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Opinions of Friday, 22 January 2021

Columnist: Oduche Azih

Osinbajo’s unfulfilled promise to end Apapa gridlock

The other day, an online news portal, SaharaReporters, reported that, “Nigerians on Twitter have reminded the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, not to forget his promise of helping to end the perennial traffic situation on the Apapa Expressway in Lagos.”

My initial reaction was, Can he? I just don’t get it.

Many of us are of an analytical bent. Has Osinbajo presented any credible proposal, no matter how woolly, to end the decades-old gridlock on Apapa roads and ports? Failing that, has he ever been on record to have aligned himself with or adopted any one of the many unsolicited proposals from individuals and/or organisations. My name does not ring a bell, hence I would drop that of Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa who should needs no introduction. What of the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria, both the Lagos and Ogun branches as well as the national body? What of the Nigerian Chamber of Industries Manufacturing Mines and Agriculture?

Has the regime in which Osinbajo serves ever listened to the planners and bigwigs in the Nigerian Employers’ Consultative Association? It must be clear that Osinbajo and his team, apart from being essentially blank, are clearly impervious to good advice.

It is on record that the redevelopment and boom of Shanghai, China, were preceded by the uprooting and relocation further inland of an American-built blast furnace and steel plant complex. Just think about that for a project objective!

On what basis then would anyone seek to remind Osinbajo about what does not amount to a well-thought-out promise? Simply because he made it? It was all politics. Are we so bereft of self-respect considering that we failed to point out the sheer emptiness of those public pronouncements? Backed by nothing, even on paper.

No thanks to those who had access to the President, his Vice President and the Minister of Transportation but failed to utilise the opportunities to tell/explain to them that they are wasting everybody’s time on this matter of Apapa ports and roads, because, among other things, they are ignorant. We need to call a spade a spade.

Nigeria has run out of excuses. A project as complex as the NLNG at Bonny, in which I was very peripherally involved, started as an idea and a blank sheet of paper. Followed by hard analytical work by those who enjoy solving difficult problems, not political jobbers. The rest is history, as they say.

The way out is for Nigeria, or preferably, Lagos State to build three double-track standard gauge railway lines originating from Apapa/Tin Can Island and radiating outwards, terminating as follows:

1) 10 kilometres north of Ikorodu.

2) A point equidistant from Abeokuta and Sagamu Junction on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

3) Somewhere 10 kilometres east of the Epe to Ijebu Ode road and five kilometres south of the Sagamu to Benin Expressway.

Are we to believe that the TEAM Group which, for decades, has had a hand in the pockets of the Federal Government never thought of this? Or, something similar? I doubt it. It must have been suppressed by a stupid belief in the current hegemony that profits only the very few and pauperises the rest of us.

This railway terminus will incorporate the most modern rail shunting and marshalling yards covering vast acreages, materials and container handling gantry cranes, warehouses, truck yards etc. These will become the Inland Ports that will conveniently and effectively remove the chokehold on Apapa. Inland ports up north will at best be serviced more efficiently or at worst become irrelevant.

This is affordable. There is no reason why these rail lines cannot be completed in 36 months. Look at Kenya and Ethiopia. If they cannot afford their railway projects, fortunately, Nigeria can.

Note that I have not bothered to repeat the old solutions offered up concerning the positive economic impact of opening up the Delta and Eastern ports, but routinely ignored. I am tired of repeating them.

Without doubt, Nigeria is a crazy country.

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