…Okada riders go berserk after 3 colleagues crushed to death by truckers
…Residents, motorists groan
…We suspect sabotage-Lagos govt
…Corruption has taken higher dimension in Apapa gridlock- AMATO President
By Olasunkanmi Akoniand Godwin Oritse
Residents, motorists and commuters along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway are currently groaning as gridlock retuned due to the activities of truck and tanker drivers who have taken over the roads, parking indiscriminately.
The situation, which resurfaced since two weeks ago worsened on Wednesday, as recalcitrant commercial motorcyclists, popularly called “Okoda” riders in their horde, engaged in violent clash with truck drivers as a result of accident which reportedly claimed three of their (okada riders) colleagues.
As a result of the situation the entire Apapa Oshodi Expressway was in total standstill for the better part of the day spilling over into midnight.
One of the factors leading to gridlock is the ongoing construction works on some portion of the road around Mile-2 Badagry Expressway, under the pedestrian and flyover bridges, with the effect spreading to Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.
The situation was also worsened on Wednesday, following the violent clash around 6 pm, due to absence of relevant authorities to control traffic. Men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, Police seemed overwhelmed as they watched truckers took over the entire stretch of the road.
The irate okada went berserk when a container from a truck fell on three of their colleagues in an auto crash around Mile 2. They attacked every motorist in sight, vandalising their vehicles in the process.
The okada riders and truck drivers seized the situation to ground all business activities, while lucky motorists ran for dear lives.
One of the motorists and a worker in the axis, Mr. Hassan Ajao, narrated his narrow escape from the rampaging okoda riders.
Ajao said, “I just closed for the day and on my way home we got stuck in traffic for hours. In an attempt to find a way out, we saw a large number of Okoda riders moving toward our direction violently, brandishing different types of weapons.
“By instinct, we abandoned our vehicle and took refuge in a nearby bank premises why still watching our car. We later learnt that truck drivers killed some okada riders in a road accident which led to their colleagues protesting.
“Before the clash there has been daily gridlock on the road, particularly from Second Rainbow to Mile-2 axis.”
Recall that Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on December 28, 2020, when he led delegation of the state Executive Council members and stakeholders on a first hand assessment of traffic situation in Apapa ports and environ which lasted for about two hours, announced the setting up of a special team by the state government to takeover traffic management from the disbanded Presidential Task Team, PTT, with the aim of restoring sanity to the perennial gridlock in the area.
Sanwo-Olu, said a stakeholders’ meeting, involving representatives of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, haulage transport unions, port operators among others will be convened to work out means of solving the protracted traffic gridlock in Apapa as well as having a more efficient, effective port operations in the general interest of the publics.
The governor, inspected places such as: Lilypond truck terminal, Wharf Road, Apapa Port, and Tincan Port, Truck Park, Mile-2 axis, all within Apapa environ.
The inspection followed the disbandment of PTT by the Federal Government, as well as several outcries by members of the public over perennial traffic gridlock which has left residents and workers in the area hapless.
Hoodlums and traffic armed robbers have always cash in on the situation to unleash their nefarious activities on innocent citizens by dispossessing them of their valuables and sometimes maiming their victims.
The disturbing gridlock created along Apapa corridor has defied all known logic, even with the setting up of the PTT, chaired by Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibajo and Vice-chaired, Comrade Kayode Opeifa, with the mandate to restore law and order to Apapa ports and environ.
Sanwo-Olu, while addressing the media and a horde of truck drivers at Tincan Port, in the newly constructed Truck Park, decried the level of indiscipline among port players with the promise to tackle head-on and eliminate the cabal behind series of extortions been perpetrated by some officials and security personnel in Apapa environ.
The Governor, said as part of efforts to resolve the knotty issues around Apapa gridlock, his administration will carry along stakeholders in traffic management.
According to him, “This is not the first time, certainly not the second and infact this is about the third or the fourth time in my Government that we are trying to see how we bring better solution to Apapa gridlock.
“There has been accusations around cabal collecting money from operators and accusations around being hijacked by some people.
“What are we solving at the end of the day. We are trying to bring about a cohesive metrics where all the stakeholders in Apapa understand and appreciate the various role that everybody needs to play and let everybody identify and solve it.
“You’re are aware that since last year the PTT had been working. Now, there is a process that is starting in which the State Government need to take over that task force. One of the reason for this trip is to start that process, to see things for myself.
“The state government is to set up a seamless operation to have a team of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA about 400 to 500, dedicated to Apapa gridlock have a team of police men from Area B dedicated to the same gridlock. We, understand what the port police command is doing, because they are also part of the problem.
“More importantly, to be able to speak to all the big men in the office, the ship owners, the port terminal operators, freight forwarders, who are not here with the port drivers who we see that they are the one carrying the brunt.”
Sanwo-Olu gave assurance to escalate some of the issues to the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Muhammed Adamu, and have a conversation with the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Ameachi and get NPA to understand what their roles are.”
On allegation of extortion against cabal, Sanwo-Olu said, “I have said to them, give me the evidence of those people that are collecting money from you. That is also important.
“We are determined to make people scape goats. It is part of ensuring that we reduce the ease of doing process of businesses.
“It is a process and we cannot say we have all the solutions but we have seen the process again we have seen that we can improve this process and we have identified the stakeholders.
“We need to also go back and see how we can normalize those things and understand that we have a problem here and we have to solve the problem.”
Earlier, truck drivers numbering hundreds, appealed to the Governor for intervention over alleged extortion by policemen.
The irate drivers, alleged that policemen collect as much as N100,000, N150,000, from each truck driver before being allowed access into the port.
According to the drivers, even after paying the level they spend several days before they could get access to the port for business which also contributes largely to the gridlock being experienced on the road.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Mr Toyin Fayinka, attributed part of the gridlock being experienced to the ongoing construction work in the axis.
“Though, there has been a significant progress in this area particularly on the road construction site. A lot of road has been fixed.
“There has not been movement on these axis due to road construction by Hi-Tech particularly from Sunrise to Tincan.
“So,I am to start a conversation with the Federal controller of works to talk to Hitachi. We equally suspect a foul play on the part of the unions.”
In his reaction, President of Association of Maritime Truck Owners, AMATO, Remi Ogungbemi, said, “The issue of Apapa traffic has become a commercial entity for some that are benefitting from situation.”
He suggested that “everyone that is involved in the management of traffic in that axis should be removed and new people brought in.
“The corruption has taken a higher dimension and it will take the collective efforts of everybody to deal with it once and for all.”
When contacted, Chairman, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Chief Umeadi, who declined to make any comment for now, absolved union leaders of any sabotage, saying , “Is government who makes laws and not unions.”