President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday met behind closed doors with the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on his plans to develop the Lekki and Badagry seaports to decongest the Apapa port.
The governor spoke with State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to him, the agenda of the meeting was to brief the President on some initiatives of the state which were for development.
He said that the reconstruction of the collapsed Lagos-Badagry Expressway will resume in the next two weeks.
He said “From time to time one must also see one’s boss and it is also an honor to have an audience with Mr. President. Today’s visit is essentially just to brief him on the few initiatives that we are planning to do in Lagos and to get his buy-in and his concurrent.
“I cannot speak specifically on the things we discussed but I can assure you that it bothers on areas around development for Lagos, areas around collaboration with the federal government that requires His Excellency’s approval and support, that is what I have come to brief him and it’s essentially to improve the quality of life and business devein Lagos.”
On the state of the Lagos/Badagry road, Sanwo-Olu said he visited the road two days after he assumed office and that machinery had been put in place to ensure that the contractor returns to site at the end of June.
He said that he had inspected the road twice since he assumed office, explaining that between this weekend and early next week, discussions with the contractor on the road would end and work would commence in earnest.
He said “I was on that road two days after I was sworn-in precisely and we’ve gone round. I’ve been there twice now in about two weeks. So, the commitment we got was that the contractors would move into site before the end of this month and I am still relying that in the month of June, we should be closing out the discussions with the contractor over the weekend early next week.
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“We are hoping that barely any unforeseen circumstance, they should be moving-in in another two to three weeks’ time, meaning that the clean-up and the construction of the Badagary expressway returns back in earnest.”
On the decongestion of Oshodi-Apapa expressway, Sanwo-Olu said certain false claims had been circulating in the media that he promised during the electioneering that he would decongest the road within his first 60 days in office.
He said that what he did was to promise that his government would carry out a review of previous activities on the road within 60 days.
The governor said he thanked the president for federal government’s intervention in the decongestion of the road.
Noting that port operators were causing gridlock on the road, he said that it was actually the people of the state who bear the pains.
He also said that the reconstruction of Oshodi-Apapa road has commenced even though it was yet to attain the level where it can be noticed.
He said that the evacuation of tankers causing congestion on the road has also begun.
The Governor said that the reform currently being carried out by the Nigeria Ports Authority and stakeholders on the road involves an innovation termed “call-up,” which he described as a device prohibiting tanker drivers from leaving their parks, until they are called up.
He said, “Interestingly some media houses are actually counting down on me. They said that I mentioned during the campaign that I was going to clear it in 60 days. I have mentioned it before, what I said was that in 60 days we would review what was done but that does not take the fact that even if people give you dateline, it’s because they want you to do well and they want you to be able to be accountable for those datelines.
“It’s one of the things I thanked Mr. President for. What was done was that the federal government has set up a task force. It’s a multifaceted challenge – there is different stakeholders that are involved in one way or the other as operators, observers, practitioners and stakeholders in the entire Apapa gridlock and most of them are federal agencies in one form or the other. But it is we the citizens of Lagos state that are bearing the entire burden.
“The real construction of the road has started, but it’s not at the stage in which we can feel the full impact of it. That’s on one side. The movement of the tanker drivers has also started. There is a lily pond terminal that has been created with NPA and other terminal operators which I imagined have started doing what we call the call-up system.
“What I understand by the call up is that it’s a system that needs to be a bit more electronically driven. I think it’s currently run manually now but if we can get software that can enhance it and enforce it, the call-up system can become something that can hold the tanker drivers accountable. If you’re not call on to come unto the port you are not meant to come.
“But beyond that, is to look at the entire value chain, who are the users and who are the operators in that space. So you have the shipping companies, the port terminal operators, the Nigeria Shippers Council, you have the NPA who are the major anchor tenant there, then you also have all sort of operators – LASMA who are supposed to be the arm of Lagos State helping hand, the police who are also supposed to help out with security and one or two others. So all of us need to complement each other.
“Now I understand that the shipping lines have given an extension for when they need to return the containers. So what we have seen as part of the things that is causing the gridlock beyond the road not being in effective order, is that when you give somebody a one week order to take a container and return it within a week and all the containers have to be returned within that same week after which demurrage would start counting, so everybody would want to enter the same narrow road all at the same time.
“But if they give them a bit more space, meaning that you don’t all need to rush at the same time to return the containers, that is one. Secondly, it’s also to have what we call holding bays – places where the tankers can park off the road while they are waiting to be called upon.
“There are so many little places that we have around, so we are cleaning up the place. There is a tanker holding bay that the federal ministry of works has just completed and it has started being used. There is another massive one that Lagos state is also refurbishing towards Iganmu area.
“So, some of these things are things that would tie-up within the next couple of months. But ours is to get a team of LASMA that are dedicated to Apapa issue – they would resume there, they would work there and we have also complemented with the police to make sure that we have enforcement there.
“We also need to talk to the drivers there; they have a union – if you don’t have a need to come to Apapa you don’t have to come now. So culture has to be instilled, the kind of people that drive these trailers need to be talked to and we need to explain to them also that it’s affecting the quality of life of ordinary citizens that need to commune around that whole area. The member of the fourth realm also can help us dimensioned these problems very well.
“Sometime next week I am also having a meeting with the shippers’ council, port operators and the shipping lines just so that we all can be in the same page and understand that we are all in this together and we all must find a permanent solution. Like I did mentioned two – three weeks when I first went there, it’s for us to also have another port.
“The Apapa port itself has grown beyond where it is now. That is why Lagos State is speaking with investors to see how we can push either the Lekki Port or the Badagary Port as the long term alternative to the Apapa Port because that would be the long term solution in terms of our growth of development as a nation,” he said.