Apapa: Shame of a Nation
Apapa has degenerated into a state of ignominy, with its collapsed roads, streets littered with human faeces and solid waste, and its residents perpetually ensnared in intractable gridlock, writes Gboyega AkinsanmiDepo Olushola, a social critic, works in a reputable publishing firm with head office in Apapa. His work schedule entails that he comes to the office daily except on Saturday only. In an encounter with THISDAY, last week, he said resuming in Apapa daily “is not really a challenge.” First, he has a car, which he said, often saves the pain of waiting at the bus stop for hours before boarding a public vehicle.Aside, Olushola has a taxi driver, who he said, always provides him essential service whenever he does not want to drive. Ordinarily, according to him, working in Apapa is not an issue. Yet, he said going to Apapa daily, either by driving himself or other means, “is not just a burden, but indeed a nightmare,” which compelled him to acquire a 650cc power bike to end his agonising experience.Even after he bought the power bike, Olushola said it was difficult navigating amid trucks and tankers which, on a daily basis, cause obstruction to both human and vehicular traffic in virtually all parts of Apapa. Sometimes, he said, “my bike will get stuck amid articulated vehicles, going forward is a real challenge and returning to the office is not really an option.” Apapa, he said, is a shadow of itself.Olushola’s account is a synopsis of what employees, residents or visitors go through in Apapa daily. Some spend hours to access their homes, offices or their destination. Most times, many are compelled to reschedule appointments due to intractable traffic congestion. In Apapa, apparently, it seems Lagos Road Traffic Law 2012, has been suspended due to the flagrant violation of the law.Distressed roadsCompelled by a sustained reign of disorder in Apapa, last week, THISDAY surveyed Apapa in its entirety. There are two access roads to or from Apapa: one running from Oshodi and the other from Ijora-Marine Bridge axis. Either way, driving to Apapa is deceptive. Commuters always enjoy smooth ride until Pioneer Bus Stop coming from Oshodi or until Marine Bridge coming from Ijora.From Pioneer-Coconut axis, less than one kilometre to Tin Can Island Port Complex and about five kilometres to Lagos Port Complex, commuters are left with two options: either boarding commercial motorcycles at the risk of their lives or walking amid tankers and trucks. Rejecting any of the options simply amounts to losing hours to traffic congestion or cancelling appointment.Coming from Ijora-Marine Bridge axis, the story is not different either. Congestion always starts from Ijora. In public buses, commuters often complain relentlessly. In some cases, they jab at drivers, who are unwilling to break traffic laws. In other cases, commuters would kick off an unplanned debate with one wing blaming the federal government and other wing castigating the Lagos State Government.Walking through the two access roads, findings revealed that Apapa suffered what former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Ade Dosunmu described as a typical case of outright neglect. Going to Oshodi from Liverpool Bridge, motorists, especially those who drive their private cars, now drive one-way because a section of the road has failed.From Tin Can First Gate to Tin Can Second Gate, there is no vehicular path again. That portion of the road is littered with distressed sections and craters here and there. From what THISDAY observed during the survey, articulated vehicles – tankers, trucks and trailers – can only manage to use the road. But saloon cars, even sport utility vehicles (SUVs), can no longer weather its rigours.At Coconut, also, the stretch has failed on both sides. Descending Coconut Bridge from Tin Can Island poses profound challenges. Unlike Ijora-Marine Bridge axis, motorists are left with no option than the deplorable service lane. Sometimes, trucks stuck in the failed sections create intractable gridlock and provide safe environment for traffic robbers to operate almost unchallenged.By all standards, the Ijora-Marine Bridge axis is not better. After descending the bridge, motorists are welcomed with rugged roads with failed sections. Directly opposite Flour Mill Plc, both sides of the road are bad. Whenever it rains, the road becomes impassable for the motorists, then creating gridlock that stall residents from accessing their homes and workers from exiting Apapa.Going into the ports through Airways Road is no option at all. Diverting to Liverpool Road most times offers no respite. Although Creek Road has been repaired, the entire road is littered with human faeces, which gives vent to offensive odour. Drainages on the two access roads are no longer functional, now having grave impacts on Apapa’s inner-city roads the state government constructed.Conflict of interestSocial critics have raised questions on which government has jurisdiction to provide and manage critical infrastructure in Apapa. Most critics, especially residents, have blamed the Lagos State Government for neglecting Apapa. Dosunmu ascribed Apapa’s degradation and gridlock to the neglect of infrastructure, which he believed the state government should construct.He admitted that the two access roads “belong to the federal government.” He, also, admitted that the state government constructed Marine Road within Apapa GRA. Apart from Marine Road, Dosunmu said the state government “has not constructed any other road in Apapa GRA.” He lamented that Apapa GRA “is abandoned. In terms of commerce, Apapa is next to Lagos Island, and it should not be neglected.”Rather than leaving Apapa to the federal government, Dosunmu canvassed a paradigm shift in which the state government would take up the responsibility of providing and managing critical infrastructure in Apapa. He hinged his argument on the Wharf Landing Fee where the state levies all containers exiting Apapa and on the Land Use charges the state collects from all property owners in the state.But the Chairman of Wharf Landing Fee Collecting Authority, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, faulted Dosunmu’s argument on two grounds. First, Igbokwe said two critical roads linking Apapa belonged to the federal government. Contrary to what Dosunmu said, Igbokwe said the issue of failed infrastructure in Apapa “has been there for almost two decades. So, the problem did not start under the current government.”Two, Igbokwe said all inner-city roads in Apapa “are under