Between the two gateway ports
Seaports and airports are undoubtedly major gateways to any nation. The duo access points however play critical role in the developmental goals of economies across the world.
A seaport is a location on a coast or shore containing one or more harbours where ships can dock and transfer people or cargo to or from land, while an airport is an aerodrome with facilities for flights to take off and land to transfer people or cargo.
While the duo serves similar purposes in transporting people or cargo, the seaports should however be given priority attention in terms of infrastructure development, maintenance and upgrading.
The ‘magical’ fixing of about 3.6 kilometre Abuja runway at a cost of N5.8 billion within six weeks and on schedule has proved that certain things are possible in Nigeria, save for political intrigues.
Visiting Abuja on April 19th when the runway was officially opened amid scepticism until the 120-passenger plane touched ground on the newly rehabilitated runway with ease and smooth taxi, before many of the passengers could see the reality and possibility in commitment and political will. It was possible.
But the story is different for the sister port - the Apapa seaport, as operators and importers that visit the ports find it difficult to believe that the same government that fixed the runway is finding it difficult to fix the access road to the seaports. They travel amid high risks on terrible and deadly port access roads for the past 10 years without respite.
Promises upon promises have yielded no results. In fact, it is becoming seemingly “impossible”, even as the dilapidated roads have claimed hundreds of lives over the years.
Apart from the dangers these roads pose to human lives, the economic implications are enormous, with attendant negative effects on trade and commerce. Importers and exporters find it difficult to carry their containers in and out of Apapa. More often than not, many of these containers fall, destroying their contents and resulting in huge financial loses.
A clearing agent, Alex Osifo, accused the political leaders of insensitivity, noting that seaports are neglected because the “people in position of authority fail to quantify the benefits of seaports to national economy. They only care more about things that affect them directly. Because they don’t come to the Apapa route and it does not affect their movement, so nobody cares, but they have forgotten that this is the facility that provides for the huge expenditure in the budget which covers the entire nation.”
The Secretary-General and Chief Executive Officer, of the Apapa-based BSN, Dare Ajiboye, said the appalling state of these roads does not project a good image for the country. “Foreigners who come into the country through the ports will not see these roads and give us the respect we deserve as a nation.
“The Apapa Customs Command realised over N229.9 billion in 2016, while the Tin Can Island Command generates a daily revenue of N1 billion since the beginning of March this year. It is expected therefore that the access roads in and out of such places where huge income is generated for the government should not be in the horrible and terrible state that they are at the moment,” he said.
Also worried about the poor state of the roads, residents of Apapa are inviting Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, to pay an unscheduled visit to sea ports, in the same manner he did to the Lagos Airport recently.
A resident, Okechukwu Ifeanyi, said the Vice President should come to Apapa ports with the Minister of Transportation, Minister for Works and other members of his cabinet to see the reality on ground.
He said such an unscheduled visit would reveal many things including the lapses of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and lack of scanners; indiscriminate parking on roads by truck and tanker drivers; and the level of investment by the terminal operators.
The Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, said: “The roads leading to the Apapa ports have collapsed and Lagosians and other port users expect Fashola, as a former governor of the state to bring the issue to the front burner at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting. But there is no evidence that he has done that because the roads have become worse than before his appointment. And this was the man that kept telling former President Goodluck Jonathan to solve the problem when he was the governor. But now that he is the minister in charge of the road, why is he not addressing the issue?”
Shittu added that, “In Apapa alone, there are about 60 petroleum tank farms for the storage of petroleum products, which account for 90 per cent of the total imported products into the country. All these, as well as other maritime-related businesses like freight, clearing and forwarding easily make Apapa a hub of maritime activities.”
Also commenting, the Chairman, Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Musa Mohammed, said that more than 400 trucks have left the Apapa and Tincan ports in Lagos, in the past one year due to the dilapidated access roads which are yet to receive government’s attention.