was worried about the development in Mile-2 and Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and would not hesitate to wield the big stick if the unions refuse to let peace reign and comply with the laws of the state.
Giwa said: “Enough is enough. The state government will not tolerate needless lawlessness in the state. As part of efforts to return peace to the area, the Lagos State Government has summoned stakeholders to a meeting on Thursday, September 28, 2023 to restore permanent sanity to the area.
“I can assure you that critical decisions would be made to ensure that normalcy returns and sustained in the area in line with Governor Sanwo-Olu’s directive and commitment to restoring sanity in Apapa.”
There must be total enforcement—Residents
Meanwhile, some residents and stakeholders in the axis have expressed worry over the chaotic traffic on the road, saying there must be total enforcement and monitoring of the policy.
Tosin Mogbadunade said: “I am an entrepreneur and I come to Apapa. I frequent the road. Decades ago, it was a commercial centre but many businesses have packed out, shut down or relocated. My parents moved out of Apapa, Area B axis. There should be transport policies put over there and systems that work like Area B, here.
“If I were the government, I would look for the team that worked here and put them over there (Mile-2). Consult and assign them to formulate policies. Empower them with resources. We can start from Oshodi to create parks where trailers/trucks can go there and not stay on the road.
“Apapa doesn’t exist in isolation. So if we are to enjoy these results in Apapa, we have to extend it to the entire environment.”
Also, the Secretary of Apapa Club, Seyi Akinboboye described the traffic situation in Apapa as a living hell.
Akinboboye said: “To enter Apapa from Carter Bridge into Apapa, it takes you up to four, five hours driving in. It was a nightmare but the task force brought sanity into the whole thing.
“However, we need the local government to come in and fix those bad roads because it creates a bottleneck entering Apapa.
Also, Dambaga Gawuna, a councillor in Apapa Local Government Area, representing Ward B, said: “What we need on this road is coordination and serious monitoring. This means like 6:00 am – 6:00 pm.
“The Lagos State government should use the media to sensitize the people, especially truck owners, and the port users too, that things have changed. There is a need for publicity.”