the jurisdiction of Lagos State.” Good enough, according to him, the state government has been progressively constructing the inner-city roads. Already, he said Marine Road was constructed. He, also, cited Burma Road. Aside, he cited most roads in Apapa Central Business District upgraded under the state’s urban renewal programme.He, therefore, said the federal government “owns most public infrastructure and institutions in Apapa and collects billions of naira annually in revenue. Yet, there is no commensurate development.” He explained the purpose of Wharf Landing Fees, which he said, was created by law of the State House of Assembly. He said the fees “do not belong to the state. But the state collects on behalf of 20 local government areas (LGAs) and 37 local council development areas (LCDAs) in the state.”Globally, according to him, that is the practice. He explained that the state government decided “to enact Lagos State Wharf Landing Fees Law, 2014 to organise the collection of Wharf Landing Fees in the state. Before its enactment, each local government collects the fees from drivers of trucks conveying containers within its territory. The old regime gives rise to the crisis of multiple fee collection, which compelled the state assembly to enable the law and harmonise the fee collection.”So, he said the Wharf Landing Fee was meant for local councils. However, he said the state government “is only coordinating for administrative purpose. The fees are distributed among the local councils. The local councils that are closer to the Wharf collect more from the funds. So, in line with the law that created it, the Wharf Landing Fees are not meant for developing infrastructure in Apapa. There is a purpose for the fees, and the state government sticks to that purpose in line with best practice.”Failed agreementBut issues of jurisdiction should not arise on the management of Apapa, according to the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde. Consequently, he said two access roads to Apapa “are under the jurisdiction of the federal government. These are the two major roads creating gridlock in Apapa. Inner roads are under the state government. We are working on them progressively.”In 2012, however, both federal and state governments agreed to restore sanity to Apapa. The agreement was a product of a Federal/State Technical Committee the Goodluck Jonathan and Babatunde Fashola administrations jointly constituted to unravel the root causes of challenges facing Apapa and work out strategic initiatives that would end Apapa’s diverse challenges.Eventually, the committee came up with some strategies. In its 64-page report, first, the committee recommended that the federal government would solely bear capital expenditure. Also, it recommended that both federal and state governments would share recurrent expenditures 50 per cent each. In all, it wrapped up the cost of Apapa regeneration plan at N11.60 billion. But experts now said the cost would have gone up by 300 per cent due to the foreign exchange crisis.In its financial breakdown, the committee earmarked a whopping sum of N100.45 million to rehabilitate Kirikiri Trailer Park; N114.40 million to re-establish drainages and culverts in Apapa and N6.49 billion to reconstruct roads and Marine Beach service lane. As indicated in the report, all projects would be fully funded and implemented by the federal government.Also, the committee pegged N56.50 million for bioremediation; N1.42 billion for public lighting solution; N2.11 billion for beautification; N97 million for initial cost of clearing; N585.25 million for procurement of monitoring and heavy duty vehicles; N466.91 million for security personnel; N33.24 million for sanitisation of cleared areas and N108.95 million for wire mesh fencing.The technical committee allocated N694.20 million for the erection of fence wall, procurement of heavy duty equipment and other logistics. Of the figure, the state government would pay 25 per cent of N694.20 million. It, also, recommended N38.90 million for monthly sustenance, which it put at N466.91 million for a period of 12 months.However, the implementation report revealed that after Apapa gridlock was unlocked and criminal hideouts removed, the federal government did not show any commitment again. On its part, the state government paid the initial cost of N97 billion, which was used mainly to clear criminal hideouts; dismantle shanties and unlock gridlock in April 2012.Uncertain futureApapa still faces an uncertain future, says Igbokwe. Reasons for Apapa’s uncertain future are not farfetched. Under the 2017 budget, first, different sources said there was no allocation for the Oshodi-Apapa Road in particular. By implication, the portion between Pioneer Bus Stop and Tin Can Second Gate will remain a snare, which can cost lives and truncate businesses.However, an official of the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing disproved the claim of an uncertain future. He said it was not true that there was no budgetary allocation for the Oshodi-Apapa expressway. The official expressed confidence that there was allocation for the project.As the governor of Lagos State, Fashola relentlessly canvassed to secure federal commitment to Apapa. Undoubtedly, Fashola’s effort culminated in the constitution of that technical committee set up to look into Apapa’s challenges. His effort, also, culminated in a 64-page report, which THISDAY learnt, had been presented to the National Economic Council.Now as a minister in charge of Works, Fashola has not addressed the diverse issues arising from Apapa with the same vigour he sought federal commitment to Apapa when he was the state governor. After sustained media reports, however, Fashola visited the broken section of Marine Bridge. Subsequently, the federal government engaged Julius Berger Plc to repair the bridge.But the outcome of THISDAY’s assessment shows that the on-going maintenance of Marine Bridge work will practically amount to nothing without complementary rehabilitation of Wharf Road; reconstruction of Liverpool Road and the overhaul of the Coconut-Tin Can section of the Oshodi-Apapa expressway, which have become symbols of national embarrassment.Likewise, based on our observation, the maintenance will not make much difference without implementing the recommendations of the 64-page report the technical committee produced five years ago. Finally, it will not end the annual loss of N1.825 trillion to gridlock as the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has claimed in its report.