Religious clerics, especially of Christian faith, of which I am an adherent, often tell their followers, copiously quoting from the Holy Bible, that two types of life await us after our physical death: Heaven and Hell.
Heaven is for the adherents to the canon of Christianity, those who are not tainted by the worldly vanities, the saints who will inhabit in eternal glory with the Creator. The attributes of Heaven are alluring; the city is paved with gold and the houses are mansions built with gold where angels sing in reverence to God. The roads in the cities of heaven are made of gold while other infrastructural facilities are working with optimum efficiency. (John 14:2; Rev 21: 11-23)
Heaven is a life after death where there is no pain, no sorrow, no death. It is life of unimaginable comfort and prosperity where you will not lack anything and feel no pains.To capture the scenario I am trying to create, just imagine the beautiful cites of Dubai, London, New York, Paris or better still, the proposed Atlantic City in Lagos.
Hell is the flipside of Heaven which is reserved for the Devil and his angels .It is an eternal damnation where men weep and gnash their teeth in eternal pains and agony.The attributes of Hell is hair- raising and scary; it is a lake of fire which burns with venomous rage. The place is charcoal black, full of agonized cries and wailing. The inhabitants sweat, curse, burn and are frustrated due to the collapse of roads and other infrastructural facilities which are non-existent. It is a place of indescribable discomfort (Rev.:20:14)
Apapa, a port city in the South-West town of Lagos, is the closest analogy we can safely make of hell.
Yes, Apapa port is Hell on Earth. It shares striking attributes with Hell: failed infrastructural faculties, especially the port access roads which have collapsed. A place where people groan, curse, sweat, infuriated, experience unending pains , anguish and sorrow due to the criminal neglect of government.
Users of Lagos ports and the inhabitants of the port city will readily come to terms with the allusion of the place to hell going by the traffic gridlock being experienced in the last four weeks. A first timer who wants to have a feel of how hell should go to Apapa where he would have a first-hand experience of the untold hardship which port users are exposed to in the course of conducting their businesses.
For one to experience the life after death described in the Holy Bible, one needs to die before he goes to Heaven or Hell, as the case may be. But you don’t need to die to experience Apapa Hell which has for some time now become the lot of the Lagos port users and its inhabitants.
Apapa is home to the two largest and busiest ports in Nigeria: Lagos Ports Complex and Tin Can Port. It also accommodates over 50 private jetties and tank farms, which make the city the busiest in the West African sub- region. In addition, the Lagos ports account for over 70 per cent of all imports into the country while they account for over 60 percent accruable revenue to government in terms of Customs duties, levies and other fees which rank the second highest revenue after oil.
Ironically and most annoyingly, the access roads to Lagos ports are the most neglected by government, ranked above the pitiable sight of Onne Port access road. Yet the Lagos ports are the cash cow which the government is only interested in milking but unwilling to cater for.
The journey to the Lagos ports, which, ordinarily, should not be more than an average of 30 minutes to one hour, maximum, depending on the departure point, now takes between five to six hours, while it takes longer on the return journey. The situation is compounded by the peculiar topography of the port city. Apapa could be accessed from two points: Oshodi- Mile Two axis and Western Avenue- Ijora axis. The Oshodi- Mile two axis is hampered by the fuel tankers which have taken over the road in their attempt to access the scores of tank farms in the area. For over a year now, government is yet to finish the trailer park it hopes to relocate them to ease the congestion. Further down the road towards the PTML-Tin Can, Apapa ports axis, the container-laden trucks have also taken over the road in their attempt to access the terminals for loading and off-loading empty containers.
The architects of the ports concession exercise never considered leaving enough space as holding bay for these trucks, as all the available space has been sold by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
To compound the already bad situation on this axis, the road has completely collapsed while its rehabilitation by Julius Berger is taking an eternity to complete. Naturally, this makes the Apapa-Mile Two axis a no- go area and leaves Western Avenue-Ijora axis as the only alternative route for motorists who thronged the road in a hurried frenzy that leaves the route completely choked and congested. Articulated vehicles like trailers and tankers struggle daily for the narrow space with the smaller vehicles, thus causing chaos.
On both axes, the long, winding queues of stationary vehicles, with cacophonous noise of sweaty occupants, cursing and murmuring, are the common spectacles on the road. The agony of long wait, depressed hiss of disillusioned people crammed in the immobile vehicles is often mixed with the strident and agonised cries of victims of vehicles often crushed by the falling containers. The situation is bedlam and akin to what obtained in Hell.
So, the next time you want to go to Apapa, be rest assured that you are embarking on a journey to hell.
Mr. Funso Olojo is a seasoned maritime journalist. He wrote from Lagos.