Every new day, Apapa sinks deeper into the traffic quagmire that is now threatening to engulf the whole of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. Daily, tankers and trailers are line up from the precincts of the port to Western Avenue, Surulere and many other parts of Lagos leaving the city, its residents and road users in perpetual traffic bind. It does not have to be this bad except that by failing to do simple things, the Nigeria Ports Authority is ensuring that the worst is yet to come for the businesses and motorists in the city.
A reform-minded NPA would have ensured the resuscitation and maximum use of other ports like Onne, Port Harcourt, Warri and Calabar. Whatever the rationale for this situation was, a vast country like Nigeria with more than six ports cannot rely on only one. A reform-minded NPA would have ensured that shipping companies and others have holding bays to take in used containers and institute a stiff regime of sanctions against those who violate that policy. A reform minded NPA would be pressing the federal government to resuscitate the rail lines to move heavy cargo from the ports into the hinterland to reduce the pressure on Apapa roads.
But the NPA has done none of those. Rather, the concern of the leadership is in erecting a seven billion naira (N7 billion) head office in Abuja while access to the ports are becoming impossible and the entire city including other roads serving the entire population of Lagos have been taken over by trucks and containers waiting to gain access to the ports.
From the beginning, Businessday rightly predicted the rebuilding of Wharf road will offer no respite. Sadly, even after the complete reconstruction of the more than one kilometre Wharf road, there has been absolutely no change in the traffic situation. Rather, the expensive road has now turned into the most expensive parking lot in the world after being taken over by trucks heading to the port.
The access roads to Apapa and Tin Can ports, although originally projected to give access to 1,500 trucks, now caters for about 5,000 trucks that seek access to the ports every day, according to reports by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). The Chamber estimates that Nigeria loses N600 billion in customs revenue, $10 billion (N3.6trn) in non-oil export sector and N2.5 trillion in corporate earnings across various sectors on annual basis due to the poor state of Nigerian ports. Of course, this is besides several reports listing Nigerian ports as some of the most inefficient and expensive ports in the world.
There are credible examples around we can learn from. The Indian ports, for instance, managed to record more than 25 percent in throughput simply by implementing a simple process improvement manual designed by Mckinsey and co. One wonders why the NPA cannot seek help from logistics experts and consultants that abound in Nigeria.
The management of NPA must and should take full blame for the chaos in Lagos. Reconstructing dilapidated roads is not and cannot be the solution to the intractable traffic in Apapa. The traffic problem in Apapa is the result of the failure of NPA and the shipping companies to introduce simple logistic solutions into the job of receiving and dispatching trucks at the ports and until they begin to do the right thing, the city of Lagos will be ensnarled by the crippling traffic emanating from Apapa.