INTERVIEW: What we are doing to clear Apapa Port gridlock – Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu

You have just seen the President, may we know the purpose of the meeting?

Sanwo-Olu: From time to time one must also see one’s boss and it is also an honour to have an audience with Mr President. Today’s visit is essentially just to brief him on the few initiatives that we are planning to do in Lagos and to get his buy-in and his concurrence. I cannot speak specifically on the things we discussed but I can assure you that it borders on areas around development for Lagos, areas around collaboration with the federal government that require His Excellency’s approval and support. That is what I have come to brief him and it’s essentially to improve the quality of life and business development in Lagos.

What are Nigerians going to see new in Lagos in terms of your policies?

Sanwo-Olu: It’s a whole lot of work in progress and we have talked yesterday about issues of security and the governors’ forum too has met today with Mr President and they are very serious about it. Our primary role as chief security officers of our states, in Lagos, in particular, is to ensure that we keep our whole state safe, secured and it’s also the gateway of the economic development of the country. Also, we must continue to encourage international investors and the private sector that Lagos remains the hub of business and it’s safe.

So issues around cultism, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery are little things that we hear about and we have to nip them in the bud before they become challenges that we cannot deal with.

I have said to my team in the security committee to come up with a robust plan where we can continue to make our environment safe and secured for our citizens and for investors.

On what he is doing concerning the Lagos-Badagary expressway which has been a death trap

Sanwo-Olu: I was on that road two days after I was sworn-in precisely and we’ve gone around.. I’ve been there twice now in about two weeks. So the commitment we got was that the contractors would move into the site before the end of this month and I am still relaying that in the month of June. We should be closing out the discussions with the contractor over the weekend or early next week. We are hoping that barring any unforeseen circumstance, they should be moving-in in another two to three weeks time. Meaning that the cleanup and the construction of the Badagary expressway returns in earnest.

On his plans on the ongoing Apapa gridlock clearing

Sanwo-Olu: Interestingly, some media houses are actually counting down on me. They said that I mentioned during the campaign train that I was going to clear it in 60 days. I have mentioned it before, what I said was that in 60 days, we would review what was done but that does not take the fact that even if people give you dateline, it’s because they want you to do well and they want you to be able to be accountable for those datelines.

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It’s one of the things I thanked Mr President for. What was done was that the federal government has set up a task force. It’s a multifaceted challenge – there are different stakeholders that are involved in one way or the other – as operators, observers, practitioners and stakeholders in the entire Apapa gridlock and most of them are federal agencies in one form or the other. But it is we the citizens of Lagos state that are bearing the entire burden.

The real construction of the road has started, but it’s not at the stage in which we can feel the full impact of it. That’s on one side. The movement of the tanker drivers has also started. There is a lily pond terminal that has been created with NPA and other terminal operators, which I imagined have started doing what we call the call-up system. What I understand by the call up is that it’s a system that needs to be a bit more electronically driven. I think it’s currently run manually but if we can get a software that can enhance it and enforce it, the call-up system can become something that can hold the tanker drivers accountable. If you’re not called on to come unto the port you are not meant to come.

But beyond that, is to look at the entire value chain – who are the users and who are the operators in that space? So you have the shipping companies, the port terminal operators, the Nigeria Shippers Council, you have the NPA who are the major anchor tenant there. Then you also have all sort of operators – LASTMA who are supposed to be the arm of Lagos State helping hand, the police who are also supposed to help out with security and one or two others. So all of us need to complement each other.

Now I understand that the shipping lines have given an extension for when they need to return the containers. So what we have seen as part of the things that are causing the gridlock beyond the road not being in effective order, is that when you give somebody a one week order to take a container and return it within a week and all the containers have to be returned within that same week after which demurrage would start counting, so everybody would want to enter the same narrow road all at the same time. But if they give them a bit more space, meaning that you don’t all need to rush at the same time to return the containers, that is one.

Secondly, it’s also to have what we call holding bays – places where the tankers can park off the road while they are waiting to be called upon. There are so many little places that we have around, so we are cleaning up the place. There is a tanker holding bay that the Federal Ministry of Works has just completed and it has started being used. There is another massive one that Lagos state is also refurbishing towards Iganmu area. So some of these things are things that would be tied up within the next couple of months. But ours is to get a team of LASTMA that are dedicated to Apapa issue – they would resume there, they would work there and we have also complemented with the police to make sure that we have enforcement there.

We also need to talk to the drivers there. They have a union. If you don’t have a need to come to Apapa, you don’t have to come now. So culture has to be instilled, the kind of people that drive these trailers need to be talked to and we need to explain to them also that it’s affecting the quality of life of ordinary citizens that need to commute around that whole area. The member of the fourth realm also can help us dimension these problems very well.

Sometime next week I am also having a meeting with the shippers’ council, port operators and the shipping lines just so that we all can be on the same page and understand that we are all in this together and we all must find a permanent solution. Like I did mention two-three weeks when I first went there, it’s for us to also have another port. The Apapa port itself has grown beyond where it is now. That is why Lagos State is speaking with investors to see how we can push either the Lekki Port or the Badagary Port as the long term alternative to the Apapa Port because that would be the long term solution in terms of our growth of development as a nation.

On the president’s response to his planned initiatives for Lagos

I can’t get it any better. His words were very encouraging, his acceptance with the initiatives that I brought onboard was very resounding. So I am very encouraged and he just gave me the opportunity to go and do more.

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