Story By Roland Ekama.
Concerned that the 12-month closure of Wharf Road, the main access route to Apapa Port, may have crippling effects on operations, port users have urged the federal government to provide alternative routes before the project begins.
The projected 24-hour operations of the ports for which an executive order was recently issued by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo as well as government's bid to boost revenue from the maritime industry may be scuttled by the road closure, they said.
A section of the Apapa-Wharf road will be shut for one year to enable its construction, Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, announced officially during the signing of Memorandum of Understanding and handing over of the project to the sponsors.
The N4.34 billion project is jointly sponsored by Dangote, Flour Mills and the Federal Government.
Already, port operators have stated that the new directive would overwhelm the 24 hours executive order by the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, which plans are afoot for its implementation.
The directive which was announced by the Acting President in May that the Lagos Ports Complex(LPC) should commence 24 hours operations probably might be halted due to the commencement of the road construction.
Speaking with Business and Maritime West Africa on Sunday in Lagos, port users described government's directive as a welcome development but lamented that the proposed 24 hours port operations may be scuttled.
Executive Secretary, Association of Private Bonded Terminal Operators, Mr. Haruna Omolajomo, said the reconstruction of the road is commendable but stressed the need for provision of alternative routes to the seaport.
Omolajomo reiterated that failure on the part of the government to provide such alternative to the port before construction of the road begins may be a dangerous gamble as the other section of the road cannot not serve commuters and heavy duty trucks.
Omolajomo who also doubles as the general manager, Duncan Bonded Terminal, stated that the road overtime has led to lost of lives, properties and investments.
He called on the government to ensure that the repair works will not affect port operations at the Lagos Ports Complex, predicting that one year of fixing the road could jeopardize revenue collection.
According to him, a focused and sincere government would provide alternative routes to the port before final closure of the port access road.
The two kilometres road construction between Apapa Port and Ijora end of the bridge is expected to commence on Saturday.
Also speaking on the implication of the road closure inward and outward the port, Vice Chairman, Dry Cargo Section, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Inuwa Abdullahi, said that the possibilities of achieving 24 hours cargo clearance from the port will suffer another setback.
Inuwa stated that the situation of fixing a section of the road linking the Apapa Port will further compound movement of cargoes in and out of the port if there are no alternative routes in place.
"There is no way 24 hours port operations in Lagos State that can work when the roads are in a total mess
"However, the decision of the government to close the road linking the Apapa Port is a welcome development but how can cargoes exit the port without hitches", Inuwa lamented.