The traumatic traffic situation on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway, a key commercial axis in Lagos, in the last few weeks seems an indication that the authorities are yet to find concrete answers to the menace the nest of oil tankers have constituted in the said area. Apparently emboldened by the fuel scarcity now biting commuters hard nationwide, tanker drivers and their trucks have subjected users of the road and businesses in Apapa to untold misery with traffic gridlock. Reports said those plying the road, particularly workers in companies along the affected portions of the road, are compelled to pass nights in their offices. Many of those who could not bear staying back join the gridlock and risk being attacked by hoodlums who line the road.
One report last week said the Lagos State government and the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) leadership agreed to create a special taskforce to manage traffic in the area. But the PTD blamed the chaotic presence of the tankers in the axis on the refusal of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the country’s major importer of petroleum products, to build a loading park for their trucks; the concentration of depots in Apapa; as well as the bad road under reconstruction by Julius Berger Nigeria PLC. There is, in addition, the problem at the Tin Can Port’s 1st Gate and Coconut, where container trucks line up because they are denied access to the port. Comrade Tayo Aboyeji, the Public Relations Officer of PTD, South- West Zone, said the new taskforce would ease traffic flow in the interim. Aboyeji said when the road reconstruction started, Julius Berger blocked the main express road, thus consigning the tanker drivers and other motorists and road users to only the service lane. Meanwhile, the NNPC was said to be currently involved in the massive movement of petroleum products to different parts of the country, all with fuel tankers.
Special cognizance should, however, be taken of the PTD leadership’s complain that the Lagos tanker garage at Orile Iganmu is over-filled. Half of the portion of land has reportedly been taken over by the authorities for rail line construction, and the remaining left for fuel tanker drivers is not enough. The park at Capital Oil at First Rainbow area is also said to be filled-up. But the PTD leaders say there exists a large portion of land that can contain at least 1,000 tankers at Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, which is very close to Apapa. The PTD said it had been appealing to NNPC authorities to construct a big parking lot on the said land, all to no avail. So far, the Lagos State government has invested lots of resources, time and policies trying to contain tanker drivers’ menace in Apapa and other parts of the state. With the crisis still lingering, and with little guarantee that even the repair of the bad portions of the Apapa-Oshodi highway would sufficiently ease the gridlock, why is the NNPC foot-dragging in considering putting up a park for the trucks in Amuwo Odofin as recommended by the PTD, to assist the Lagos State Government and the Lagos motoring public? Is the NNPC lacking the funds to carry out the all-important project? We do not think so. Even if it comes to that, the mere plugging of some channels through which public funds are wasted by the largely despised oil behemoth should ease out funds for such projects.
Indeed, with the railway still unable to transport petroleum products across the country, and the NNPC not able to properly maintain and monitor oil pipelines through which the products can be transported to far-flung states, the corporation’s seeming lack of interest in assisting to find a lasting solution to tanker drivers’ menace in Lagos, whether as a social responsibility or a business imperative, is condemnable. The reckless conduct of oil tanker drivers on parts of the Oshodi-Apapa route; the harrowing experience motorists and commuters face on the road on daily basis; and the field day hoodlums are having in the axis as a result, must not be taken by the authorities as having come to stay. Our thinking is that if the Federal Government and its Lagos State counterpart, the NNPC and the PTD, work closely and are determined to address the problem, the lawlessness and embarrassing experience would be a thing of the past.