Apapa Wharf is one of Nigeria’s busiest sea ports.

The port alone generates an estimated 2 trillion naira annually to federal government.

But the traffic congestion along that route has become legendary.

It is estimated that government loses more than 20 billion naira daily to the traffic congestion along that route.

Everyone who does business in and around Apapa suffers because of the gridlock.

Importers are not able to get their goods out of the ports on time and exporters lose billions of naira trying to ship their goods out of the port.

Government has pleaded helplessness to the situation as its previous efforts to deal with the traffic menace had failed.

At the moment, the government has thrown its weight behind a road rehabilitation project being spearheaded by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote.

But with hundreds of thousands of trucks heading in and out of Apapa every day, industry watchers believe the solution may require more than road repairs.

Also Read: REVEALED! Why Operators Want Apapa Port Shut Down

And that is what this emerging online logistics company, Kobo360 said it has been able to accomplish.

Kobo said it is proposing a new solution which is driven by technology to create an online queuing system that will make it impossible for any truck to enter Lagos without authorisation.

The Chief Executive Officer of Kobo, Obi Ozor during an exclusive interview with Bounce News on Monday said the solution has a combination of technology and infrastructure and he believes it can tame the notorious gridlock.

*The notorious Apapa gridlock

The solution

According to Obi, “the underlying solution behind the proposal remains technology. It allows any driver to be able to queue online instead of queuing physically on the road and then we call up drivers as we see fit.

“We will be calling about 400 trucks every 24 hours to enter Apapa. But should our system detect that those trucks that entered have not come out, we will cut down on the number of trucks that we allow to enter Apapa.

“This is so that at every given time, there will be about 2000 trucks on the road heading into Apapa.”

But the key thing in this solution is what is called a holding bay. Every port terminal in Nigeria is supposed to operate a holding bay.

A holding bay is supposed to be located on the outskirts of the port. That is where you keep the empty containers so that they are not going inside the port and causing more traffic congestion.

To complement its online queuing technology, Kobo has acquired a property of 369 hectares along old Ojo Road, Lagos.

The facility comes with road infrastructure and it can take on more than 100,000 containers.

“We did that on purpose so that it does not cost the terminal operators a lot of money to bring in empty containers back into the port to put on ship that are going to Asia or various parts of the world,” stated Obi.

But the Ojo Road is already a troubled road in terms of traffic congestion, wouldn’t this proposed solution compound the congestion on that route?

Read More: "No Tax Holiday For Fixing Apapa Port Road" - Dangote

The company seemed to have figured it all out. With the online call-up system, it proposes to allow trucks to ply that road only at night.

“Before people are awake, we would have offloaded more than 400 trucks for the day. Apart from regular operations, no truck would go to the bay during the day to drop off empty containers. It would all be done at night,” Obi explained.

*CEO of Kobo360, Obi Ozor (left) and Jonah Nwokpoku during the interview at Bounce News studios in Lagos

The technology is an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, USSD-based technology.

And this, according to Obi, is that “most truck drivers don’t use smartphone, but they know how to load a credit and it is the same idea of loading credit that we put into this technology so that the drivers can use it.”

Each driver would have to dial a USSD code - *735*1*TDO#. The TDO is a unique code for all trucks entering inside or coming out of Apapa.

And every driver will get familiar with it. Once they dial the code, the system allows them to queue up on the Kobo online queueing system. So, they can then be activated to enter Apapa.

“We will be activating trucks based on first-in-first-out. So, we now send you a verification code that now tells you ‘ok, you can enter Apapa at your designated schedule.’

“And that is what they will use to start heading into Lagos,” Obi said.

Kobo is not a government owned company. It is a startup. For this solution to work, it needs the support of agencies, groups and business in the sector.

Terminal operators, the truck drivers’ unions, federal and state ministries of transport, the Nigeria Ports Authority, etc need to key into this to make it a reality.

Kobo said it is already in talks with some of these groups and that the solution may be unveiled in a matter of days.

“We have been on this conversation for over a month. We had a meeting with all the key stakeholders,” Obi said.

“(There may be disparate views) but the key thing is that all of them are united on one thing – nobody is benefitting from this Apapa gridlock.

“It has shut down businesses, especially real estate, so everybody will prefer this problem solved. However, they want it to be solved on time, with little to no additional cost burden on them,” added Obi.

Also Watch: Apapa Gridlock: See The Technology That Will Solve the Problem Once And For All