While yet to be completed, truck owners have already began using the stretch of the Wharf-Ijora access road to Apapa Port that is yet to be completed. And port users are worried that trucks are putting undue pressure on the road, it might not turn out the expected panacea to the crushing traffic gridlock in the axis.

Rather than stick to the practice of being on one dedicated lane and reserving the other for other road users, trucks now completely occupy the road inward and outward the port.

Daily checks conducted by Business & Maritime West Africa for a week running reveal that rather than bringing succour to port users and commuters who have suffered and are still suffering delays entering or exiting the premier port for years, the road is becoming engrossed in the usual traffic gridlock which necessitated the reconstruction work the Dangote Group embarked upon last year. The gridlock is happening despite the presence of security personnel who line up the stretch ostensibly to control traffic and maintain sanity on the road.

Port users who reacted to this development decried it and said it had to do with greed, willful human error and the inability of some people to appreciate the good works of Dangote Group in the face of federal government’s neglect and total nonchalance to the people’s suffering on this road for many years. They also attributed it to the long closure of the Ijora Bridge even without explanations and the non-commissioning of the Tin can Port and Orile trailer parks.

According to a maritime truck owner and a chieftain of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO) who prefers anonymity because he needed to get clearance from the chairman before talking to the press, “the practice smacks of ingratitude to the Dangote Group and even the government which allowed the company to embark on the project. Nigerians must learn lessons and help themselves for things to work better. Truckers cannot be accusing the government of willful neglect of critical infrastructure while they are not ready to play their own part and do things right when the need arises. What is the big deal in maintaining one lane and creating space so that others can have access to Apapa Port? Do we expect people from Ghana or other better organized areas to lecture us on that?

He remarked that now the road construction is almost completed and awaiting commissioning, plying it should not even be allowed in the first place. But since the authorities have permitted it to be used now, people should be careful and appreciative. He cautioned those who are taking the magnanimity of the authorities for granted and advised that truck drivers replicating the usual traffic gridlock on the reconstructed stretch must have a re-think and accommodate everybody. “It has to do with change of attitude. If all of us agree to do the right thing, we don’t need security people to stand by and whip us before we do the right thing,” he noted. There must be a change of attitude, he insisted.

Christian Anyanwu, a freight forwarder said that as much as Dangote Group deserves commendation for reconstructing the road, this alone cannot be the solution to persistent traffic snarl on the ports access routes. “The ultimate solution lies in the establishment of trailer parks and use of a call-up system for access into the ports. This is the only thing that can take trucks off the road. “He was full of regrets that despite this suggestion coming from many quarters over time, the federal government has refused to look in that direction. “What is happening in higher quarters on this issue is certainly beyond what ordinary Nigerians can imagine”, Anyanwu stated. “How can a government that claims to be serving the people refuse to hearken to the cries of the same people it should be serving?”. He quickly stressed the need to commission the Tin can Port trailer park abandoned for years and forcing truckers to use it. “But then, where is the road for trucks to get to the facility,?” he queried.

With the expiration of a deadline earlier given to occupants of the right-of-way from Apapa Wharf Gate up to the Area ‘B’ Police Station, Messrs Dangote Construction Company, a subsidiary of the Dangote Group, in August 2017, commenced the reconstruction of the dilapidated Lagos Port Complex access road that leads to Ijora. Generally, owners of billboards, service cables, utility pipes and other related services along the corridor affected by the order were urged to dismantle them. A public notice from the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on the vacation of encroachments on the right-of-way were earlier served organizations such ad Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Joint Council of Seaport Truck Operators and the National Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO. Others included the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Flour Mills of Nigeria, FMN, Nigeria Police and the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN.

The project which is part of Dangote Group’s corporate social responsibility had the nod of the federal government. It is expected to put the road in shape and relieve the sufferings of commuters who, for years, have grappled with dilapidated road network and crushing gridlock along the stretch.

Although Dangote site engineers approached for comments on the project declined, there are indications that with about 97 per cent completion level, the road is expected to be commissioned before the end of 2018.