24 April 2015, Lagos – Total chaos! That is the climax of the worsening traffic confusion on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway as tankers, trailers and other articulated vehicles have finally seized the stretch from Rainbow to the Mile Two/Berger/Kirikiri axis of the road, leaving other motorists and road users in limbo.
The complete annexation of that stretch of the road occurred on Wednesday and Thursday, as all forms of vehicular movement came to a standstill with hopelessness visibly written on the faces of all whose vehicles were trapped in-between the mass of behemoths straddling the road.
If motorists, commuters and business operators in this area thought before now that they had seen the last of this perennial traffic occasioned by the tankers and trailers, they were this time gravely mistaken. From every indication, the Rainbow to Berger stretch of the expressway has somehow become a convenient parking bay for these tankers as it has now become traditional for them to queue for days while waiting to lift fuel from the numerous tank farms located in Kirikiri and environ.
The drivers and their assistants have made the roadsides their homes, eating, sleeping and performing their conveniences there. The evidences are there for all to see. Food scraps and wrappings litter the area, while pedestrians will do well not to step on urine and faeces that regularly ‘adorn’ every nook and corner.
It would also appear that most road users have been shocked into fatalistic resignation given the prevailing hopelessness that no solution is presently in sight from any quarter. That is exactly the case with those whose places of work and businesses are located in this tanker-besieged area. To get to their offices and places of business, they are compelled to do compulsory endurance treks since having to drive their cars to work has become foreclosed for now.
“Only somebody who enjoys suffering will attempt to drive in this standstill traffic to get to the office. You can see that traffic is not moving; the tankers have taken over completely. I pity those who made the mistake of coming out with their cars and are now trapped in the traffic by these tankers and trailers,” said one Solomon as he walked towards his office located at Kirikiri.
Another pedestrian, a lady who was panting and sweating profusely as she made her way towards Mile Two from Rainbow, said: “My brother, I don’t know when this our traffic ordeal will end. This has been the same everyday since the beginning of this year. I boarded a bus from Oshodi going to Mile Two but the journey ended abruptly at Rainbow because of this traffic jam. Now I’m being forced to trek in order to complete the journey”.
For Kunle Lawal: “The situation is terrible. And my worry is that nothing is being done to address it. Since last month I have been boarding commercial buses which usually drive against the traffic in order to meet my appointments. But I have now been forced to reconsider travelling this way after one of the buses knocked down somebody who was crossing the express. The man died instantly. Many have also been killed after the okadas(commercial motorcycles) they boarded got knocked down while driving against the traffic on the express. So, for how long will we continue like this?”
Austin Okeke, a hawker in the traffic, had this to say: “Although me and the other hawkers are benefiting from the traffic as it enables us to sell our goods, but we also know that this tanker go- slow has got out of hand because it’s everyday now that one bad thing or the other happen on the road, especially people being beaten up and robbed in their cars. Any time it happens all of us usually run away”.
The recurring traffic nightmare between Mile Two and Coconut areas of the expressway has been regularly featured in the news over the years. Several state and Federal governments-initiated interventions have so far failed to yield any lasting solution. At a time, several failed sections of the road were blamed as a major cause of the problem. So, after those sections of the road were reconstructed, expectations were high that an end to the traffic ordeal was in sight. But that was not to be as little appear to have changed.
The hopelessness of the situation derive from the belief that as long as tank farms are located in the area, no one can wish away fuel tankers from the roads leading to these fuel depots. A related argument justifies the location of the tank farms in this area due to its proximity to the ports from where imported refined petroleum products are pumped into the tank farms.
It is a conundrum which those in a position of authority have not been able to unravel. Even the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, appeared as baffled as the rest of us even as he declared during a visit to the area that the nightmarish traffic situation there would soon be a thing of the past.
“There are many questions we must ask ourselves. Why is it that this is the only place where fuel is being distributed and it is distributed at so much pain? Where is the money made from the ports annually? I remember that we were told that these ports made N1.4 trillion in six months. Why is the money not reinvested in the port? About 3, 000 trucks load from the ports.
“I hope that the owners of the oil companies will also leave their desk and visit this place as a group to see how they make profit and the cost of that on the citizens. And once they see this, there will also be more improvement.”
The Apapa-Oshodi Expressway is a 27.5km road that was constructed between 1975 and 1978.