How to end gridlock along Lagos ports corridor- Comrade Eroje
Although several efforts at addressing the perennial gridlock along the Lagos ports corridor seem to have failed, some stakeholders in the maritime industry believe that there are more practical solutions that could solve the problem.
Speaking on the issue in an interview, Comrade Abudu Eroje, the Deputy Secretary –General, Organising of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), said approaches including building a Dry Port in Abeokuta, Ogun State, building a suspended rail line and relocating tank farms from Apapa would address the problem.
First, Eroje commended the Federal Government for rebuilding the railways, but noted that it would be more beneficial to site a dry port close in Abeokuta, which is close to Lagos, considering the number of factories located within the Ogun State.
He said: “The Government has taken a bold step with the rebuilding of the rail line into Apapa Port. But I am not too comfortable with dry port at Ibadan. We should have a dry port along Abeokuta rail line corridor before Ibadan, because we have so many factories within Ogun State, and most importers who are in Lagos and it is easier for them to go there if there is a dry port sited along Abeokuta rail corridor to pick their container to their warehouse.
“Then we can even build a suspended rail like it is in Dubai. This can be done in-between the two carriage way going to Oshodi and coming back, and out of Lagos to evacuate containers and other goods from the Port, because it is not easy to link Apapa and Tin-Can Ports by rail. This will help reduce the Apapa gridlock drastically.
“The dry port in Ibadan can serve those that are moving their goods up north of the country, while the Abeokuta dry port can serve other warehouses, factories within Ogun State and Lagos. It is easy to move from Abeokuta back to Lagos.
“The tank farms along the port corridor, and those close to residence, expose the people to great danger; in fact, it is a “time bomb” and should be relocated. Can you imagine where you have about 500,000 litres of PMS stored in a tank farm and that place experiences fire outbreak of an attack; places like Olodi-Apapa, Ijegun, which is even worse, the casualty and damage would be huge.”
He suggested that “From Ogogoro village to Snake Island, to Badagry, that Island that divides the Atlantic Ocean and the Badagry Creeks where Niger Dock is, can serve the tank farms. Then, within Ijegun or Kirikiri area they can build a trailer park for the tankers.
“But the area has been bought by some wealthy Nigerians and tomorrow you will hear they have built an estate there. However, very large jetties can be developed in such a place and barges can take containers there and trucks would pick them across a mechanised bridge to the area, both liquid bulk and general cargo.”
Eroje lamented that planning had been left out of the structure in spite of the growing population of port users and businesses around the port vicinity, which continues to depress common-user facilities.
Speaking on other factors building up pockets of gridlock within the port city, Eroje suggested that Lagos could partner with neighbouring Ogun State for some land close to Lagos, where all imported used cars and trucks could be taken to, just as is done in Benin Republic, than allow them litter every available space.
He added that: “Lagos State is impounding trucks every day, but that is not the solution. I suggested to the task team that Lagos should provide a land for holding bay. The land they provided in Orile –Iganmu is not developed.
“I even suggested that all the shipping companies should bulk stake their containers in Lilypond and whenever they have shipper’s vessel that will pick their container from there, so trucks will not need to come to Apapa every day. I equally suggested that there should be a call-up committee, which NPA ignored.
“The committee should have comprised terminal operators, those who handle containerised or bulk cargo, NPA, the Committee of Maritime Truck Unions and Associations (COMTUA) and the security agents. So, we can look at the space that a terminal operator has for empty container and with that containers can be called to fill that space.
“But now, NPA just calls in trucks through the ETO call-up system, and when they get to the port they find it difficult to even move from Ijora to the port, and at the same time, the roads are being repaired. And for reason of insecurity, those repairing the roads do not work at night unlike those days when the repairs were even done at night.”
Eroje spoke on the need to revamp other ports; Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar, as well as need to build a coastal rail line to make cargo movement easy via the rail.
He, however, queried government’s choice of not having private investors build and operate the railways, which should have been better than having just government build and manage it.
“But why will government continue to put railway on exclusive list? If it is on concurrent list you will just bring in investors to build and operate a rail line from Lagos to Warri, Onitsha and other places. The whole of Europe is connected by rail,” Eroje said.