ENDURING CLEANSING APAPA EXPRESSWAY
ONLY those who know little about the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway would applaud the removal of illegally parked tankers and trailers as a solution to the perennial traffic logjam on the road.
While the executors of this 'presidentially-sanctioned port reform', as they dub it, delight in their success, they deceive themselves, as they know it is no solution to the gridlock on the road.
The current road networks around Apapa ports are inadequate for their operations, which would increase if the nation's production increases. More importantly, ports the size of the ones in Apapa have rails and expansive road networks serving them.
The knowledge is not new. More than 30 years ago, the government of Aliyu Usman Shehu Shagari proposed a ring road that would evacuate goods from Apapa ports through the Badagry Expressway to the Badagry-Sokoto Expressway the contract of which it had awarded. It was strengthening the rails too, including a new line from Calabar port through Gombe to Maiduguri. The projects died with that government.
An enduring solution to the menace in Apapa ports and the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway must consider the volume of traffic to the ports. Almost everything we use is imported and more than 80 per cent of the imports are through Apapa ports.
It is sheer waste of resources to invest billions of Naira on the present road and watch it back to ruins in months. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and other major highways that lead in and out of Lagos, are bearing burdens meant for the rails. It takes only months for them to come to ruins after repairs.
The abandonment of the rails is at the centre of the present crisis and there is no solution to it outside the rails. Tankers that lift petroleum products are usurping the role of the rails. They are a disruptive alternative.
Government has to revive the rails. The programme is so important that it should be a key item in government's transformation agenda. The current reduction of matters around rail transportation to media headlines shows poor appreciation of the importance of the rails to the economy.
The challenge of clearing the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway suffers from poor government decisions. If domestic refineries work, fewer tankers would be crowding Lagos to lift petroleum products. If the rails were operating, fewer trailers would jam Lagos roads and other port cities.
In a few weeks, the futility of this exercise would be clear. Trailers and tankers will return to their illegal positions or completely take over the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, where they already maintain an equally disruptive presence.
The fault lies in governments that are satisfied with cosmetic solutions to challenges that are drowning the economy.