The Chairman, Association of Maritime Truck Owners, Chief Remi Ogungbemi on Wednesday faulted the various moves by the government to clear the persistent gridlock in the Apapa area of Lagos by issuing executive orders, saying that they are not sufficient.
Speaking with journalists in Lagos, Ogungbemi first blamed the bad roads that had continued to slow down traffic movement for trucks going in and out of the ports.
He confirmed the observation that most of the trucks that were ordered off the roads went into residential areas and caused a lot of problems for residents of surrounding communities like Ajegunle and others.
He said for such order to succeed, there had to be an alternative place prepared for the trucks to go to on leaving the bridges and the roads.
Ogungbemi explained that trucks did not enjoy parking along the roadside or on the bridges.
He said, “It is not to their advantage to park on the roads or on the bridges. They are doing that because the structure of the port operations has been tampered with.
“When the port was built, a dedicated place was also built as a truck park but for reasons best known to the government, they removed all those places and instead utilised q them for other activities.
“I can tell you that in the past, you could not come to Apapa and find a single truck along the road.
“They were using truck parks, but when the volume of goods coming into the country started increasing, I think the government decided to convert the truck parks to places for parking goods.”
The AMATO boss noted that the port could not operate without the trucks and the trucks must come from somewhere, adding that that was why it was necessary to have places where the trucks could park.
“One of the best things that ever happened to the transport sector and the maritime industry in 15 years is the release of Lilypond Terminal to serve as truck transit park,” he said adding that this had gone a long way to remove most of the trucks from the roadside.
In July 2018, the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, ordered a 72-hour joint operation to remove stationary trucks from Apapa and ease the gridlock.
The exercise was successful for as long as it lasted, but after that period, the gridlock returned.
In November, President Muhammadu Buhari issued another order, giving a two-week ultimatum for the immediate removal of all trucks from the bridges and roads in Apapa.
In line with the directive, operators of trucks and tankers were ordered to vacate the port access roads within 72 hours.
A task force led by a former Commissioner for Transport in Lagos State, Mr Kayode Opeifa, was constituted to implement the order with members drawn from the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.
The exercise witnessed momentary success for a few days but it did not last.