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Apapa, once a jewel, now a shadow

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Roads leading to Apapa ports have been in a state of disrepair for years.
Roads leading to Apapa ports have been in a state of disrepair for years.

By YUSUF MOHAMMED

Apapa used to be known as one of the melting pots in Lagos. Today, apart from those who live or work there, people from other parts of Lagos hardly visit. It has become a shadow of itself due to gridlock caused by bad roads, trailers and petroleum tankers. This is also having a negative impact on businesses in the area.

The economy of Apapa has been affected badly by the road congestion. People now find it difficult to move in and out of Apapa.

Apapa is a Local Government Area in Lagos, located to the West of Lagos Island. It contains a number of Ports and terminals operated by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), including the major port of Lagos State and Lagos Port Complex (LPC).

The economic significance of this area is enormous having the most functional port in Nigeria. Therefore trucks owned by business moguls are lined up on the roads waiting to pick up goods in order to distribute to other parts of Lagos and the country as a whole. This has worsened the traffic condition.

Traffic on Lagos roads is something that has been part of the city for a very long time. It is common to hear residents of Lagos or visitors complain of the traffic condition. Well, those who have not visited Mile 2 or Apapa recently would not realize that the gridlock in other parts of Lagos is nothing compared to what motorists, commuters and residents go through there.

Moving from Oshodi to Apapa is an experience one would want to forget in a hurry. Unfortunately for some residents, they have no choice. They have to ply that route almost every day to eke out a living.

The difficulty in getting to Apapa has made many residents relocate to other parts of Lagos. Also due to the gridlock, prices of goods and services in Apapa are not like other areas of Lagos.

For instance, the cost of beer in a well set-up restaurant and bar on the Island and posh places on the mainland in Lagos cost nothing less than N500. In Apapa, a bottle of beer is N300 no matter how beautiful the place is. Despite the fact that things are relatively cheap, businesses are still folding up.

One of the businesses that have folded up is Monalido night club located on Warehouse Road. It was the hottest club in Apapa about 15 years ago. Some people say it is being renovated, some say it is for sale.

Speaking with one of the staff of the club who refused to mention his name, Business Hallmark learnt that “there is nothing like renovation going on. The owner is looking for a buyer. It is very difficult to find a buyer because of the location. This used to be a very nice environment. People from other parts of Lagos usually came here to have fun.”

WAZOBIA Hotel at 9/11 Ado Avenue, Apapa is another place that has lost its touch. Once known as a spot where the working class gather at night to have a good time after a hard day’s job is now a haven for prostitutes and drug peddlers.

About 10 years ago, the place had an outdoor bar where there was a live band at night. The live band would perform from dusk till dawn. That is no longer the case.

This newspaper, met a young man who identified himself simply as Mike in front of the hotel. He should be in his early 40’s. It was obvious that he was very popular in the area based on the way almost every passerby greeted him.  He was of the view that the gridlock on Apapa-Mile2 road has discouraged well to do people from coming around in their leisure time.

With a sad look on his face, he said “What is responsible for the current state of this place is not just poor management. It is the difficulty in getting to this place.  People from Apapa GRA have stopped coming here to have fun. They prefer to go to Lekki to have fun. Those that used to come here from places like Ikeja and Surulere have become discouraged.

“If the hotel is willing to survive, they have no choice than to accept prostitutes. A beggar has no choice.”

BH also gathered that landlords are beginning to sell their properties and are relocating to more motor-able areas in Lagos.

However, it is not easy to find buyers. A property owner who identified himself as Olayinka Smith said, “We are finding it very difficult to get tenants not to talk of finding buyers.

“Who wants to come and live in Apapa with the bad roads leading to this place? People that are here are running away because of the deplorable condition. Look at tankers dragging for space on the roads with smaller vehicles.

He continued, “The prices are affordable. A three bedroom flat goes for 600 thousand. In the past, it was N1, 500,000. The price has reduced drastically but it is still difficult to get tenants.

Landlords are not alone as commercial sex workers are also migrating from Apapa to other areas of Lagos. One of them, who simply gave her name as Loveth, plies her trade at WAZOBIA Hotel. While others were not willing to talk, Loveth opened up after she was offered a bottle of malt. She stated that “this place is no longer lucrative for us. We are not making money like before. Many of my friends have moved from Apapa to the Island. I will do the same thing once I gather enough money.

“Big boys no longer patronize us. The people that come here can’t afford to pay the normal price, so we have reduced it.” Asked how much, she said, “short time is N1000. Before, it was N3, 000.”

While the business may be gloomy for some, for others, the bad road has given them an opportunity to make more money. Due to the bad roads, most car owners do not bother to drive. They rather make use of commercial bike (Okada) drivers to maneuver the pot holes and the petroleum tankers on the road.

Business is booming for them because they have more passengers to carry. Saheed Olatunji an okada rider said, “I have been riding okada for the past 10 years and I must admit I am making more money than I was making in the past because of the roads.”

Asked if he was praying for it to remain this way? He replied “No I am not. Even though we are making more money, we are not moving as fast as we would want. As you can see, the roads are very bad. If you don’t drive carefully your bike will get damaged. I visit the mechanic more than before because of the bad roads.”

Residents of Apapa are praying and hoping that Apapa would be given special attention by the government in order for the place to at least, have a semblance of its old self.