The Minister for Works, Power, and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Thursday responded to the criticisms that trailed the disappearance of tankers and trucks from Lagos roads during President Muhammadu Buhari’s February 9th visit to the state.
Mr Fashola, while speaking on a special edition of TVC morning programme, TVC News This Morning, said the vehicles left Lagos roads because they were able to secure agreements with factories to delay getting their raw materials from the Apapa port for the weekend.
Mr Buhari was in Lagos on February 9 as part of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), nationwide campaign rally ahead of the presidential election.
Ahead of his visit, Lagos residents witnessed a magical disappearance of tankers and trucks that had been parked for years on several roads in the state, prompting an angry backlash from citizens on social media who accused the government of insensitivity.
The vehicles, however, returned to their parking spots on the roads hours after the president’s visit.
“I think there is a need to understand what the root causes of the gridlock are,” said Mr Fashola, who appeared on the television programme alongside the APC governorship candidate in Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and his running mate, Obafemi Hamzat.
“Firstly, we have outgrown our ports. A port terminal that was designed to process about 30 million tonnes now have to process about 84 million tonnes, and most of these tankers are waiting to take raw materials to factories where Nigerians work.
“So what happened was that some of these factories had to wait longer for their raw materials for that weekend else, we would have had a total shutdown of Lagos.
“Who concessioned these ports? Our major opponent did and we are cleaning up their mess.”
Mr Sanwo-Olu spoke on how he would address the gridlock issue in the Apapa area of the state.
“There was a privatisation that happened at the terminals in the ports and the owners pushed out these trucks that used to be parked in the premises,” said Mr Sanwo-Olu.
“The minister of works is also doing some renovations around that area and would be done soon so we can expect the traffic situation in that area to start getting better in coming weeks. We are also going to be working with security agents to enforce the law.”
Responding to a caller from Ikotun, a Lagos suburb, who complained about the notorious traffic gridlock in the area, Mr Sanwo-Olu said he understands that “it’s a huge population around that area and the market has also spilled over to the road.”
“We need to be more open to alternative routes around that area. I understand that it used to be single carriage before it was converted to dual carriageway by Fashola. Part of the solution is to look at mass transportation options including car pooling so as to reduce pressure on the road.”
Speaking on what his government, if elected, would do to help the private sector in the state, Mr Sanwo-Olu said he would work towards taking Lagos off-grid to ensure better power supply in the state.
“We understand that the private sector is important and for them to thrive, power, housing, and security has to be in place,” he said.
“We have been having tough conversations with the two Discos we have in Lagos on taking Lagos off-grid and we have been meeting with the minister for power too. This is one of the ways government can intervene to make private sector thrive.”
On getting prepaid metres to every home in Lagos, Mr Sanwo-Olu said he wouldn’t get down to who is at fault but would rather find a lasting solution to the situation.
“It was a PDP government that went into the privatization and we are not discussing if it’s right or wrong. But we can’t just yank off yet, we have to understand the issues and respect the sanctity of contracts. ”
“Even while campaigning, we have had two serious meetings with them and we know they need to do more investments so as to be able to get prepaid meters out to everybody and we understand they have legal issues too.”
Also speaking on the issue of pre-paid meters, Mr Fashola said the federal government had made a policy solution to that problem already through the meter license policy.
“There is a solution to meters and it is the meter license policy where SME’s get licensed and work with Discos as installation, procurement, and maintenance service providers.”