Four days after the lawlessness drivers and owners of articulated trucks unleashed on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway continued unabated, Lagosians have been urged to brace up for 'Armageddon Reloaded' on the roads next week when the Federal Government go ahead with its advertised plan of closing the Third Mainland Bridge to traffic for three days.
This is because alternative routes to the island beside the Third Mainland Bridge are places that have been converted to parking lots by trucks and tankers, leaving commuters plying the routes stranded in severe gridlock for hours. A bedlam better imagined than experienced is envisaged by the time all the vehicles to the island divert to the routes at Ikorodu Road-Ojuelegba axis.
The Ambode-led government has sympathised with commuters and residents just as it has set up a joint operation involving security agencies and stakeholders in the maritime sector to remove all containerized trucks and tankers parked along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway commencing today, under the 'Operation Restore Sanity On Lagos Roads'.
In a statement yesterday, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, said the state expressed sadness over the difficulties faced by motorists and commuters seeking the use of the Apapa-Oshodi highway and other routes leading to the ports.
It blamed the renewed congestion on the recalcitrance of owners and drivers of tankers and trucks to fully comply with the subsisting directive that restricts their movement within the state and ongoing industrial action by a section of workers at the Apapa ports, which has slowed down the pace of goods clearance as well as the slow pace of repair works on the roads leading to the ports, most of which are federal roads.
Bamigbetan further said the state government would urge the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing to consider shifting the proposed closure dates for the Third Mainland Bridge to a latter date to avoid compounding the situation as Ikorodu Road and adjoining roads will not be adequate to cope if Third Mainland Bridge is shut for repairs at a time that Apapa-Oshodi expressway and others leading in and out of the ports are experiencing an unusual traffic snarl.
The statement by Bamigbetan added that the recent rehabilitation of the truck park at Orile Iganmu, with capacity to take 3,000 trucks shows the commitment of the Akinwunmi Ambode administration to find a lasting solution to the enormous challenge posed by the indiscriminate use of the highways by articulated vehicles.
Another statement from the state government said the 'Operation Restore Sanity On Lagos Roads' will be carried out from the early hours of Friday to Monday by 1,000 policemen, 500 officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), 100 officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), 120 officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), and 250 personnel of the Nigerian Military including Army, Air Force and the Navy.
Speaking after an emergency meeting on the chaos in Apapa axis as a result of the gridlock, the Commissioner of Police, CP Imohimi Edgal, said the decision to set up the operation became imperative owing to the need to restore sanity and prevent complete breakdown of law and order.
He said though the issues, which gave rise to the sorry state of affairs on the federal roads and bridges linking the ports ranges from ports operational problems, activities of tank farms and shipping lines who don't have holding bays in clear contravention to the law, and diversion as a result of ongoing construction, among others, the state government would not fold its arms and allow the sufferings of the people to continue, a development he said necessitated the operation.
He added that all stakeholders unanimously agreed that the operation should commence with immediate effect, while the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other relevant agencies work to fashion out permanent solution to the issues within the ports, which gave rise to the gridlock.
Residents are, however, appealing that the state should follow its directive with action this time around as it is not the first time government would be issuing orders to articulated vehicles' drivers to vacate highways and bridges. This is more so that the traffic snarl continued yesterday with commuters losing economic hours in traffic.
Following the logjam inbound Mile 2 from Oshodi, many vehicles now drive against traffic, which could lead to multiple accidents, as many of the commercial bus drivers are reckless despite driving against traffic on the service lane.
John Adebayo said the state government should stop giving orders if it was not willing to following it with action. "Before now, the state government had ordered that trucks and tankers should move away from the express in Mile 2, but it was not followed up with action. If the state government had penalized those who refused to move their trucks from the road, what is happening now would have been prevented."
Another commuter, Adebimpe Salako, said it is only a place where there is no government that this can continue to happen unabated. "Ironically, we have a government but seems not responsible and responsive because if it is, this will surely not be happening and not to this extent. Look at the stretch of a major road that tankers and trucks are occupying, it is a pity."