Years after they were officially barred from all bridges and major roads in Lagos, commercial motorcycle operators, popularly known as ‘Okadas’ have emerged the heroes in the Apapa’s conundrum, ferrying business executives, middle level and lower cadre workers in and out of the degraded port community at the risk of their lives.
But for the Okadas availability and willingness to take this risk of meandering through deadly petroleum tankers and articulated trucks which have become permanent features on bridges and roads inward and outward Apapa, a lot more small and medium scale businesses, according to Johnson Matthew, who runs an eatery on Liverpool Road, would have packed up, for want of means of mobility for staff, despite the risk to life and limb of the passengers as well.
From eateries to banks, insurance, and media outfits, customs licensed clearing and forwarding companies, and guest houses, motorcycles offer a readily available means, through which their workforce enter and exit Apapa, daily. Indeed, top executives, whose businesses are domiciled in Apapa, are not left out.
BusinessDay finds that the National Stadium, Surulere, has become a car park, where executives and middle level management staffers of companies which operate in Apapa, now park their cars at a fee of N100, before boarding motorcycles to Apapa. Several are seen early in the morning, driving into the stadium, (another national monument in a state of shameful neglect) and returning in the evening to take their cars, before heading home.
“You will be doing yourself a great disservice to attempt driving to Apapa. As a matter of fact, you won’t get to the office to do anything meaningful, because you would have been drained physically and mentally, when stuck in traffic on Ijora bridge. The option is to park outside and enter Apapa with Okada,” said Roland Olowokere, a staff of a shipping company in Apapa.
According to Olowokere, driving in and out of the port community comes with a lot of mental and health challenges, asides the danger of a container falling on your car. For now, the Okada remains the means to go there.”
The increased patronage of the commercial motorcycles, paradoxically, is coming six years after they were outlawed and restricted from 492 roads and bridges across the Lagos metropolis. The Lagos Road Traffic Law 2012, which bans the motorcycles, was enacted to check incidences of death and injury in accidents involving motorcycles, as well as robberies, which had assumed a disturbing dimension at that time. But in the light of Apapa’ degeneration, the dangers associated with the motorcycles seem jettisoned.
In their desperation to get to work and keep businesses from total collapse, distraught workers and business owners in Apapa, are seen hopping on the motorcycles daily.
Checks show motorcycle operators charge as much as N500 and N700 from the National Stadium, to ferry a passenger into Apapa, and between N300 and N400 from Ijora, across the bridge, to Apapa.
One of the operators, told BusinessDay that their operations involve a lot of risk, as they have to run against traffic, from Ijora to Apapa and tip touts and wayward law enforcement officers, which explains the exorbitant fares. It was discovered that majority of the operators are youths between the ages of 17 and 35 from the northern parts of the country and beyond the country’s borders.
Petroleum tankers and container-laden trucks have continued to occupy the roads and bridges leading to Apapa, with craters sinking even deeper, as the rains intensify.
Throughout last week, the stretch of Ijora-Apapa bridge witnessed a standstill, as trailers and tankers swarmed the bridge, leaving no space for motorists headed to the port city. It was also total frustration for motorists who approached the port through the Mile2-Tincan axis, which had since collapsed.
The two major entry routes to Apapa: Ijora and Mile2-Coconut-Tincan axes have been left in abject disrepair for many years, with government after government promising to fix the roads and upgrade decayed infrastructure in Apapa, but without concrete action taken.
Stakeholders say there is no better time to declare the state of emergency in the area than now. They warn that the recent executive orders signed by acting President Yemi Osinbajo, to promote ease of doing business in Nigeria, will be of no effect if the roads leading to the nation’s most utilised ports remain in disrepair.