Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen recently inspected ongoing-works at the site of the proposed trailer park on Oshodi/Apapa Expressway with a promise that the notorious traffic congestion along the Expressway will soon disappear, writes Charles Ajunwa
"The traffic gridlock on Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, especially around the seaport is not only unacceptable, but also injurious to the nation's economy. The contractor must reprioritise and complete the work in phases; ensuring the completion of the trailer park before 31st May under the first phase, so as to remove about 500 trailers from the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and reduce the congestion currently being experienced."
The above words were those of Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen, when he inspected ongoing repair works on Oshodi/Apapa expressway in Lagos State penultimate week.
Onolememen, who was not happy with the level of work so far done at the new 450-capacity trailer park located opposite second gate of Tin Can Port, Lagos, gave the contractor handling the work, Messr. Borini Proto Nigeria Limited, the deadline of 16 weeks to complete it.
The Minister, who assured that timely completion of the trailer park would ease traffic congestion along the busy Expressway said, "we are doing this to bring about transformative social change into the area. That is why the Federal Government recently ordered Julius Berger to resume work on the Cele bus-stop/ Beachland Estate part of the road."
Apart from promising that the trailer park when completed would accommodate trailer and truck drivers to conduct their business in the ports without parking along the Expressway, he implored Nigerians to see road infrastructure as key national asset which he said should not be abused.
Speaking on its ministry's special focus on Lagos, Onolememen said, "Lagos is very strategic to Nigerian economy and because of that, most of the projects that the Federal government is embarking upon today are germane to the smooth running and functioning of our national economy. Our priority is the Oshodi-Apapa expressway which contract was awarded earlier this year. Work had already commenced there and like you rightly noted, the slow pace of work there is due to a number of factors, one of which is the weather condition. The second factor is the poor budgetary allocation to the project in the current year.
"Because of the state of flooding witnessed recently, we have decided to pay a special attention to Lagos because of its strategic position in driving the national economy. I believe that in the days and months ahead, Federal Government is going to come up with a priority list of projects to be quickly executed and I assure you that Oshodi-Apapa expressway is one of them. There are two contracts now on that particular road. One is being handled from the Apapa Ports to Mile 2 by Borini Prono Nigeria and from Mile 2 to Oshodi by Julius Berger Nigeria," the minister said.
During THISDAY visit to the unofficial trailer park in Apapa which stretches from Coconut bridge to Liverpool bridge, trailers and trucks were dangerously parked by their owners along the Apapa/Mile 2 expressway. The trailers virtually occupied every space along the Apapa/Mile 2 expressway. The drivers of the trailers apart from doing repairs on their vehicles in the congested arena which is not habitable for human beings also defecate there when pressed by nature. The unhygienic situation at the park if not well managed can result to possible outbreak of epidemics. Even the lives of the trailer drivers are exposed to danger as there is no adequate security provided in the park.
Reacting to Minister of Works' promise to make the new trailer park available to drivers of heavy duty vehicles after its completion, former chairman of Road Transport Employers' Association of Nigeria Tincan/Apapa/Kirikiri Lagos State chapel, Mr. Sylvester Oresegun Keshinro, said the Minister's promise if realised would help to reduce traffic congestion around the vicinity of the ports located in Apapa.
Keshinro, who is a trustee of the drivers' union in Apapa, said all they are after is for government to provide a good place for the drivers to park their trucks and trailers.
"We whole heartedly welcome the Minister of Works' promise to give us the new trailer park located opposite second gate of Tin Can ports. Even when I was the chairman, we were on it for years. Ours is to get a suitable place to park our trucks.
"What we are saying in this country, is that they don't know the importance of transporters. They count everybody in transport line as less privileged or illiterates which is not so."
Keshinro who confirmed that he's yet to have a full detail of the government plan on the park, said: "They have not informed us but that is what we have been appealing for all these years that they should provide a more conducive place for us to park our trucks. There is no place around here where we can park our vehicle, it's not possible. Now that they have made a u-turn to give us that place, it's a better idea and we love it. It's acceptable to us.
"We are stakeholders in the port and just imagine where we are parking our trucks. We have spent millions of naira here, it was a swampy area. We started sand filling the place with our money. Sometimes ago the Minister of Works and LASTMA impounded our trucks; Over 40 trucks were taken away. We told them that there is no way they can chase us away from here because the port should have a parking space for the trucks which is obtainable all over the world. We appealed to government to give us a place so that we can leave here for anything they want to use it for. We tried to convince them to provide us an alternative but they (government) were adamant in moving us away from here."
Keshiro, who was the chairman of the drivers' union Apapa chapter for over a decade, said they were chased away from the original trailer park in the master plan of the port. "In the former park that is in the master plan of the port, we paid money. Now, if they ask us to pay some token we will be ready to comply. Except they want to have what they spent in that place in a twinkle of an eye which will never be possible because of the economic situation in the country.
"What we are seeing here is grave. We are victims of thieves and all other crimes. For example, thieves enter this place to vandalise our trucks. They will remove batteries and extra tyres. When you don't get what you like then you manage what you see and that is what is happening here. So we are in a terrible place; we are in a place we cannot boast of security at all.
"My appeal to government is that when they finish the new park designated for trailers, they should try and fence the whole area in order to secure the place. If the place is fenced with very thick wall automatically it will be safe because when we were at the one in the master plan of the port it was also well secured security wise.
"The place was taken from us during the privatisation of the port. From Coconut down to first gate are parts of the park but it has been taken up without NPA preparing a place for the trucks before it was taken up. In this country people just do whatever they like, when they were taking away the original park from us they failed to provide an alternative,"Keshiro said.
A driver who simply identified himself as Abdullahi, said they are taking the minister's promise to relocate them to new trailer park with caution. According to him, "this is not the first time they will be promising us heaven and earth, at the end of the day nothing good comes out of their promise to relocate us to a more conducive place. We have become victims of excessive exploitation to the police officers posted to the ports. Now, LASTMA officials have joined in making our lives misery. Government should have the political will to provide us with a trailer park, by so doing they will lessen our burden," he said.
Despite the minister's recent visit to Lagos, the traffic congestion around Tin Can ports in Apapa has persisted. The notorious traffic gridlock apart from forcing companies to close because of daily losses registered, has also brought misery and anguish among commuters plying the Oshodi-Apapa road. The commuters experience nightmare on the road on daily basis before they are able to reach their destinations.