Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), yesterday inspected the traffic gridlock points at the Mile 2 under bridge of the Lagos – Badagry Expressway undergoing expansion and Creek Road in Apapa, extracting a commitment from fuel tanker operators to ease traffic on the roads leading to Apapa within one week.
Residents of the two areas have in the last few weeks complained to the government over the pains of traffic gridlock on the Mile 2 Road caused by a combination of continuous trading on the road and dumping of refuse in the drainage; and the Creek Road and adjoining areas in Apapa rendered impassible by fuel tankers seeking to load fuel from the tank farms in the area.
Fielding questions from journalists after the inspection of Creek Road which has been taken over by the fuel tankers, Fashola said government was prepared to wait for a week as promised by the operators to organise the parking of their tankers in a way that traffic could move on the road, adding that if they complied voluntarily there would be no need for enforcement.
He told journalists, “It is when people don’t comply voluntarily that you need enforcement. When people comply voluntarily, there will be no need for enforcement”, adding that government only intend to make the tanker operators realise the amount of pain they are causing residents and other businesses in the area by their operations.
“What we intend to achieve here is to make the tanker operators here, NUPENG and their affiliates, to understand that their business operation is inflicting pain on residents of Apapa and once they understand that, it is important then to see what kind of empathy that they bring to the business.”
The governor said the operators had agreed that they would make some changes within one week adding, “It is easier for me when a man says I am willing to change my ways that is hurting people. If we don’t see that change, we know what to do on behalf of taxpayers and on behalf of the people who we represent.”
Expressing the determination of the government to ensure that other businesses survive in Apapa, Fashola said owners of the oil companies that have tank farms in Apapa would visit the area in the course of the week as a group “to see for themselves how they make profit and the cost of that profit on ordinary citizens.”
“I think once they see this I am sure we will begin to see some organisation and some empathy. Thankfully I have one of them with me here and he has also seen for himself what the people acting on their behalf are doing here and he has given me his word that in the shortest possible time we will begin to see changes,” the governor said.
He, however said easing traffic on the road would only constitute a temporary and relieving measure adding that some of the questions that should be asked included what kind of business and economy we want to run as a country and why is fuel being distributed with so much pain.
Fashola asked, “Is it a business and an economy that causes pain? Why is this the only place where fuel is being distributed with so much pain? So what are the NNPCs of this world doing? Where is all the money that is coming out of this port going? At some point it was reported that in half a year this port made N1.4 trillion’ where did the money go, why didn’t we put it back into this business?”
The governor continued: “Why are we transporting fuel by road, why can’t we do it by rail? Now make no mistake about it. There is a side of their business that we must listen to. We are the ones using the fuel and about 3,000 trucks load here every day and they have to come here. So this is the place we put fuel, why can’t we pump fuel across the country, from Atlas Cove to Mosinmi and all of that. Why are those facilities not working, what has happened to them?”
According to him, “Those are the questions that if we ask ourselves and if we tackle them, will provide a final and long term solution. So it is us really that are the problem and if we sit down and think about it and the agency of the federal government, managing the port, managing fuel should also get up and see what is happening.
“It is not enough to sit down and place adverts to say there is fuel at a pump price. What is the cost of taking that fuel to the people? What is the real purpose, why do I have fuel if it cannot take me to my office? So it is a really hard choice for government and the citizens, but I am sure we can do it”, he said.
Earlier, at the Mile 2 stopover, Fashola said he chose to inspect the places and see things for himself because of the incessant complaints by the citizenry in the last few weeks over the traffic gridlock in the area adding that the main cause of the Mile 2 problem was that the contractors have to work while the people use the road.
“There are so many issues involved, if you go there now you see that our contractors are working and that is consistent with the commitment of government to continue to provide service. Citizens want roads built and upgraded and already this is not a virgin land, it is a fully built-up city,” he explained.
Noting that it would have been easier for the government to shut down the road for say two months while work was going on, Fashola declared, “But it is not possible. So this is part of what causes the inconvenience, we have to build while citizens use the roads,” adding that the major places where the complaints are highest are Mile 2 and the Apapa area.