Apapa gridlock: The journey from Jos to Lagos lasted 5 days but I’ve spent more than a week just to get to the port, says driver

There seems to be no end in sight to the ongoing nightmare that commuters, drivers and those who ply the Oshodi-Apapa expressway in Lagos have been facing in recent times.

The gridlock worsened in the last one week, leaving many stranded and wasting long productive hours. A journey that should ordinarily take 30 to 40 minutes lasts hours. Heavy duty vehicles which are heading to the tank farms and depot in KiriKiri and the container terminals in the Apapa port are responsible for this.

Gridlock at Cele bus stop

When TheCable visited Apapa on Friday, some of the tanker drivers spoke about their experience  and recommended ways through which the logjam could be resolved. A driver who simply identified himself as Kola blamed the situation on the container drivers.

“The problem we have on ground now is the containers. We have been here for over three days. We have been moving from Oshodi. All the containers are the ones blocking the road. They are the ones causing the problem,” he said.

Kola, tanker driver

“This morning, we were given the opportunity to go to the depot directly, but all of them (container drivers) just blocked us, they said they don’t want us to go at all unless they were given opportunity to.

“We’re not happy at all with the situation on ground. I ate only once yesterday. The only solution is to clear the containers towards the Mile 2 axis of this road.”

Commercial buses driving against traffic due to road block by the trucks

Two container drivers who spoke to TheCable said that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and two major terminal operators– AP Moller and TICT (Tincan Island Container Terminal)— were responsible for the chaos.

“It is not our fault. Some of the containers you see here have spent up to two to three weeks on the road, just to get to the port,” Daniel, one of the drivers said.

“I am coming from Jos, in Plateau state, and I did not spend more than five or six days to get there. Now, on this road alone, I have spent over a week.

“We don’t have good roads on this Tin Can stretch. The problem is worse between Second Gate and Wharf. We even went on strike because of NPA (Nigerian Ports Authority) and the terminal people because they will say there is no space to offload empty containers.

“I have just been sleeping. For six days I’ve just eaten only once.”

Dotun, another container driver, asked the government to open up all the bonded terminals they closed up.

“Now AP Moller and TITC do not receive empty containers, because the loaded containers have taken the whole space,” he said.

“They are the two terminals causing the problem for us. For two weeks I have been here, and there is no work for me.

“There is space inside the bonded terminal—I can take you there to go and see it. Government should mandate TICT and AP Moller to go back into the bonded terminal so we can have access into the ports.

Line up of trucks heading to Apapa

“There is enough space for us there. But every week they receive ship loaded with containers from Maersk line, ZIM, CMA etc with half plot of land. They occupy a whole lane on this road.”

While speaking with the container drivers, officers of the Lagos task force were cracking down on one-way traffic offenders who had resorted to passing the opposite side of the road and parking there, in a bid to escape the gridlock.

According to a witness, as many as 30 commercial bus drivers had been apprehended along 2nd Rainbow bus stop close to Mile 2 since the chaos started. The witness said after conducting arrests, the officials resort to extortion, collecting as much as N25,000 to release the vehicles.

Some of the inner roads with residential apartments in the Mile 2 Amuwo-Odofin axis have also been occupied and blocked by the truck drivers. The Lagos state government on Thursday sought the intervention of the federal government in enforcing the rule that all haulage operators must have designated parks, moving forward.

Kehinde Bamigbetan, commissioner for information and strategy, said President Muhammadu Buhari had assured the state government that the issue would be tackled immediately.

He said the congestion on the affected areas were as a result of the “recalcitrance of owners and drivers of tankers and trucks to fully comply with the subsisting directive that restricts their movement within the state.”

The commissioner also attributed the gridlock to the ongoing industrial action by a section of maritime workers at the Apapa ports.

The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has handed down a 21-day ultimatum to the federal government to clear the road of gridlock and make it motorable.

During an on-the-spot assessment on Friday, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo directed the commencement of a 72-hour joint operation to restore order around Apapa and environs.

Osinbajo directed authorities concerned to restore sanity on the express way, and speed up the decongestion of the port.

“The plan is to within 72 hours take all the necessary and appropriate steps to restore order to the traffic situation and speed up work on the port decongestion,” said Osinbajo who landed at the Tin Can Island park, in a Nigerian Navy chopper.

He was accompanied by Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, and senior naval and police officers.