By Stephen Ubanna
More facts have emerged why Aliko Dangote,a billionaire business mogul, and President Dangote Group of Companies, is committed to the reconstruction of the Oshodi –Apapa expressway which had remained a major problem to past and present administrations over the years. This is because of the adverse effect of the dilapidated road on the Apapa port based manufacturing Companies Note that two of the companies belonging to the Dangote Group , a flour Mill and Sugar, plant are located Apapa port and the manufactured goods needed to be transferred to the Distributor’s warehouses in Lagos and other parts of the country.
Given the adverse effect of the Apapa bad road on the two Companies inside the ports between 2017 and 2018, Dangote that the had said that the two Companies alone, lost over N25 billion as their production were not able to get out of the port because of the deep portholes on the road .
Investigations by The Value News shows that this 2019 alone, the Companies warehouse were filled with thousands of cartons of unsold manufactured goods that the business mogul believe that waiting for the government to fix the Oshodi-Apapa road could drag on for years and nothing would be done . He was forced to reach out to President Muhammadu Buhari in order to be given the go ahead to reconstruct the Apapa road with the support of other multi-national Companies based at the port.
The katsina state born Nigerian President may have seen it as a big relief to the government as it would free out more funds that would be used for provision of other basic infrastructural facilities across the country that he jumped at the deal. However, there was a snag. He may have realised that under the current Law of the country, it would be very difficult for a private company to be allowed to take over the job which is an exclusive responsibility of the government.
Perhaps, to encourage the Dangote Group, a wholly indigenous Company, Unilever plc and Lafarge African Construction Company, both multinational Companies , which have the resources to embark on reconstruction of public roads in the in the port environment and other areas where their businesses are located to facilitate the transfer of their goods to their warehouses and the market, he was said to have issued an Executive Order last July to that effect.
The Executive Order 07, 2019, which was said to have been signed into law covers road infrastructure and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme. The Executive Order may have given Dangote Group of Companies a better bargaining power to go ahead with the plan to rehabilitate the dilapidated road. It was , therefore, not very surprising that when the government , finally agreed to contract out the about N73 billion road project from Apapa to the Toll gate end of the Lagos-Ibadam Expressway, Dangote which had earlier signified interest to fix the Apapa road became a ready choice.
Buhari was said to to be very happy to allow the Dangote group execute the multi-billion naira project because it has the wherewithal and not going to rely on the government to release money to it before mobilising on site.
Many believe that given the gains of the deal which includes a 10- year Tax Holiday and waivers on imported goods, to the Dangote group, Dangote quickly mobilised the Construction Company workers on site. They are said to have been working on the road day and night to ensure that the project was delivered to the government with the highest quality in 2020, in order to restore Apapa to its normal busy business life.
Note that over 70 percent of the imported cargoes into the country pass through Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports alone while the remaining 30 percent are shared between Onne port, Concessioned to West African Container Terminal, WACT, Port Harcourt Area 1, Calabar and Warri ports.
Dangote was said to have assured Babatude Fashola, a former governor of state and minister of Works and Housing that the reconstruction of the Oshodi- Apapa road would be completed within the two years approved by the government. He is optimistic that the completion of the road project would go a long way to solve the Apapa gridlock problem and regular falling of truck laden Containers on the deep portholes on the road.
The Kano state born business mogul was said to have told those that cares to listen including the ministry officials that theOshodi-Apapa express Way , will be one of the best roads in the country when completed at the end of 2020. According to him, the country will have a’’ road that will last for over 40 years’’ and which can compete with any road constructed by any established Construction firm in Germany, China or the United States, US and any other part of the world.
Indeed,Port users have contended that if the Dangote Group could keep to their promise of fixing the Oshodi-Apapa road by 2020, it will clear the persistent gridlock on the road. They noted that the Presidential Task Team saddled with the responsibility of clearing the gridlock caused by Tankers and truck laden Containers Headed by Kayode Opeyemi, a former Commissioner of Transportation, Lagos state, would have little or no job to do and thus, should be disbanded by the Presidency to give the truck and Tanker owners a breather.
This is bad news for Opeiyemi and his Team , who had been in the eye of the storm over the last one year over allegations of extortion by Amalgamation of Maritime Truck Owners , AMATO and other Associations at the port.