Paul Gbededo, group managing director of Flour Mills Nigeria plc, has put the contribution of Apapa to the national economy at about N20 billion daily. This revelation was made at the handing over of the Apapa-Wharf Road by the Federal Government to Dangote Group, Flour Mills and Nigerian Ports Authority for reconstruction at the weekend.
Gbedebo’s estimation leaves stakeholders in a dilemma as to why the port city, despite its strategic importance to the nation’s economy, had for many years been left in a state of squalor, with its infrastructure; roads and bridges turning death traps. Apapa hosts Nigeria’s two most utilised ports; Tincan Port and Apapa Port, and accounts for about 80 percent of the nation’s export and import activities.
With the handing over of the two-kilometres collapsed section the road (from the foot of the Ijora Bridge opposite Area ‘B’ Police Command to Apapa Port) to the companies for reconstruction, businesses, residents and port users are hoping for some relief one year from now when the road is projected to be completed. The project is to cost the trio N4.34 billion.
Babatunde Fashola, minister of power, works and housing, signed the agreement for the hand over of the road, on behalf of the Federal Government, while Hadiza Usman, managing director, NPA, and Joseph Makoju, honorary advisor to Aliko Dangote, president, Dangote Group, and Gbedebo, signed for their respective organisations. The three organisations are embarking on the project as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) to Apapa, where they all do business.
The construction work to be handled by AG Dangote, a civil construction company, and joint venture between Dangote Group and AG of Brazil, would utilise concrete slabs as against asphalt, common with road construction in this part of the world.
Fashola expressed the optimism that the project when delivered would bring the much expected relief to the port community, saying the government would equally intervene in other roads within Apapa, including the Mile 2-Tincan axis, Liverpool and Creek Road, where Julius Berger plc, had been directed to commence some palliative work, this week, to allow free access to the ports.
The minister, who acknowledged that the construction work would unleash a level of inconvenience on the people, however, called on the cooperation of all stakeholders, including maritime truck owners, tanker drivers, businesses and residents, stressing that after the pain will come relief. He appealed to the truck owners and tankers to move their vehicles out of the road to facilitate and ensure the early completion of the work.
Makoju said the Dangote Group was delighted to be involved in the deal because of its consistent commitment to creating positive impact in all of its host community, and believed that the intervention would help in revitalisation and sustaining the dying businesses in Apapa.
He however appealed to the government to create enabling environment as that was the only way businesses could thrive. He noted that when individuals or companies paid their tax, they would expect the government to do what they are supposed to do, but government alone cannot do it. He lamented poor service delivery by some agencies of government, which, he stressed, did not support business.
Gbedebo, on his part, also lamented the deterioration of Apapa, and the untold hardship brought upon businesses and residents, despite its contribution to the national economy, adding, however, that the involvement of Flour Mills, would contribute towards changing the narrative.
Responding to questions as to how to handle trucks on the roads, Usman, said owners of the tank farms had been notified and directed to provide holding bays for trucks, and that failure to comply with the directive would attract sanctions. The minister added that it was not the responsibility of government to provide holding bays for fleet owners because they are doing their business.
CHUKA UROKO & JOSHUA BASSEY