Apapa Ports Roads Turn Dumpsites As Crime, Drugs, Sex Trades Boom Under Traffic

Residents, truck drivers cry out

•Berger auto dealers seek govt’s attention

Steve Agbota

Apapa Port City, Nigeria’s premier port complex and international gateway to its economy is now a stinking heap of refuse and indeed in a state of total decay.

Its loathsome infrastructural degradation, including failed road networks, disused rail lines, abandoned houses and businesses leave those who had seen the exclusive residential areas of the port city which was an exclusive and preferred home for white colonialists due to the harbors and beautiful waterfronts of Apapa GRA years ago, with shock and regrets on how official negligence had ruined the port city.

But today however, in place of its glorious past, crimes of various shades and shapes, including drugs, sexual merchandise and robbery among other illegalities have become the order of the day, following the perennial traffic gridlock that had become a bone in the neck of the federal and state law officers for close to a decade.

Not even the presence of a new Taskforce recently introduced by the Federal Government to monitor and clear the Apapa Gridlock has brought any reliefs to businesses and residents as the situation has gone from bad to worst. Today also, the distraught residents, traders and trailer drivers are turning nearly all access roads leading to Tin Can Island ports complex and Apapa Wharf into refuse dump sites.

But part from the total collapse of the roads and other infrastructures in the city, the whole environment has become so dirty and full of refuse and faeces, enough to cause epidemic and other dangerous diseases according to health experts.

Daily Sun however learnt that the Lagos Waste Management Authority ( LAWMA) which often comes around to pack the refuse no longer gets access to some the roads and streets due to the horrendous gridlock around the ports corridor.

For residents around Apapa especially Olodi Apapa, and the Apapa GRA, these are not the best of times living within what used to be an exclusive residential zone for the upper class.

According to some residents who spoke to Daily Sun, people and businesses are moving out in droves and property prices falling due to low occupancy rates in the area.

Only two weeks ago, a woman in labour died at Akogun Street, Olodi Apapa, due to the husband’s inability to quickly evacuate her to a general hospital for urgent medical attention on account of the traffic gridlock.

Daily Sun learnt that hundreds of businesses around the Apapa corridor have either collapsed or relocated.

Latest estimates have it that 95 per cent SMEs, hospitals, schools and companies have left Apapa with scores of buildings in choice estates now empty and dilapidated as businesses relocate to areas that are more easily accessible.

But as residents and other stakeholders continue to count their losses, truck drivers, auto dealers and traders are also lamenting their ordeals, as sales volume and patronage have continued to drop sharply.

When Daily Sun visited the area on Saturday morning, some truck drivers were bathing on the road, even as some sold and smoked Indian hemp and other psychotropic substances.

According to some of those interviewed, a number of the criminal activities are happening in the full glare of officers of the SARS police who are always moving from one truck to another to harass motorboys and drivers for smoking weeds and collecting money from them.

While narrating their ordeal, Apapa residents, called on the government to halt the indiscriminate dumping of refuse in the area, describing it as a national embarrassment to the country, considering the importance of the ports to the economy.

They lamented that if the dumping of refuse persists for the next one month, there may be an outbreak of epidemic within Apapa area.

According to a resident, Madam Janet Efok,” Apapa has become the dirtiest dirty place in Lagos for now. She said Nigeria has the two most crucial places that attract foreigners and their investments, and these include the Airport and the Sea Port. Look at our airport very clean and neat compared to the two seaports in Lagos. Tell me, what do Government gain if the airport is clean and the seaports look so dirty and unkempt? If I’m not mistaken, I don’t think airport generates what the seaports are generating.”

Also reacting, a businessman, Mr. Salisu Olatunji, who lives at Akogun Street, Olodi Apapa said that living in Apapa since the inception of the gridlock was like being in hell, stressing that many residents and businessmen have already fled Apapa due to bad roads and other environmental challenges.

He lamented: “the premature death of a woman who died in labour due to lack of access roads to get her to the hospital on time hurts. It is a situation that one wants to witness again, because the only access road that link to everywhere around this area is Alhaji Kareem Street which has now been blocked also.

Already, today as we speak, the entire place popularly known before as Olodi Apapa GRA, has now been turned into markets and truck parks of sort.

“We are dying here. The other day a woman was in labour and wanted to deliver. We put her in the car and before we could get her to the general hospital, she has started bleeding inside the car because there was no road and everywhere is blocked. We spent four hours before we get to the hospital on a road that is less than a quarter kilometer.”

He said: “Many people are even fleeing the area. Several buildings are empty as one wants to live here. God forbid, if there is fire incident now, I am sure that no one would escape it. We need government’s intervention because we can’t continue to live this way. Government should at least to come and help us.”

Also lamenting his ordeal, a resident at Alhaji Kareem Akande Street, Chinedu Onuoha, who trades on Lagos Island, said people have been through a lot, with neither the Lagos neither Federal Government doing much to resolve the challenges facing the citizens daily in Olodi Apapa.

He lamented: “My brother, this is the situation we find ourselves here. No road to go out and come in because the trailers coming into the street have blocked everywhere. As you can see, it is not easy. I wish you were living here to witness what we are going through.

We are just here looking up to God. People can’t go out with their cars. Majority of the houses on this street are empty. For instance, look at those buildings, from house number 4 to 6 comprises 8 flats are all empty as every occupants of the building moved out because of this problem.

