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‘Why presidential taskforce to clear Apapa of articulated vehicles can’t work’

Following the 72 hours ultimatum handed down on truckers and tanker drivers to vacate all highways in and around the Lagos port city of Apapa, investigations by Business Hilights have revealed that lack of functional Truck Loading Bay within may hobble compliance.
Already, findings have shown that a number of landlord and tenant associations in parts of Lagos State and mainly vulnerable areas have started installing anti-tanker height bars at every entry road to their estates to avoid tankers and other articulated vehicles complying to the ultimatum taking over their streets.
Besides, some of the truckers who spoke with our correspondents said it will be very hard to comply because we don’t know where to park while waiting for cargoes at the seaports.
One of the tanker drivers who parked atop Custain flyover confided in our correspondent that “yes we have heard about the ultimatum, but I don’t think it will work now because the same government that is giving the order has failed to provide us with Truck Loading Bay.
“Look at the truck Bay being constructed in front of Tin Can Island Port since the administration of Goodluck Jonathan, the same government that is chasing us around failed to complete it. “To me and all of us here, we can only move to any place the taskforce will show us or they kill us one-by-one here. We are waiting for them.
The Kebbi State-born tanker driver who pleaded anonymity revealed further that “We are not happy leaving our lives on the highway. We want to leave a good life and not life on the highway, but government has not provided any form of alternative.
“Our empty containers serve as our house. We take our bath there, eat there and also defecate inside polythene and throw it away. This is not a good life, but we don’t have any alternative which should have been a trucking bay. Where is it? It does not exist in Lagos which is a port city upon the ports are the busiest in the country. We are waiting for them to come and kill us one-by-one as I said earlier.
Recall that the Presidency had on Wednesday given two weeks for the immediate dispersal of all articulated vehicles dotting every highway within Apapa and environs plus other parts of Lagos or face sanctions.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity (Office of the Vice President), Laolu Akande, in a statement said the directive follows an emergency meeting convened by President Muhammadu Buhari and chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on the 25th of April, 2019.
Akande recalled that “The meeting proffered lasting solutions to the gridlock around the Lagos Ports, as the traffic congestion has continued to restrict all operations and livelihood in the area.”
He said “At the meeting were key heads and representatives of relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, including the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola; Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu; representative of the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral B.E.E Ibe-Enwo; Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Salaam Taiwo Olufemi; and the Executive Director, Marine and Operations, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Dr. Sokonte Davies, among others.
“Consequently, a Presidential Taskforce, chaired by Vice President Osinbajo was established to restore law and order to the area within two weeks.
“The Taskforce, which will report directly to the President, has included on its Terms of Reference the development of an efficient and effective management plan for the entire port area traffic, including the cargo, fuel distribution and business district traffic; enforcing the permanent removal of all stationary trucks on the highway, and the development of an effective manual truck call-up system, pending the introduction of the electronic truck call-up system. It also includes the implementation of a workable Empty Container Return and Export Container Truck Handling Policy, amongst others.”
Details made available to Business Hilights revealed membership of the taskforce to include Mr. Kayode Opeifa, former Commissioner of Transport in Lagos State, who will serve as the Executive Vice Chairman; a representative of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC); the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC).
Other members include a special unit of the Nigeria Police Force led by a Commissioner of Police, representatives of the Truck Transport Union, the Lagos State Government through the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), and other relevant MDAs.
Already, the Nigerian Navy and all other military formations have also been mandated to withdraw from traffic management duties in and around the Apapa axis, while military and paramilitary checkpoints in front of the ports and environs are to be dismantled ahead of the taskforce operations.
Also drafted into the taskforce included LASTMA as lead traffic management agency, while the NPA is to commence the immediate use of the Lilypond Terminal and Trailer Park A as a truck transit park.
Checks at Lilypond terminal showed that it lacks the capacity to contain up to 20 per cent of trucks and trailers dotting the port access roads not to talk of others on highways.