Investors sandfill swamps, set up container terminal
By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Godwin Oritse
THE congestion caused by the Apapa gridlock is beginning to spill into the inner city as holding bays are being established in other parts of Lagos State away from the ports areas.
One of such holding bays is currently taking shape in Ejigbo Local Government and Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area, LCDA, following the construction of container terminal by Zamlat Shipping Firm, with capacity to house about 5,000 containers on a swampy stretch of land by the Egbe Link Bridge, old Alimosho council area, Lagos.
As Nigeria’s economic hub, Lagos is one of the world’s fastest growing megacities, but this rapid growth has had a downside with high rates of illegal developments across the state with attendant negative implications to residents. Widespread congestion at the Nigerian ports, it was learnt, is costing the nation about $55 million (about N20.8 billion) per day, going by the latest report by Dynanmar.
The Dutch consultancy firm said solutions to the persistent congestion at Nigerian ports are multiple, and must include a collaborative element. Dynamar expressed worries that the congestion in Nigerian ports is persistent, but that stakeholders are all busy pointing fingers at others rather than developing solutions.
Senior Shipping Analyst and Consultant at Dynamar, Darron Wadey, said: “This is a very joined-up problem, with no single cause and, therefore, no single solution. Alimosho is a council in the Ikeja Division, Lagos State, Nigeria. It is the largest local government in Lagos, with highest population of over 11 million residents.”
It has now been subdivided into several LCDAs. The six sub-divisions created out of the old Alimosho are: Agbado/Oke-odo LCDA, Ayobo/Ipaja LCDA, Alimosho LG, Egbe/Idimu LCDA, Ikotun/Igando LCDA and Mosan Okunola LCDA. The LGA also contains the urban area of Egbeda/Akowonjo. The swampy land said to belong to a Pentecostal Church, was reclaimed after it was initially turned into refuse dumpsite.
The popular Egbe-Ejigbo Link Bridge is a major connector between Ejigbo LGA and Egbe-Idimu LCDA, which leads to Mushin, Oshodi, Okota, Alimosho, LASU-Iba Road, Agege Motor Road. This is the connecting bridge, a very critical bridge as far as the area is concerned.
The illegal development commenced about a year ago, 2020, when the canal, which had been turned into dumpsite and criminal hideout, was reclaimed by unknown developers which converted the land into an estate. Subsequently, various structures started springing-up until further development was stopped following several petitions and public complaints over siting of an estate on a water course and natural drainage channel, which could lead to flooding with attendant danger to residents. It was gathered that after collapse of the plan to erect an estate, some merchants turned on a business venture and suddenly converted it into container terminal.
The merchants have been moving containers into the areal unto barges in a place not clearly designated for jetty or meant for such a business, despite sign post by the state government with a warning to trespassers to steer clear. The inscription on the board read; “Wetland Protected Area. Do not encroach, trespasser will be prosecuted.”
An expert in port operation, Mr. Adams Olusesi told our correspondent that, “When you see a container terminal located close to a bridge and lagoon it goes to reason that those containers have to be evacuated and those containers are to be evacuated by trucks, heavy duty trucks, so your guess is as good as mine on what is waiting to happen there. Everything about this operation is illegally being perpetrated by these merchants who take no care about the danger to public infrastructure, the buildings and the community within the space they converted and the fact that it is clearly a residential area.”
NPA, govt’s link
Efforts to unravel who are behind the act and if an Environment Impact Assessment, EIA, was carried out for the purpose and why the operation has continued unabated without being checked by government achieved little result. Also, moves to get the response from port operators on the views and implications of siting such venture in a residential area also hit the rocks at press time.
Also, Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Idris Salako, could not be reached for comments but a senior official of the ministry, denied any knowledge of the development and directed our correspondent to find out with Lagos State Building Control Agency, LABSCA, for clarification. However, when contacted, Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tunji Bello, expressed surprise, saying that the state government could not have approved such dangerous development.
He, therefore, directed a permanent secretary in the ministry to conduct an immediate investigation into the matter and report back within 48 hours. “I can assure you that we will investigate this thoroughly, with the view to get to the bottom of this and take appropriate action as soon as possible. The state government will not condone any act of lawlessness, that threatens lives and properties of citizens,” Bello stated.
The chairmen of both councils, Monsuru Bello, Ejigbo and Kunle Olowoopejo, Egbe-Idimu, despite several visits to the office by our correspondent, were also yet to respond to various enquiries on whether they are aware of the development.
A visit to the holding bay showed that the land was acquired about three months ago and it is yet to be cemented hence the number of containers on facility is currently very minimal. However, a senior staff, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Vanguard Maritime Report that the container terminal after certification by both State and Local Government, relocated from Oshodi-Apapa Expressway to the site as a result of traffic congestion along the axis and nation’s ports.
He said that the facility belongs to Zamlat Shipping Firm for its empty containers. The staff explained that the facility is limited as to the number of containers it can take in for now adding that when the place is put in proper shape, it will become fully functional to optimum capacity.
“Zamlat established the facility on 12 acres of land. The terminal is designed to offer a more efficient alternative to using the city’s ports, which have been troubled by long-term congestion that has worsened throughout 2020. The roads around the ports also have high levels of traffic, while the road network around the new terminal is expected to deliver faster and efficient delivery of containers to the ports,” the source said.
Concern and fear have been rising among residents who have called on state the government to come to their aid to avert danger waiting to happen. Alhaji Hassan Salami, a resident, lamented that, “This is a disaster. If allowed to happen, IT could consume a lot of lives and property of citizens. When this development was about to start we raised alarm but everybody has turned deaf ears to our pleas. We have written series of petitions to the state government without any reply till date.”
Also, Mrs. Kehinde Adewale, expressed worry over the development, saying, “It will lead to gridlock with attendant influx of criminals into our area. Our road infrastructure will also be degraded worsening the state of our road and heavy flooding.”
The illegal operation has continued. The big question is, when will the relevant authorities come to the rescue of the endangered residents and prevent the danger waiting to happen even as the rainy season is set to commence with high intensity of rainfall as predicted by Nigeria Metrological Agency, NiMET, and state government.