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By NBF News
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LAGOS - The Lagos State Government has identified various factors  responsible for the usual traffic gridlock experienced by motorists along both sides of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, even as it called for urgent intervention by the Federal Government.

Meanwhile, Lagos Zonal Secretary of PTD, Comrade Adebayo Atanda, claimed that the resurgence of heavy traffic on the ever busy road was compounded by other heavy duty vehicles, including articulated trucks and containers from the ports.

It would be recalled that about two weeks ago, the state government mobilised towing trucks and forcefully removed abandoned vehicles on the axis following the expiration of a 72-hour ultimatum to tanker drivers to vacate the highway. Motorists and residents who heaved a sigh of relief for some days after the exercise, were soon faced with gridlock as heavy traffic returned.

The state Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, while speaking with Vanguard on the chaotic traffic situation on the axis, Monday, enumerated the factors to include: indiscriminate parking by undisciplined tanker drivers, lack of provision of loading bay by tank farms, illegal activities of some oil union members, delays in issuance of loading clearance by management of Nigerian Port Authority, NPA, and Tin-Can Ports as well as on-going Lagos-Badagry and Apapa-Oshodi Expressway road expansion and reconstruction projects.

Stakeholders' forum
The situation, according to Opeifa, made it imperative for the state government to organise an all encompassing stakeholders' forum that will include representatives of the military; Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC; Police, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA; Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA; National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG; Petroleum Tanker Drivers Association, PTDA; officials of the NPA; Federal Ministry of Transportation and officials of the Federal Ministry of Works among others.

While expressing the state government's concern on the chaotic situation and nuisance in the area, Opeifa said: 'Enough is enough.'

Opeifa,  in the wake of the recent explosion of a tanker vehicle at Mile 2 area that claimed three lives and left over 39 vehicles burnt, called on the Federal Government to consider more appropriate ways of distributing petroleum products, saying it was time the issue of security of lives was taken seriously.

Opeifa, specifically called on the Minister of Petroleum Resources to urgently look into the petroleum distribution policy with a view to working out effective and efficient operation which, according to him, had turned Lagos into loading point for other states.

File Photo: Tankers and articulated trucks on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.

He also appealed to the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooporation, NNPC, to stop issuing loading tickets to tanker drivers when adequate preparations had not been made for them to load. This, he said, would reduce indiscriminate parking by tanker drivers on the highway which often was the cause of traffic snarl.

Failure in distribution system
Opeifa added: 'We found out during many of our inspection tours of the area recently, that sometime the NNPC issues more tickets than available. We want to appeal to NNPC also: Don't issue out ticket to come and load in Lagos when you know that there is no adequate fuel in Lagos.

Moreso, why do they (tankers) even have to come to Lagos to load fuel?. The issue is: let the refineries work, we have refineries in this country that are working.

'Why must we come to Lagos from Sokoto, Enugu, Anambra states  when they can make arrangement for them to pick the fuel in Port Harcourt?  So, there is a failure in our petroleum distributive system. So, they need to address that. The essence of the trailer park is for the tanker drivers to rest but they don't patronise the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Trailer Park at Orile.'

Tank farm owners
The commissioner also blamed tank farm owners for the traffic situation, saying many do not have loading bay for tankers and thereby made most of the drivers to park on the highway for days before loading.

He explained that the state government, in its determination to ensure the safety of residents and free flow of traffic, cleared the tankers two weeks ago but the major problem had not been addressed.

The commissioner had led the monitoring team which comprised top government officials in the Ministries of Transportation and The Environment; the Lagos State Task Force; the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA; the Vehicle Inspection Officers VIOs; Park Monitoring Committee and Abandoned and Disused Committee in order to checkmate the excesses of tanker drivers on the axis.

Opeifa assures residents
Opeifa assured residents that the state government, being a responsible and responsive one would ensure that every citizen has access on the axis unhindered.

He added that the enlightenment and enforcement exercise was continuous and that the state government would not relent until tanker drivers complied with traffic rules and regulations and parked on one lane of the service lane.

Opeifa, while calling on the public to take possession of the road, urged them to inform the Ministry of Transportation of any broken down or abandoned tankers and trucks on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.

He added that the ongoing road projects in the area  also contributed to the traffic situation, saying the motorists should follow all traffic directions and should be extremely careful as any recklessness could immediately transform into traffic gridlock at any slightest impact.

Environmental nuisance
Opeifa also frowned at the environmental nuisances caused on Apapa- Oshodi Expressway, such as repairing of vehicles on the roads, excreting in the drainage and on the roads, blocking of the drainage system and selling of servicing oil on the drainage system among others.

He urged the PTDA branch of NUPENG to educate their members and ensure that tanker drivers desist from their unhealthy attitude as this could pose danger to the health conditions of Lagos residents.

However, during an inspection of the area it was learnt that some corrupt officials of NUPENG and NPA collect parking fees from the tanker drivers before allowing them to park on the highway.

A transporter, who simply identified himself as Apostle Moses, who spoke with Vanguard, alleged that the management of the port and the concessionaire extorted money from the tanker drivers as they collect ed up to N2,000 before they were allowed to park on the highway.

He said: 'The AP Moller, the concessionaire, in collaboration with security agents at the port collect up to N2,000 per truck before they allow us to park on the highway. There are two lanes here, the export trucks in one lane and trailers on another lane. The problem here is overwhelming and government should intervene quickly before we go berserk here.'

PTD blames tank farm owners, articulated trucks
He lamented that as of today, those cleared to lift products, from all the parts of the country, would not want to leave the road until they were called in to load.

'It is unfortunate that the issue (traffic) is coming back just few weeks after we tried to solve the problem. We blame the tank farm owners who cleared the tanker drivers to come and lift products, but have no enough products to give the drivers.

'They are now rationing the products. So, the tankers that have been cleared are the ones on the roads. As it is, until they get products, they may not leave the road. But even from the picture in your (Vanguard) cover page today (yesterday), the traffic was not caused by tankers but containers and other heavy duty trucks and articulated vehicles.

'What that means, is that, these heavy duty trucks and containers have compounded the problem. We all know that the same road leads to the nation's major ports.

'However, we believe that when the products are available, the tankers would not have any reason to stay on the road for a long period. It is our belief that now that government through the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, said about 42 importers have been approved to be importing products, the issue would be over as soon as they start importing.

Corroborating Comrade Atanda's claim, a tanker driver who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said tankers on the road were waiting to load products after being cleared to do so.

However,  chairman, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, DAPPMA, Chief Sylverius Okoli, told Vanguard that he was sure the traffic congestion was caused by impatient tanker drivers in desperate attempt to outdo one another.

According to him, every tank farm owner in the country has been directed by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, to provide a proper parking space for petrol tankers to ease traffic on the roads.

'This, however, has been provided but due to the fact that the park is quite far from the depot we continue to experience the menace of tanker drivers on the roads. But I believe the DAPPMA members will come together urgently as you have brought it to my notice, to chart a way out of this chaos caused by tanker drivers.

'We have an emergency response already in place and this has brought some level of respite to the chaos around the Apapa depot. So we are going to activate this emergency response mechanism to nip this particular issue in the bud.

'We are going to call the operators at Ibafo oil depot immediately so we can all put heads together, both DAPPMA, Elsee Shipping who are the owners of the depot as well as the Nigerian Navy as the three bodies are essential to find a solution to this problem.

'I am grateful for your information as I was not aware of this problem and would have detailed information for you by tomorrow because I m going to put a call to all parties involved immediately and the response mechanism would be initiated immediately, ' he assured.