Apapa-Oshodi Expressway is unique. Its uniqueness is in many respects. The road is the main artery in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos. It is a major link to many inlets and outlets within and outside the metropolis.
In fact, from the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, one can connect many parts of the city. One can also pass through the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway to connect other roads that can take one to other parts of the country such as Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo States.
The dual carriage way, which was constructed decades ago, is home to several industrial and residential areas. Nevertheless, there are more of the former than the latter on this road. This is not unconnected with the fact that several warehouses, factories and business premises are built along it.
Media houses are also attracted to this road. These include: Leaders and Company Limited, which produces one of Nigeria’s foremost national newspapers, THISDAY; Rutam House, the headquarters of The Guardian Newspaper; Vanguard, The Sun, and Champion newspapers.
That Apapa-Oshodi Expressway is an ever busy road is an understatement. In fact, there are no dull moments along this road. It is a road that never sleeps. As vehicles of all sizes, especially trucks of all kinds are moving in, others are moving out. They horn ceaselessly.
Motorists who regularly ply this road told THISDAY that the louder the sound of the horn in the vehicle the better for the man or woman on the wheels. The loudness of the horn can perforate the ear drum. Some motorists see the loudness of their horn as an attribute of power and supremacy.
“My vehicle is bigger than yours, stay clear or I crush you in your small car”, seems to be the rule of the game on this expressway. This is due to the high number of the articulated vehicles that ply the road. These articulated vehicles including open and closed trucks, tankers, and trailers laden with containers of different sizes, besides cars of various colours and sizes compete for space.
In spite of the Lagos State Government’s ban on commercial motorcycles popularly called okada they also compete for space on this road. Truck pushers and tricycles drivers are not left out. They all compete for space in an endless race to nowhere. The supremacy contest among motorists on this road is legendary. Anyone with an attribute of patience has no room on this expressway.
The fight for space to maneuver and move to one’s destination is fierce. There is no room for the chicken hearted. It is only for the brave. One must be ever ready for a fight. Fight for the right of way. Fight for one’s right. Fight for space. Fight for one’s lane. Indeed, fight for everything. In a bid to assert one’s right, one must be ready to fight. And a fight can ensue at any time whether one is right or not.
It is not uncommon to find motorists alight from their vehicles to settle scores on the road while keeping thousands of other road users stranded queuing up behind without any space for them to pass. This can last for hours. No one cares. It is not unusual. This occurs on a daily basis. The only exception is public holidays and weekends, especially Sundays where little or nothing happens in the industrial areas.
The socio-economic importance of Apapa-Oshodi Expressway cannot be over stressed. It is the nerve centre of the commercial city. It terminates in Nigeria’s premier port, Apapa Quay. It is home to Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa which also has Africa’s largest container port, Apapa Container Terminal (ACT).
ACT is presently managed by AP Terminals Apapa Limited, one of the subsidiaries of Danish logistics and port operations giant, AP Moeller-Maersk Group.
Besides these ports, Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC) is also situated along Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. The ports situated in LPC and TCIPC combined with numerous tank farms in Apapa and its environs make the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway one of the busiest roads in the country.
This is one of the basic factors why the road remains an attractive route for motorists. It is either trucks are going to the various ports to pick cargoes or going to drop empty containers. Petrol tankers are also going to the tank farms to load petroleum products or those already loaded leave with their consignments. These are in addition to other vehicles carrying goods and passengers to their various destinations.
There are also offices for several business, supermarkets and eateries. With the ports, tank farms, commercial banks and eateries, other smaller businesses to service them have spring up. For instance, the national secretariat of the umbrella body of freight forwarders in the country, the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), is situated a few metres off the road.
To many, their business outing for the day is not complete until they visit Apapa. It is one of the reasons why the vehicular traffic on this road is high no matter the time of the day. Whether one is driving out of Apapa or into it, the traffic is often high. To say the least, there is no dull moment on this road. It is a road that never sleeps.
Lawlessness and Deterioration
In spite of its eminence and strategic importance as the gate way to the nation’s seaports, corruption, lawlessness, indiscipline and neglect by government over the years have combined to turn Apapa-Oshodi Expressway into a nightmare for motorists and other road users. The road has deteriorated over the years, making nonsense of efforts by the federal government to rehabilitate it.
The lawlessness on the road does not mean that there are no rules and regulations. There are rules and regulations, which are geared towards making the road safe for road users. For instance, there is a policy in place that trucks should only be on one lane of the expressway so that other motorists can have a free way to access the road to their various destinations on the second lane.
But this policy, like many others put in place to ensure sanity on the road, is not enforced. Motorists, particularly truck driver break the laws with impunity. They do this not because there are no law enforcement agents; far from it. Apart from these law enforcement agents, there are numerous taskforces. In fact, the law enforcement agents on the expressway are legion.
Nevertheless, they always look the other way while the motorists, particularly trailer drivers violate the rules and regulations put in place by the government to ensure sanity on the road. This normally happens after the drivers have tipped the officers. After money has exchanged hands, the trailer drivers can park where they ought not to park.
They occupy all the lanes on the expressway making it impossible for other road users, especially car drivers to access the road and get into their offices or come out at the close of work. In the full glare of the public, these trailer drivers who mastered the art of greasing the palms of the law enforcement agents. They ply the road without adhering to traffic regulations. No one dares correct them because those saddle with the responsibility of ensuring that the right thing is done pretend as if nothing is happening.
The situation is not helped by the fact that local government councils along the expressway do nothing to address the excesses of the trailer drivers. These local government councils, including Apapa Local Government Area, never arrest tanker drivers for parking where they are not supposed to park. They concentrate their energy on the arrest of cars parked on the side of the road.
Minutes after they are parked, these vehicles are towed to Apapa Local Government Area headquarters premises along Burma Road. These cars are not released until their owners pay various sum of money as fine. These council officers have not arrested any truck driver or towed their vehicles to the council headquarters the way they do cars. This is a typical case of pursuing the ant and leaving the elephant.
These councils’ officials know that the refusal of the truck drivers to abide by traffic rules is why the car owners park by the side of the road but they will not go after them. Their towing vans are design to tow trailers not cars. It is an indubitable fact that it is this skewed way of enforcement by the security agencies that has made the traffic gridlock in Apapa and its environs to defy all measures put in place over the years to address poor traffic situation along Apapa-Oshodi Expressway.
As if the impunity of the tanker drivers is not enough, they have also turned the road into their personal toilets, bathing, washing and defecating on the expressway at will. A visit to some sections of the expressway such as Creek Road and Wharf Road shows several heaps of human waste at various states of decomposition. Apart from the putrefying odour, these sections are not only unhygienic but an eyesore.
But who cares. Impunity is the rule of the game. The lawlessness on the road aside, the condition of the road is getting worse every passing day. This is besides the fact that a multibillion naira contract was awarded to construction giant, Julius Berger Plc to rehabilitate it. It has gone far in executing the contract, with the massive work it had carried out on some sections. Nevertheless, the effort of the firm is like a flash in the pan with many sections such as Creek Road and Coconut becoming almost impassable.
In fact, there is a pothole big enough to swallow a car on Creek Road. That this is a road that leads to the ports where million if not billions of naira are raked in daily makes many stakeholders to wonder whether the federal government is really serious to address the challenge of making the road motorable all year round.
How many more lives is the federal government waiting to see destroyed before it does what it ought to do to address the ills plaguing Apapa-Oshodi Expressway? How many more containers does it want to fall off as a result of the poor state of the road before it does the needful to redress it? The answers to these questions, and many more, lie in the bowel of time.