Lagos State Government is set to restore traffic sanity in and around Apapa, the hosts of the nation’s prime seaports.
It is to takeover traffic management in the areas from the Presidential Task Force by deploying between 400 and 500 officials of its traffic management authority popularly known as LASTMA..
Also to be a part of the new team will be personal of Area B Police Command in Apapa.
The presidential task force has since last year been battling the perennial traffic gridlock and other problems plaguing Apapa.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said this during a fact-finding visit yesterday to the Apapa Ports to ascertain the reason for the incessant congestion in the port area, in spite of providing a park for the articulated trucks.
He explained that he would meet with the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, over the issues hampering traffic management in the area.
Sanwo-Olu said: “Now, there is a process that is starting in which the state government needs to take over that task force. One of the reasons for this trip is to start that process; to see things for myself.
“The state government is to set up a seamless operation to have a team of LASTMA about 400 to 500 dedicated to Apapa gridlock; have a team of policemen from Area B dedicated to the same gridlock..
“More importantly, be able to speak to all the big men in the office, the ship owners, the port terminal operators, freight forwarders, who are not here with the port drivers, who we see that are the ones carrying the brunt.
“We are trying to bring about comprehensive metrics where all the stakeholders in Apapa will understand and appreciate the various roles that everybody needs to play.
“This is not the first time, certainly not the second, and in fact, this is about the third or the fourth time in my government, that we are trying to see how we can bring an enduring solution to the Apapa gridlock.”
Sanwo-Olu frowned at a situation where the ports are locked down for about eight to 10 hours because somebody is trying to take over from a colleague and owners of goods are made to pay excess demurrage. .
He added: “We have heard all the complaints from the various stakeholders, the unions, freight forwarders and drivers. Everyone has said their own side of the story and we can see that it is multi-faceted.
“There have been accusations around a cabal collecting money from operators and accusations of duties being hijacked by some people. And there have also been counter-accusations”.
Sanwo-Olu said he would also discuss some of the issues affecting traffic flow in Apapa with the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) authorities.. .
He said: “As a government, we don’t own the ports, but we have a responsibility to our citizens. There is a need for a turnaround in Apapa.
“It is part of ensuring that we reduce the ease of doing process if businesses are expensive to run they will pass the cost to the customers.
“It is a process and we will not say that we have all the solutions but we have seen the process, again we have seen that we can improve this process and we have identified the stakeholders.
He added that a stakeholders’ meeting, involving representatives of the NPA, haulage transport unions and port operators, among others would be convened.
According to him, the meeting is to work out means of solving the protracted traffic gridlock in Apapa, as well as having more efficient, effective port operations in the interest of the public.
The governor decried the level of indiscipline among port players and promised to tackle head-on, the menace of extortionist tendencies leveled against security personnel in the Apapa environs.
Sanwo-Old hailed the road construction work going on in Apapa, saying, “it is a significant progress in this area particularly on the road construction site.”
“On all of the times we have come, we knew that we are having a road construction, but you can see now that inside Apapa, there is significant progress. A lot of roads have been done.
“Today even being a public holiday, it is even difficult for us to say that we have achieved a 100 percent traffic free flow into Apapa,´´ he said.