Any one familiar with buying and selling in Nigeria is directly or indirectly aware and affected by the at-a-point- insurmountable, perennial gridlock at the Apapa area of Lagos State. The gridlock was such that even pedestrians at some axis of the Apapa road network were held in traffic.
This, certainly, crippled business activities in the place. In order to survive, businesses have to relocate to other parts of the metropolis at an unplanned expense. Some left the state or even the nation entirely. Those who had no choice than to stay, especially the players in the shipping and logistics industry, had to relocate their families to the area in other to reduce the day-to-day hassles orchestrated by the night-and-day gridlock.
For businesses in the export/import industry, it was nightmarish. Cost of logistics and haulage rose astronomically. What takes a truck a night from Ilorin to Lagos; and by same evening, the truck has dropped cargo in the port, started rising from one week to two weeks, to one month… to three months. This was a major contributor to inflation and hike in prices of goods.
In a bid to rid the state of this menace, the LASG, in December 2020, requested to handle the management of inbound and outbound trucks including the general traffic within Apapa. The FG granted that wish. They came up with an electronic version of calling up trucks to enter the ports (Tincan and Apapa) to either drop or load cargo. They designed and came up with the Eto App through which truckers get the all-clear signal to enter the port. This e-call up system worked wonders within a few days of coming into effect. The App commenced on the 27th of February, 2021 with a warning from NPA that failure for truckers, both owners and drivers, to download and register on the App would mean denial of access into the port.
Residents and business owners/operators in Apapa are testifying to the fact that the area is as free as it used to be. There is total free flow of traffic. Kudos to Eto.
The question then arises as to timing. Does it mean that Eto must be ‘born’ in 2021? Is Eto a harbinger of a 2023 message? Why have we not intuited into developing Eto ever since 2015 or 2014 when this menace was at its seminal stage? Why would Nigerians go through this ordeal week in week out with no solution in view?
Other questions that come to mind circulate around the so-called task force that made some whooping revenue from the daily tolls they collect? Will they allow this initiative to stabilize or are they already concocting a reprisal?
The trucks that blocked every nook and cranny of Apapa, where have they been shifted to? Can the designated bays, like the Lilypond, contain all of them or have they been shifted to the Satellite Town area of the state? If the latter is the case, are the residents less human?
What of the many businesses that wrecked due to the gridlock? Who will compensate or rescue them? Will the cost of haulage from Ilorin to Apapa come back to N80k – N100k from near N1m it grew to at some point? Can the prices of goods in the market normalize? How does this affect the forex rate?
The glaring truth is that when we deliberately allow aberrations to linger, they become norms and difficult to erase. Most times, we even lose memories of what the status quo ante used to be.
This is a call on NPA and the LASG to collaboratively sustain whatever propels Eto’s successes. If there is a template, this team should not lose sight of it. Stick to the program and let our hopes of ending this gridlock not fade into thin air.
Azuka Edokobi is a Writer and Entrepreneur