Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said he has ordered Julius Berger, the contractor handling the repair of Ijora Bridge in the Apapa area of Lagos State, to hasten work on the bridge and reopen it to traffic as soon as possible.
The Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, recently alerted the nation that closure of a section of the Ijora Bridge, outbound Apapa, is worsening the already chaotic traffic situation in the Lagos port community.
Speaking on a Lagos-based television station, Wazobia TV, on Tuesday, Vice President Osinbajo explained that the reopening of the bridge is vital to the free flow of traffic in Apapa and its environ.
He said: “So while we are fixing the roads, if you stand in front of the port, the bridge Julius Berger is building, they opened one half of the bridge and closed the other half, so it is not being used.
That bridge must be completed and opened. So one of the things we have done is telling Julius Berger about two weeks ago that they must complete and open up the bridge. Even when the construction of Wharf Road has been completed and the bridge has not been opened, we will still experience the same problem.”
The Vice President blamed congestion on the Lagos port access roads on bad roads and increased cargo volume.
He accused past administrations in the country of abandoning the roads to deteriorate to their present state.
He said, “the Apapa port was built to handle 38 million metric tonnes of cargo and now it is handling 84 million metric tonnes. So it is too small for the volume it is handling and has resulted in too many trucks going into the port.
“When we had the problem the first time and I came to Lagos, we noticed that all the roads around Apapa were bad and we agreed that we will fix the roads. We agreed to fix the Wharf Road down to Mile 2. We have almost completed the road around the port now; then move all the way to Mile 2. We must fix the roads. If those roads are not fixed, we will continue to have the problem.”
He, however, identified road repair, revival of the rail network and revival of ports outside the Lagos area as long-term solutions to the Apapa gridlock.
“But for long term solution, three things must be done. The first is that now we are building Lagos-Kano Railway and the first phase is Lagos-Ibadan starting from Apapa Port. So many of the goods will be evacuated by rail.
The Lagos-Ibadan phase should be completed by January 2019 and hoping to finish construction to Kano in about two and a half years.
“The second is that we have other ports. We have Calabar, which we are dredging to about 10 meters. So we have to make sure we can divert some traffic there. If we can divert some traffic away from Lagos ports, it will help but it will not solve the problem completely because 60 per cent of business is being transacted in Lagos,” the vice president said.
So when people import goods to Nigeria they will want to use it in Lagos, which is the problem we have.
“So we do the railway, we will finish the roads and then we fix the other ports; it will definitely make things much better. Once we have completed the railway across the country: Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, Lagos-Calabar, Lagos-Kano; once we fix the railway; railway is the best way to transport goods all around the country, inland port, dry port, that is what we should do.
“Once we fix the infrastructure, the Apapa issue is a small thing because it will boost business, manufacturing activities and people can easily move their goods from one part of the country to another,” Osinbajo added.