Strong indications emerged that the very poor state of the access roads to Nigeria’s major seaports, especially those in Lagos is currently taking its toll on easy movement of cargo in and out of the seaports as more than two million containers laden with goods worth over N5 trillion have been trapped at the Lagos Ports Complex Apapa alone.

Stakeholders believe that this rather ugly development makes a mess of the Federal Government’s policy of enhancing the ease of doing business in the country, especially in relation to the Executive Orders issued recently by the acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo

Recall that a coalition of freight forwarders, Customs brokerage agent, truck owners, drivers and other fleet managers had last month embarked on a strike to protest the dilapidated state of the access roads to the seaports, which they argued has led to loss of several lives and valuable goods.

Reliable sources at the ports in Apapa hint that cargo congestion looms at the ports due to this backlog of over two million containers trapped at the terminals, which will be the first time of any of the ports experiencing congestion in the last 11 years.

Investigations also show that long vessel queues, which cleared about 11 years ago after the completion of the port concession programme and the subsequent coming on private terminal operators have returned again with no fewer than 20 ships on queue waiting to berth to discharge their cargo.

This development stems from the fact that ships currently at berth are unable to discharge and leave because cargo that were discharged earlier have not been cleared, as many of them are still at the quay sites since the importers and their agents have not been able to access the ports because of the state of the roads.

It was further gathered that the decision of the relevant authorities to close a lane of the Wharf Road, which is a major artery into the Lagos Ports Complex without any form of arrangement for traffic diversion and control, has largely contributed to the inability of trucks to go into the ports to evacuate cargoes and for those inside the port to drive out, having taken cargo.

A stakeholder, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed this development, describing it as horrible and strange modern port management technique.

According to him, if the government or any of its agencies is to carry out any form of rehabilitation or maintenance on the port roads, the best thing to have done first and foremost is to create alternatives and above all, evolve a good traffic management system that would divert and control the chaotic traffic situation.

He blamed the recent mayhem in Apapa, where a Police officer allegedly shot a truck driver to death for parking in front of a bank, which led to the setting ablaze of two banks by irate truck drivers to protest the death of their colleague on the lack of proper traffic control mechanism and the indiscriminate parking of trucks and other articulated vehicles.

He therefore urged the Nigerian Ports Authority and other relevant government agencies at the ports to work with the Nigeria Police Force with a view to posting security and traffic control officers to the area to properly manage the current chaotic traffic situation in the area.

The recent Federal Government’s Executive Order had directed all agencies currently physically present at the nation’s seaports to harmonise within 60 days their operations into one single interface station domiciled in one location in the port and implemented by a single joint task force at all times, without prejudice to necessary backend procedures.

The directive also reads in part: “The new single interface station at each Port shall capture, track and record information on all goods arriving and departing from Nigeria and remit captured information to the head of the MDA and the head of the National Bureau of Statistics on a weekly basis.

“Each Port in Nigeria shall assign an existing export terminal to be dedicated to the exportation of agriculture produce within 30 days of the issuance of this Order.

“The Apapa Port shall resume 24-hour operations within 30 days of the issuance of this Order”.