Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo flying over the Apapa area in July for an aerial assessment of the traffic situation before issuing the presidential directive to clear the roads leading to the port.

Traffic gridlock has intensified two months after Vice President Yemi Osinbajo gave an order to free up access road to the ports in Lagos State. Road users told The Guardian the order didn’t go far because the security and traffic management personnel in charge were inefficient and corrupt. They also noted that the underlying issue – bad roads – has not been fixed.

Hundreds of trucks are still parked indiscriminately along the Oshodi-Apapa highway. The long queue has already reached Second Rainbow bus-stop and there are fears the menace could spill to Cele bus-stop unless urgent action is taken.

Osinbajo had on July 20 visited the area and ordered a 72-hour joint operation by security operatives to clear the gridlock. Less than a week after the directive, the vice president, accompanied by Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, also held a meeting with stakeholders at the Western Naval Command, Apapa, with a view to finding an enduring traffic management formula.

But the president, Nigerian Importers Integrity Association (NIIA), Godwin Onyekachi, described Osinbajo’s efforts as “cosmetic”, stressing that a lasting solution lies in addressing the core problems that led to the gridlock. According to him, “deploying security operatives in their large number was an interim measure guaranteed to fail because the core problem has not been addressed by government yet.

“A major issue is the collapse of the Apapa-Oshodi expressway, which has been neglected for several years by the Federal Government. This road is the major entry and exit points for the ports and other businesses in the Apapa area. The situation on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway forces truckers to use the Apapa-Ijora-Wharf Road, which is very narrow and which has been under construction for more than a year. Traffic on the Apapa-Ijora-Wharf Road has been further compounded.

“This is due to closure of the outbound lane of the Apapa-Ijora Bridge by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. As we speak, the top layers of the bridge have been removed and the job abandoned for more than two months. Consequently, truckers are restricted to the Leventis lane to exit Apapa. This is very narrow and full of potholes.”

Some truck drivers, who expressed their frustration over the gridlock, said if the situation must improve, officials of the Nigerian Navy, who now lead the traffic management effort in Apapa, must do more. The drivers regretted that they still spend several days on the road in an attempt bid to enter or exit Apapa. One of them, Saheed Ahmed, said he spent four days to move from Costain to Marine Bridge, Apapa; a journey of less than 15 minutes under normal circumstances.“I have been on this queue for the past four days, moving from Costain to the end of Marine Bridge (in Apapa). There are other truck drivers who are still stuck in the traffic and have spent close to two weeks. I had to part with some money to get here.”

Another truck driver, Abubakar Sanni, said: “Since yesterday, when I came into Lagos, I have spent not less than N30,000. I was told to turn back from Costain. Then I had to spend another money to reach here (Ijora). All the security operatives asked me to part with some money; else they would turn me back. The traffic moves only for truck drivers who part with money. If you don’t have money, you will remain on a spot.”

The resurgence of the traffic gridlock following the rains has been compounded by the absence, from their duty posts, of security officials assigned to control trucks and other articulated vehicles and ensure orderliness on the dual carriageway. In most cases, they take over all lanes of the dual carriageway at the expense of other road users, who consequently suffer excruciating pains, while trying to navigate to their destinations.

The situation is particularly pathetic when it is raining and at night, as they take advantage of the situation to drive against traffic, which results to confusion on the dual carriageway. Also, hoodlums descend on hapless motorists. The hoodlums take advantage of slow-moving traffic to rob hapless commuters.

The robbers employ various techniques for operations such as breaking side glasses of cars, distracting motorists’ attention to pick phones and other valuable items from their cars. At times, one of them will pretend to be crossing the road only to get the driver to stop and as soon he does, others will swoop on the vehicle to rob.

Meanwhile, a team of researchers at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, has come up with an electronic solution to the perennial traffic gridlock daily encountering by the road users at Apapa. The three-man team comprises Prof. Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe, who is a former vice chancellor of the university; Dr. Ladi Ogunwolu and Dr. Adeyanju Sosimi, all from the Department of System Engineering of the university.

The research work tagged: “A conceptual e-control approach to the Apapa traffic gridlock,” earned the eggheads the first prize award at the just concluded 13th annual research conference and fair organised by the university with about 544 participants from various universities and polytechnics in and outside Nigeria, in attendance.

Speaking about the research, Ibidapo-Obe said the team with Ogunwolu as the leader, was convinced that the research effort would work effectively by bringing the traffic jam in the axis to almost zero if turned into a reality and implemented as specified.According to him, what the truck operators need to do is to first book ahead electronically wherever they are before coming to the transit park where they will get clearance permit to proceed to the loading point and that each stage will depend on the volume of trucks on the queue at a time.

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