6 Decembrer 2011, Swetcrude, LAGOS – The ever-busy Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, Lagos, was completely shut down for over four hours Monday, following a clash between members of Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) arm of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA), causing a heavy traffic jam.
The commotion ensued after LASTMA officials from its Mile 2 office allegedly impounded three tankers belonging to members of PTD, Capital Oil Branch, Amuwo -Odofin, area over alleged indiscriminate parking of trucks preventing free-flow of traffic.
But the drivers claimed they only parked along the service lane as agreed with LASTMA officials.
The incident sparked off protests from other tanker drivers heading to Capital Oil Tank Farm at Amuwo Odofin. A LASTMA towing van was also vandalized in the process while innocent motorists were held in the traffic for hours.
Road users were held up for close to four hours and the truck drivers barricaded the ever- busy Expressway with their trucks thereby preventing motorists heading to Apapa and other areas from assessing the roads.
There was pandemonium as both motorists, commuters and commercial motorcyclists struggled for right of way in the midst of the gridlock created by the blockade. Commercial vehicles and Motorcycle operators quickly took advantage of the commotion and hiked fares indiscrimiantely.
An official of NUPENG, Paul Odije said the LASTMA officials who were from their Mile2 office, breached an agreement the union had with them before impounding their trucks.
According to him, “we had an agreement with LASTMA before we started parking along this road (Oshodi-Apapa Expressway). We told them that due to the looming fuel scarcity, trucks will flood our parks and that they have to assist us in ensuring that they do not obstruct the free-flow of traffic.
But on Monday, they stormed the area and quickly towed three trucks parked close to Cele Bus Stop and they demanded that the drivers pay N100,000, which have been their regular practice. Unfortunately for them, our drivers could not bear it anymore and they have to revolt and protest against LASTMA’S harsh practices
The Secretary of Lagos chapter of Petroleum Tanker Drivers branch of NUPENG, Comrade A. A. Adebayo, said the crisis ensued because of disagreement between some tanker drivers and LASTMA officials along Oshodi Apapa Expressway.
According to him, the Tanker drivers were accused of blocking the free-flow of traffic but we have actually resolved the matter. Normalcy has returned to the area.
Efforts to speak with the Commissioner for Transportation, Lagos State, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, at the time of this report were unsuccessful as he did not pick all the calls made to his mobile phone.
However, commenting on the incident, a source at the state Ministry of Transportation, who did not want to be mentioned, denied the allegation by the tanker drivers , saying “it was just a mere flagrant disobedience of traffic rule and regulations by the tanker drivers.
“The situation has been resolved, there is movement for now, they (tanker drivers) deliberately blocked the way in protest over unstated reasons. It was a case of mere disobedience to law, they can’t hold government to ransom.”
It would be recalled that recently, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State directed LASTMA to embark on impounding all abandoned tankers and vehicles along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway to ease the chaotic traffic situation due to the ongoing Federal Government and the state government’s construction work on the Lagos-Badagry Express road expansion projects at the axis.
Governor Fashola was quoted as saying, “The Law Enforcement Agents especially, LASTMA,KAI and the Nigeria Police have been directed to ensure zero tolerance. Government is seriously disturbed with the rate at which motorists flagrantly disobey the law and have no regard for the safety of other road users.
“We urge motorists in the state to be cautious on the roads, drive safely avoid over speeding and ensure that their vehicles are roadworthy especially, as the Xmas and New Year are around the corner. They are also enjoined to cooperate with the officials of LASTMA and the Vehicle Inspection Officers, VIOs, in order to keep Lagos traffic moving with pride, dignity and honor.”
Also, Opeifa, had earlier warned recalcitrant drivers that the state government would not hesitate to deal decisively, within the confines of the law, with any violator of traffic law and order. “The determination of this administration is to make Lagos state Africa’s Model Mega-City. This is our resolve and commitment.
“As a government that is focused and driven by the passion for excellence in all spheres of public affairs, the government will henceforth not shy away from taking steps that would rid the state of all forms of environmental nuisance and traffic infractions.
“This is a wake-up call for all Lagosians. It is no longer business as usual because Lagos must work and we cannot afford to fail or falter. The time has now come for us to collectively ensure that Lagos remains an environmentally friendly state.” Opeifa stressed.