Towards ending the perennial traffic gridlock in and around Lagos Ports in Apapa, the Federal Government of Nigeria has been urged to reclaim lands around the ports to expand port infrastructure including port access roads.
Also, the government is also advised to connect the ports with railways and encourage feeder vessels to convey containers along with barges to ease traffic gridlock on port access roads and create a healthy competition to crash transportation costs.
The Registrar of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Academy, Mr. Francis Omotosho gave the advice in a paper at a summit organized by the Maritime Journalists Association of Nigeria (MAJAN) in Lagos during the week. The theme of the summit is “Apapa Perennial Traffic Gridlock: Has it defied all solutions?”
“Time has come for the government to reclaim lands around the ports for expansion of port infrastructure including roads and dedicate road lanes for trucks and tankers,” said Omotosho.
Omotesho stressed that poor cargo delivery systems of terminal operators compounded the problem as many trucks lined up to gain entrance into the ports. He advised them to improve on the cargo delivery systems and acquire efficient cargo handling equipment.
“Terminal operators (concessionaire) must improve their cargo handling equipment and delivery systems to enhance quick turnaround vessels and trucks picking cargo,” said he.
The NAGAFF Academy Registrar called on the federal government to revamp refineries and pipelines for effective distribution of wet cargo mostly petroleum products to relieve reliance on the Lagos ports and urged the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to revoke the licenses given to oil depot owners at Ibafo and possibly relocate the oil depots to elsewhere.
He added that the NPA’s Call-up system must be improved upon for the purpose of monitoring and enforcement with the installation of CCTV in a control room where traffic controllers are stationed for control as against being in the road.
Participants commended MAJAN for taking the bold step in proffering solutions to the monster and concluded that the traffic gridlock is synonymous only to Lagos ports and is man-made because the administrators have failed to manage the port efficiently.
They maintained that the Nigerian ports presently under the grip of the gridlock are not profitable and IT-compliant, noting that the e-Call Up system is not working as expected and that NPA and other managers of the system must go back to the drawing board to perfect it
The participants stressed that the gridlock is not beyond solution if those in the positions of authority in the industry take up responsibilities to tackle the gridlock and be held accountable if the gridlock persists in spite of the solutions/recommendations.
Earlier in his address, Mr. Ray Ugochukwu, President of MAJAN, traced the genesis of the traffic gridlock to poor and hasty implementation of the port reform in 2006 by the federal government as the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not considered which triggered the gridlock.
“Before the port concession, virtually all the trucks were ‘sleeping’ in the port because NPA then had enough space to play around. With the reform, the planners knew that these trucks would be displaced, and adequate provision needed to be made to accommodate their presence in the new dispensation. That was not done. Shipping firms ought to have had their holding bays ready for empty containers before the flag-off of the scheme. This was not considered because the drivers of the scheme had a different thing up their sleeves.
“By January 2006 the displaced vehicles found themselves on the port access roads competing for space. In the face of this, the authorities were still busy granting licenses to private investors to establish tank farms along the already busy port access roads. With the presence of petrol tankers from all over the country queuing up to lift products from the tank farms coupled with their container-laden counterparts, confusion started in Apapa,” said Ugochukwu who thanked the participants for attending the summit.
According to him, the effect of the traffic has resulted in high inflation in the country. “As we speak, no importer or his agent can say with certainty the cost of delivering a consignment to owner’s warehouse because of traffic the hike on a daily basis ranges from over 200 to 400 percent, even as much as over 1,000 percent.”