By Gbenga Salau
|Cluster of jetties at Maza-Maza / Mile 2, Lagos|
The issue of gridlock in Apapa area of Lagos has been in the news for almost two decades now. It inflicts pains on residents and those who transact businesses within and around the ports.
And it is not that governments at both federal and state levels have not taken steps in the past one decade to resolve the crisis, but those efforts have not yielded positive fruits of putting an end to the gridlock, especially getting articulated vehicles not to use the access roads as parks and garages.
The concern of each passing government was reflected in why Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on his first working day after he was sworn-in visited Apapa. And he has visited the ports more than twice after then, but no solution yet.
Rather, there is a spillover of the Apapa traffic gridlock to the communities on the flanks of ports town. This is because, as a result of the no easy access to the ports by articulated vehicles, businesses meant to aid quick access to the ports have sprang up. So, barge operations started with barge jetties berthing at Mazamaza and Mile 2 areas among other places within the state. The barge jetties were constructed last year without facilities for parking and holding bay. So, they use streets and roads as parking lots for trucks waiting to come into the jetties. Also, a major section of the state owned jetty, about 70 per cent of the available space, meant for passengers operation has been converted to barge operation.
This means articulated vehicles, that need to access the barge jetties operating at Mazamaza and Mile 2 now flood these two corridors constituting menace for residents and motorists. On many occasions, trucks are carelessly parked on a section of the road, while at other times, the road is completely block for hours.
Also, commercial buses can no longer use the Mile 2 Bus Stop, inward Orile, as the bus stop has been converted to a parking lot by the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) for articulated vehicles heading to the barge jetties, denying commercial buses access to the bus stop. It was gathered that the articulated vehicle drivers pay NURTW officials N3000 per day for every truck parked at the bus stop.
Pathetic response is the narratives of some residents about their ordeal. A resident of Mazamaza, Chichi Okafor said articulated vehicles meant to enter the illegal barge jetties have been blocking access roads and shortcut routes into and out of the community.
“The illegal jetties around causes the trailers to convert any available walk way on both sides of the road to parking lots, therefore causing car owners difficulties to access their environs.
“The illegal barge jetties also causes trailers to use road that are not planned for heavy duty vehicles, thereby resulting in the trucks damaging the roads. As a result, some of these trucks, who still ply the damaged road sometimes fall and destroy goods and property.
“These illegal barge jetties have caused the trailer driver and their motor boys to use any available space as bathroom and toilet, because they often prefer to answer nature’s call not far away from their vehicles.
“The illegal setup have also caused the driver and motor boys to hang around and constitute nuisance in the environments like luring young girls into promiscuity and at times robbing passersby at dark alleys, streets and bus-stops. I feel the local authorities and government should look into the illegal barge jetties and help the residents proffer solutions to the ills of the illegal setup.”
Kelechi Onyekachi said having the barge jetties around his area had been quite distressing. He added that it is due to the operation of the barge jetties that the inner roads within Agboju and Mazamaza are deplorable, which makes driving out of the area very difficult for motorists and residents. “It also leaves room for criminal activities, as residents and non-residents have been robbed, as criminals hide in between the trucks to commit crime.”
Another resident, Seyi Benjamin said residents have been dealing with arrays of trucks that now occupy the already bad roads within the community, making it worse for motorists. He noted that there is need to be sure if the jetties are illegal, because the operators, no doubt, must have paid money to some persons to aid their operation.
“However, we cannot shy away from the fact that government over the years have neglected its responsibilities to the ‘boys on the streets’, hence revenue that should ordinarily goes into government covers end up in private hands. I do not want to consider the jetties as illegal, because those in government have a way of normalising the abnormal in favour of party loyalists.
“They only show concern or interest in regulating the sector when the folks fall out of favour with the government. The same can be said of the traffic management along the Tincan/Apapa ports axis, where the Lagos State government suddenly rises to step up managing traffic on roads in and out of the ports.”
Victoria Okereke is also a resident of Mazamaza and she said the activities at the barge jetties have made life more uncomfortable for her and her family, especially in the area of traffic and insecurity. “It has made streets and adjoining roads deplorable, aside making commuters and motorists prone to accidents sometimes.”
Okereke disclosed that she is often scared of going out at night, because her environment has become unsafe, due to the activities of the barge operators.
Samuel Adesokan said truck drivers and their motor boys regularly deface the area. “It is common to see bath water and excreta on the road and walkways. Most times, they take their bath in the open at late night and very early in the morning before the day breaks.
“Some of the boys take their bath inside the container on their trucks. Also, they pass out their faeces in the open with the Orile-Okoko rail track lane as place designated as toilet or beside the walkway, if there is a bush there.”
Adesokan said on many occasions that he walked through the corridor; he would hold his breath as foul smell oozes out as he walks through the area. “They often litter the area with remains of foods, pet bottles of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, used take away packs and other disused items. Some of the trucks breakdown while heading or parked on the road, waiting to access the jetties and the repair work is done on the road with disused engine oil poured on the road.
“This is aside one of the two columns on the service lane of the Mile 2- Badagry Expressway had been converted to a parking lot, reducing the space for vehicular movement, leading to traffic gridlock on the corridor.”
On his part, Ufomma Iliromah said everything about the area is sickening, not just the barge jetties around Mazamaza. “Is it the roads, trailers turning the area to their route and parking lots? It is frustrating. It is as if there is no government in the whole of Lagos not just Mazamaza with the way things are within the community.”
Sometimes last year, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu ordered that all the recently opened barge jetties should stop operation. The Commissioner for Transport, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, followed it up with another order late last year and in January this year. But the barge companies operating along the Mile 2-Mazamaza Canal have failed to heed the orders. Findings from the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) revealed that the barge jetties had not got approval from LASWA.
When contacted, the Special Adviser on Transport, Oluwatoyin Fayinka, said the jetties’ operators have been given notices to close down, if they were not licensed. He. However, said the order would not affect genuine operators who have been legally registered.
He, nonetheless, said March, 2021 has been fixed for enforcement. He further said the ministry is constantly meeting with critical stakeholders in Apapa.
The PRO of the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development promised to get back, he has not got back more than two weeks after.
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