Apapa Businesses Crumble Due To Persistent Traffic Gridlock
GOING to Apapa for any reason, these days, is like going through the eye of a needle. The traffic bottleneck has reached a crescendo and many people, who have genuine reason to visit the small island and Maritime hub, are being discouraged to do so. Those who must take a shot at the island would need to devout a whole day for it at the detriment of other engagements.
Indiscriminate parking by tanker drivers and bad link roads are some causes of the traffic gridlock. The tankers have virtually taken over the entire roads, from Mile Two and the Ijora ends.
This has taken a toll on businesses and value of property in the area, as many business enterprises have relocated, while those that chose to stay have to cope with the hardship.
A visit last week revealed that most businesses have relocated from Creek and Commercial roads, as many commercial premises remained unoccupied. It is common now to see banners advertising vacant apartment and office space in the residential and commercial areas of the island, an indication of low demand for accommodation.
On Child road, Prime Metro Properties Ltd placed a large banner on a detached duplex advertising for buyers. The company left over ten telephone lines for interested buyers to call. The house has been unoccupied for about two years.
The company’s Estate Manager, Adesina Adekunle, confirmed that no prospective buyer has shown up for the house in the last one year and hoped that the traffic on Apapa roads would soon be cleared for property business to thrive again in the area.
“Our office is at Ikeja, but we have a property we are managing at Apapa. The house has been there for more than two years and I am yet to get a prospective buyer. Only those who have businesses in Apapa are the set of Nigerians who want to settle in the place. So it is affecting property business. We have a lot of shipping companies and maritime activities in Apapa, so the value of properties there right now is not what we are expecting. But the problem with Apapa is temporary, as I am sure by the time government decides to solve the traffic problem and repair the roads, the value of the properties there will appreciate again,” he said.
Another estate agent, S.B. Adeniyi, who spoke with The Guardian on the state of Apapa properties, said he was now reluctant to accept more property for management because of the stress involved in assessing the island.
“I have a warehouse to sell or lease at Commercial road. It has been there for more than one year and nobody is coming for it. I have my banners all over the place to indicate how to reach me. Sometimes when we receive calls from prospective buyers, the price offer is ridiculous. I have brought down the price from N300 million to N250 million, and they keep offering me N150 million. This is ridiculous because I have sold a warehouse of that size before for N300 million. Anytime I have a tank farm to sell or lease, I find it difficult to declare the availability because of the stress of going to Apapa. The journey to Apapa will take you a whole day. The value of property has declined in the area, especially commercial premises. The demand for them is very low. We even slashed the price of one of our warehouses to N450 million, from N500 million. Yet prospective buyers refused to respond as nobody wants to go to Apapa for business transaction. We don’t have two reasons other than the traffic and bad link roads.”
The phenomenon is affecting businesses, especially those offering services. Officials of DHL, which has a large office in the island, lamented low sales and patronage.
An official at the company head office in Isolo said Apapa office used to be a centre of activities, with highest revenue generation, adding that the trend has changed due to traffic congestion, which is now scaring people from the area.
‘‘If you had visited our Apapa office before the congestion on the roads, you would have discovered that we made a right choice of Apapa for the location of our biggest service centre. We used to have high business activities in our Apapa office. But if you go there now, you will find it unimaginable. They used to generate between N4 million and N5 million revenue every month. Now they are struggling to make N1.5 million, in good month, N2 million. Our staffs are making sacrifices: they sleep in the office from Monday through Friday. They only leave for their respective homes on Fridays, after office hours to be reunited with their family.” Said one of the senior marketers, who spoke on ground of anonymity
The MGN logistic and GM Motors are among the companies on Creek road that have relocated to other areas within the Lagos metropolis. While GM Motors relocated to Oregun, MGN logistics relocated to Tin-can area.
A security man at MGN logistics told The Guardian that ‘‘I am the only one here. By afternoon, another person will come and replace me. This company has relocated because of the traffic into Apapa. You can see that trucks have taken over Creek road and our vehicles have no place to park, yet we are a logistics company. But because the owner wants to remain in business to service his customers, he decided to relocate, until this road is cleared of tankers again,” he said.
Banks are also suffering the same fate as many of their customers now operate their accounts from other branches.
‘‘I have been so lucky because train now comes to Apapa every morning and evening from Ikeja where I live. That makes it easy for me to come to work. But the problem is that we are always idle most hours of the day because account holders now prefer to operate from other branches. If not for the maritime activities in Apapa that makes the clearing agents to come here for payment, most banks would have long shut down some of their branches in Apapa,” said a female banker, who refused to disclose her name at one of the Union Bank branches.
The Lagos state licensing office is also feeling the pain of low human and vehicular traffic to Apapa. The premises located off Creek road were like a graveyard when The Guardian visited, contrary to what it used to be. The touts have all disappeared and officials said registration exercise has reduced tremendously.
“This place used to be a beehive of activities. But now it has changed. We used to register up to 30 vehicles per day. We didn’t even have enough parking spaces for our customers then, but you can see the car park is now empty. All the touts have all gone to look for another means of survival. We have also come up with a new strategy, in order to generate revenue. We now visit corporate organisations to help them register and renew their vehicles particulars. In that way, we have kept ourselves busy, while raising revenue for the government,” said a female staff, who referred The Guardian to the State’s Secretariat for official comment.
Ferry business is now thriving at the CMS and Mile 2 areas of Lagos metropolis as many people now take to ferry services to get to their work place at Apapa.
At CMS, Texas Ferry Services Ltd is one of the operators enjoying business boom, due to increased patronage. Many of the commuters now prefer to access Apapa from the Lagos Island, using ferryboat.
“Business is improving now because more people now see the need to go to Apapa through the waters. They are no longer afraid of the water. If you ask many of them now using ferry services, they will tell you they are from Surulere, Mushin and other places in the mainland. They prefer to come here and take ferry so that they can get to their offices on time. So business is growing and we have increased the number of our boats to cope with the number of people that we now have,” said a ferry operator at CMS jetty