Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Monday storms Lagos Ports for on the spot assessment to ascertain the cause of gridlock in preparation to taking over traffic management of the ports from the Presidential Taskforce Team.
There have been misleading news reportage circulating in the media that Sanwo-Olu was disbanding the PTT, oblivious to the fact that the PTT was a Federal Government creation, and so, could not be disbanded by the State Government. Except on ad-hoc arrangements, the law empowers Governors to ensure smooth flow of traffic in their States.
Speaking at the end of the fact-finding visit at the Tin Can Island Port Trucks Park, Governor Sanwo-Olu said though he came to ascertain the reason for the incessant congestion in the port area, he was satisfied that there was genuine and commendable improvement on ground.
He admonished the truck drivers to always use the approved Parks, stressing that those who stayed within the Parks would be treated as ‘law-abiding’; while those who park on the roads and bridges, when the State Government fully takes over, would be seen as lawbreakers.
The State Governor said though he would put in place a special team to takeover traffic management in the area, he would nonetheless, convene a stakeholders’ meeting, involving representatives of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), haulage transport unions and port operators, among others.
According to him, the meeting would be to sustain the gains the PTT had recorded in terms of entrenching sanity, and to work out means of solving whatever was left of the residual traffic gridlock in Apapa, in order to guarantee an enviably, more efficient, port operations in the public overall interest.
He decried the level of indiscipline among port players and promised to tackle head-on, the menace of extortionist tendencies leveled against security personnel in the Apapa environs.
“This is not the first time, certainly not the second and in fact this is about the third or the fourth time in my government, that we are trying to see how we can bring an enduring solution to the Apapa gridlock.
“On all of the times we have come, we knew that we are having a road construction, but you can see now that inside Apapa, there is significant progress. A lot of roads have been done.
Sanwo-Olu added that there had been accusations over a cabal collecting money from operators and there were also counter-accusations.
“You are aware that since last year the Presidential Task Force had been working. Now, there is a process that is starting, in which the state government needs to take over that task force.
“One of the reasons for this trip is to start that process, to see things for myself.
“The state government is to set up a seamless operation to have a team of LASTMA about 400 to 500, dedicated to Apapa gridlock.
“To also have a team of policemen from Area B dedicated to the same gridlock. I understand what the airport police command is doing, because they are also part of the problem,” he said.
An industry watcher who spoke on the Governor’s visit, lauded Sanwo-Olu, even as he remarked that the problem of gridlock in Apapa was manmade, fueled by a cabal, which daily benefitted from the bottlenecks.
He highlighted the existence of a cabal, well funded and organised enough, to have media men, on their beckons, buttressing his view with evidence of story syndication in the industry.
“Sometimes, you may read same story, line by line, paragraph by paragraph in three or four newspapers. You don’t need rocket science to know it emanated from one source, even if not paid for!
“Sometimes, while the cost of cargo movement is sliding, few newspapers would run stories that haulage was hiked. Few days after, it would indeed, start climbing up!”, he explained further, speaking on conditions of anonymity.
“We have an organised Cabal here. And sometimes they parley and work in tandem with some Government agencies operatives to achieve their objectives”, he stated further, calling attention to how they quickly seized the confusion that followed the EndSars protest and its attendant lawlessness to take out trucks thoroughfare, via unregulated barging and Stripping along Port Access roads, without sparing even the sacred precinct of the Ports.
“We have a well organised Cabal and whoever is seriously planning to entrench sanity should be well informed about this!”, he concluded, affirming that the Shippers Council must be presently battling some of them too, in the Council’s determination to force down cost of doing business in the Lagos ports.