Notwithstanding the approval of the contract for the construction of the port access roads, operators said the situation is still posing a threat to lives and operations at the nation’s busiest seaports in Lagos.
The access road leading to the ports is identified as the major challenge affecting the efficiency and competitiveness of the ports when the Board of Directors of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), visited the Lagos ports complex to examine their operations.
The Board, led by its Chairman, Emmanuel Adesoye, said all stakeholders, including NPA, are worried about the situation of the roads; hence it has taken a frantic step to ensure swift reconstruction of the roads.
He said the Authority is currently working tirelessly to support the Ministry of Works and Housing as well as the contractor to ensure a speedy delivery of the job.
“We are here to access the progress made since the last two years. It is important for us to feel the pulse of the operators here especially in view of the terrible gridlock that we are experiencing on the Apapa Road, and how it affects our operations and businesses around the country.
“The federal government through the Ministry of Works and Housing is working hard to fix the problem, while the Ministry of Transportation is working on the standard gauge railway system, and I am sure that when these are operational in one year or thereabout, we will be out of the wood,” he said.
According to him, the port is now moving cargoes through barges from Apapa and TinCan Island Ports to Ikorodu, and Kirikiri Lighter terminals, which is helping to reduce pressure on the roads.
Furthermore, he said the Lekki deep seaport scheduled to be completed by 2021, is strategically located to have a deep draft, and expected to be the best in West Africa, as the big ships can berth there without any problem.
Attending to the board, the Port Manager, TinCan Island Port, Emanuel Akporherhe, said about 213 ships called at the TinCan Island port in the first quarter 2019, with a gross tonnage of 6.7 million tonnes.
He solicited more financial support to enhance the renovation of the office building and maintenance of other facilities in the port.
He commended the efforts of the Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman, and her team in drawing Federal Government’s attention to the terrible condition of the Oshodi-Apapa-Oworonshoki Expressway.
The NPA board decried the dilapidated access roads in all the terminals visited and attendant effects on the shipping business.
The terminals visited included: ENL Consortium, Apapa Bulk Terminal Limited, Five Star Logistics, and Josepdam Terminal, among others.
Meanwhile, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), has threatened to shut down the nation’s seaports.
President-General of the union, Adewale Adeyanju, who spoke in Lagos, recalled that in 2018, government had promised to repair the Ijora-Apapa and Oshodi-Apapa expressways before the end of the second quarter, but nothing had been done to fix the failed portions of Tin Can Island access road till this moment.
Adeyanju noted that government has failed to fulfil its own part of the agreement in the communiqué signed by both parties in 2018, which has now expired.
He also acknowledged efforts made by the government to reconstruct the Ijora-Apapa Road, but bemoaned the dilapidated and abandoned state of the Oshodi-Apapa Road.
Highlighting some of the challenges faced by the union during a working visit by the Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Service, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Ahmed Gambo, the union leader called on the government to put in place measures to fix the deplorable road.
“The Vice President of this great country came to visit the port last year, he saw the situation of the port, and a contract was awarded to the same man constructing the Wharf Road linking the Apapa Port, but we want to know what is happening to Tin Can Island Port access road.
“What we are saying is that the government should put some palliative measures on ground, which we know will reduce the gridlock on the road, and that is the essence of saying we might be forced to renew our suspended ultimatum.
“We cannot access Tin Can Island Port, we cannot even access Mile 2; what we told the ministries at the meeting last year, was for them to upgrade the roads through palliative measures because Apapa was still under construction then. But Apapa Port access road is a bit motor-able for now, and nothing is done to Tin Can port access road.
While commenting on the security agencies deployed to ease the gridlock along the ports corridor, Adeyanju decried the alleged extortion of truckers, noting that the situation has led to high cost of transportation.
According to him, truck owners have increased haulage charges due to the alleged extortion and molestation by the taskforce at the Ijora Bridge, even as he noted that such actions have caused a major setback to the growth of the maritime sector.
He opined: “We believe that the federal government set up the taskforce to make sure that the road is accessible by all the port users, but from our information, the place has been converted to a market place.”
He also told his guest how the truck owners had threatened to withdraw their services over the alleged extortion, but for the timely intervention of the union, which stopped the proposed action.