Apapa-Oshodi Expressway: The Abandonment Of A Vision
WHEN there are threats to the major source of its revenue, any responsible government would definitely consider a head-long confrontation of such. It is a shame, therefore, that the Nigerian government has instead chosen to neglect the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway in Lagos leading to the two ports which serve as gateways to the nation’s economy. Gridlock occasioned by huge vehicular traffic, lawlessness by tanker drivers, tank farm owners and sundry cases of indiscipline have combined to make doing business in the Apapa area a nightmare. That nothing has been done about this problem is the best advertisement of Nigeria’s leaders’ insensitivity. It is not surprising therefore that the value of property in the area has gone down and business is hardly booming the way it should.
From the two ports, Apapa Ports and Tin Can Island Port, alone, the Nigeria Customs Service is said to generate billions of naira into the coffers of the Federal Government. This is aside from revenue that the state and council governments generate as taxes on companies and industries operating in Apapa. But sadly, the road leading to the area has remained impassable because of persistent gridlock. Goods incur heavy demurrage at the ports because they cannot be moved in good time from the area. Every day, motorists and commuters spend several hours on the road in a bid to get to Apapa. There are cases where those who are tired of being hemmed in by the gridlock simply abandon their journey as was the case of a minister of transport when he abandoned his trip to Apapa after spending several hours in heavy traffic. Indeed the Federal Government’s attitude to the road is illustrative of its attitude to Lagos City, which is the business and economic hub of Nigeria.
It is noteworthy, however, that the late Head of State, Gen. Muritala Muhammed envisaged that Lagos would remain the commercial hub of Nigeria while moving the capital to Abuja. As he said in a national broadcast on February 3, 1976, “Lagos will, in the foreseeable future, remain the nation’s commercial capital and one of its nerve centers… The port facilities and other economic activities in the Lagos area have to be expanded…” The current Federal Government and many before it would seem to have abandoned this vision as they have all neglected Lagos, and, especially its status as the seat of business.
No wonder, rents have now crashed by almost 50 per cent in Apapa as a result of the area’s inaccessibility. The users of the road have become vulnerable to all manner of dangers. Indeed, the road is now a haven of criminals who exploit the gridlock to break into vehicles and steal valuables. Trucks carrying petroleum products from the tank farms near the ports have largely been a nuisance on the road. And the government has not been able to relocate either the tank farms or the trucks, indicating a lack of will on the part of government to find a permanent solution.
Though Apapa port is the biggest in Nigeria, it is not the biggest and busiest in the world. If the biggest ports in the world such as those in China, Singapore, South Korea and The Netherlands can be effectively maintained and managed, why can’t the Nigerian government run the ports and its surroundings without inflicting pain on the citizens? It is even quite disheartening that in this electioneering campaigns no politician, neither the ones running for legislative seats nor those running for executive offices have jarred the conscience of the nation by making the Apapa-Oshodi road crisis an issue.
Indeed, the state government that hosts the Apapa port ought to control it, in which case the Lagos State government would have done more to make Apapa work. But it is being hamstrung by the anomalies of the nation’s lopsided federalism. The residents and businesses in the state suffer while the Federal Government gets the revenue of the ports. How sad! Reducing the pain of the users of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway should be an issue that those in government and those who wish to succeed them at the state and federal levels should give attention now.