Meanwhile, some truck drivers who spoke to Daily Sun lamented that the various taskforces set up by the government are frustrating and killing the business of those who dared to remain in the midst of the whole challenges, through the many charges they collected before passing their trucks..

One of the truck drivers who spoke with Daily Sun, Charles Onu cried out: “I was going to Tin Can Island but I have already paid N80, 000 from Jakande in Mile 2 to Berger Cement within 5 days. Tankers are paying N100, 000 to pass through service lane. We on the main road are being abandoned and they are collecting N100, 000 to pass tanker on the service lane.

“The new taskforce who brought ECOMOG from Mile 2 are the one collecting the money.

I have spent five days. They abandoned the normal lane and were collecting money to pass tankers on the service lane. Sometimes, they break our windscreen and beat drivers whenever we challenge them. My brother, mouth cannot describe what we are seeing and facing on this Apapa road traffic. Today, Apapa is the worst ever that we witnessed in our lives. In fact if you see things that are happening on this Apapa road, you will fear.”

A 65 years old truck driver, Ahmed Muhammed, however urged government to intervene and stop the Taskforce from collecting money from the truck drivers before passing them.

He bemoaned: “The money is too much. It is as if we are working for them because at the end of the day, we have nothing to take home. We want government to look for a way the normal lane will be moving from time to time. We are spending money for the Taskforce to pass us but when there is no money again, they will go and abandoned us on the lane.

“I have spent more than five days on the lane. I can’t even go home to see my family. If they ask us for money and the money wasn’t up to what they demanded, they will turn us back to pass another way that lead to nowhere and they will refuse to pass us. For instance, they collected about N20, 000 per container from one spot to another. That is how they are collecting it everyday. We want government to stop them.”

Indeed another very unpleasant experience of users of Apapa roads gridlock is midnight criminality. According to some of the drivers, some hooligans from Apapa are in the habit of using razor blade to cut open their pockets to rob them of their money, phones and other valuable. He lamented that often times the batteries and diesel from their truck tanks are carried and siphoned by the criminal even when security men are on ground.

For their part, auto dealers at Berger Yard Auto Market are also crying for help as their businesses have nosedived in the face of the devilish gridlock. In the last five months no sales have been recorded because the roads are permanently blocked by the trailer drivers.

One of the dealers who works with the Chairman of the market, Mike Emeka Odogwu, said: You can see for yourself the way they blocked everywhere including our entranceways.

The issue is that I don’t know what this government is doing to help the masses. Government just introduced a new tax now. What are they doing with the taxes? What are they doing to the citizens who voted them into power?

“They have crumbled our business in totality. No buyers are coming here again. We just come here, sit down from morning to evening and go home. We live by the grace of God. Look at the situation now, everywhere is just locked down and no movement. And there’s no solution in the nearest future because the road is totally bad and out of shape. There are also no efforts being made to show there is a solution to the problem.”

He said the market leaders have lodged complaints to the government to no avail, adding that it seems government is still not aware that Berger Yard Auto Market feeds more than 15 million Nigerians as people who come from outside to do business and those that own business here are all suffering the same fate.

He said government is leaving what it ought to do for other thing.

He said government just introduced a new value added tax and they came into the market to sensitised people about it. He added, “but have they come to tell us what to do in order to eradicate this menace?”

“We are in jeopardy and our businesses are suffering. My brother, thank God that you are here today. Today is Saturday and if it was like before, every Saturday this place is always booming and you see will buyers coming in. Nobody comes here again despite the fact we are now operating cashless society. People have come here several times, but when they pay and they cannot move out their car out for a complete one day and they retrieved their money and go.”

Another auto dealer, Mr. Uchenna Alex, said for the past five months no dealers can boast of selling up to five cars because of the gridlock.

He said: “We are still wondering why government has allowed this problem to go from bad to worst. When this issue of gridlock started few years ago, I could remember we wrote to both Federal and State governments to look for a way to tackle it. But they gave no ears to our plea.”

No serious government will ever allow its port access roads go bad this way considering the billions of Naira generated from the ports everyday. Apart from that, they should have considered the millions of people feeding from these ports. My brother, this is a national disgrace because our port is a sector that is not only important to us in Nigeria but crucial to our economy.”

He said the intervention of both the state government and the Federal Government in solving the problem of traffic gridlock in Apapa is not yielding meaningful result, but enriching some people in the so called Taskforces.

According to him, if Federal Government and Lagos State Government had taken proactive measures some years back to ensure that the gridlocks within the ports were solved, the access roads would not have become an embarrassment to the nation.

Truck drivers alleged that the contractors given the job of repairing the road is too slow for comfort .

They alleged that, “the contractors are making use of substandard materials on the road, which could lead to its collapse of the road again. Government should investigate the contractor. Government should revoke the contract if the contractor found wanting.

A maritime experts who spoke with Daily Sun on the condition of anonymity said investors are scared and people don’t want to invest in Nigerian maritime domain because of lack of infrastructure.

According to him, apparently, businesses that will ordinarily come calling at Nigerian ports are now calling at the neighbouring ports because of gridlock.

He lamented: “Exporters are losing their contractual agreements to neighbours in Ghana, Togo and Cotonou. Last year alone, exporters lost more than $10 billion. Imagine what that kind of money would do in the economy that is struggling to stabilisee. Our Government has failed us in every aspects of the economy, education, healthcare and infrastructure. This government is a total failure.” He lamented.