With the ongoing reconstruction of Wharf Road, Apapa, residents, importers, workers and other maritime stakeholders are in pains associated with the exercise, but are encouraged by the fact that the end of the nightmare is certain, writes Francis Ugwoke..
For years now, it has been a lot of pains for residents, workers and business owners at Apapa. Apapa is one area in Lagos that is very dear to the nation because of its economic gains. It is estimated that the federal government realizes about N300bn monthly covering duties and others collected by the Nigeria Customs Service, agencies and taxes by the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS). The Four Customs Commands alone collect close to N100bn every month on customs duties. Yet, the access road to the nation’s Premier port is a nightmare. It is one road that all highly placed government officials would avoid. Ministers and senators coming for inspection of the road have had to use speed boats provided by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) because of the gridlock. What is so worrisome is that from the Mile 2 Area and Ijora area which are two access points into the Premier Port have remained so bad. It takes hours for anyone using any of the roads to have access into the Premiers port or surrounding environment. Residents, port users, workers and businessmen have lamented to no avail. It was not until recently when the freight forwarders declared industrial action that the federal government was compelled to take a more serious action on the road. But the repair is only going to be on the Wharf Road. The Tin Can Island road will have to wait for now. The repair of the Wharf Road which is the only access road from Ijora area into Apapa will take at least one year to be completed. The repair is being carried out by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Dangote Group and Flour Mills of Nigeria Limited. The three have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the reconstruction work. The project will cost N4.34billion. The Minister of Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola had explained recently that the reconstruction will be the “final solution to the massive inconvenience” that many have suffered over the years.
Pains and Optimism
At a time that many should be happy that a solution will soon come after years of gridlock at Apapa, a good number of companies are instead counting their losses. In the past few weeks that preparation for the repair work started, the Apapa traffic jam has more than doubled. For observers, it has not been this bad . But it all started as the contractor mobilized equipment to get set for more work. Many trucks leaving Apapa have had to sleep for days on the road before getting to destination. During the first week of the exercise, importers of perishable items lost millions of Naira as frozen food products perished on the way before getting to the warehouses. While in terminals, the trucks with frozen foods were supported with electricity to cool the food. It was a different thing when for days the items were on the road. Also affected were all those who have to go to work daily at Apapa. At a time, the whole Apapa remained at standstill with nearly no movement. This forced many workers to be absent in their offices. Many had to patronize commercial motorcyclists. Chief executives simply kept off Apapa.
Among those that will be affected more by the ongoing reconstruction work are telecommunication companies and others who have cables laid underground . It is feared that during the reconstruction work, cables and other equipment which are not deep enough will be affected. Reports have it that MTN, Airtel, Globacom and Etisalat may have their cables affected during the work. It is estimated that the entire telecoms sector may suffer a huge loss of $1.5 billion as result of the reconstruction. The cables and masts belonging to the companies, it was gathered, may be damaged beyond repair. Although, it was not clear if any base station would be affected, a senior management staff of the MTN who did not want to be quoted claimed that it would cost MTN $30 million to put up one. Similarly, a major masts service provider, The HIS Towers, was reported to have said that the relocation of telecoms cables, masts and other equipment will cost the company fortunes.
The Company’s media manager, Akin Kolawole, told an online media platform that “in most cases, all the wires and other materials, removed from a location are often discarded, meaning that new ones may be acquired”.
He said “This will happen with the Apapa Road re-construction as far as the telecoms cables are concerned. Apapa has other cables from companies that have to do with communication, meaning that by the time all other costs are added, more than $1.5 billion being estimated will be a child’s play. To that effect, even the telecos’ services will be interrupted during the relocation of the masts and cables in the area.”
Some officials of MTN agents at Apapa who spoke to this writer under anonymity said the company’s technical team is handling the issue of cables, masts that may be affected by the road rehabilitation work. The officials who confirmed that some equipment would be damaged said that efforts would be made to address such issues as soon as possible so that consumers of their services would not suffer the effect. Investigation showed that most telecom companies are already working out strategies on how to address issues arising from cables or masts damaged during the reconstruction work. Many of them, it was gathered are yet to know the extent of damage they will suffer until work commences. However, those who will suffer the effect of the repair work for a long time are port users, residents, workers and others who have businesses at Apapa port. They will have no alternative than to endure the gridlock that will continue until the repair work is over. But some of the residents and maritime industry stakeholders said the pains are worth enduring because at the end, it will be a blessing and all the pains of years will be over.