Unending agony on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, By Kazeem Akintunde

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Traffic-Lagos-Ibadan-Expressway
Traffic-Lagos-Ibadan-Expressway

Many Nigerians are going through hell on earth. This is due to the traumatic experiences of residents, commuters, and motorists daily on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Since the reconstruction of the road began in 2009, many lives have been lost to road carnage while armed robbers play ludo with the lives of Nigerians whenever there is traffic gridlock on the road. The number of man-hours wasted, and the mental stress many have been subjected to on that road is, to say the least, harrowing.

Even after several years of work on the road, said to be the busiest in Africa, it is far from being completed, and the daily toil on commuters,  vehicles, fuel consumption in the traffic snarl, and the negative effects on human life continues. What is more, only God knows how much the project has gulped.

Living in Magboro, Mowe, Ibafo, Redeemed Camp, and many adjourning towns along the road has become a living hell for many who are ‘unfortunate’ enough to have homes in that axis. Countless man-hours are lost on a daily basis as motorists spend an average of four hours navigating a journey that should not take more than 30 minutes. Many have had to relocate or completely abandoned their properties in that axis.

When the stress of commuting on that road became unbearable for a colleague, he had to abandon his property in Mowe to rent a single-room apartment around Ojota. He is now a ‘visitor’ to his own house on weekends. Another colleague had to temporarily abandon his property at the Journalist’s Estate in Arepo, Ogun state, when the suffering became unbearable. He simply moved in with a friend in the Ikeja area of Lagos in order to be closer to his office and in his words, “preserve his life”.

Many others have sad tales to recount about their harrowing experiences while plying the road, and those are the lucky ones, who are alive to tell their tales. Another close friend escaped a traffic robbers’ attack while going to work a few minutes after 5 a.m. on the Kara end of the bridge. Though the traffic was moving, he was caught off-guard when he saw two young boys wielding cutlasses with one aiming for his head. He was forced to stop and quickly gave them his phone after which they disappeared into thin air. He is of the view that if one or two motorists had stopped to assist, he could have easily dealt with the young boys whom he said are below 18 years in age.

Whenever there is a little traffic on the Kara Bridge, young boys working in a pair of two or three use the opportunity to rob commuters of their phones and cash. Many of the robbers target female drivers and elderly men driving alone. It was so bad that

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had to draft men of the Rapid Response Squad to the area despite the fact that the axis is in Ogun State.

There was a frenzy on the road in March this year when the former Minister of Works and Housing, Raji Fashola, included the road as one of the legacy projects to be commissioned by former President Muhammadu Buhari a few days before his handing over power ceremony. However, the closure of several portions of the road for repair works led to another round of agonizing traffic gridlock and the Federal Government was forced to remove the project from the list when it became glaring that work on the project was not near what could be commissioned by the former President.

The construction company working on the road was forced to remove many of the barriers on the road to ensure the free flow of traffic. Fashola, before leaving office, assured that the new government, headed by Bola Tinubu, would commission the project.

Now, in order to work on adjourning roads linking the express on the Lagos end, traffic has been diverted from linking the expressway at New Garage Lagos, forcing motorists coming from Isheri Olowora to pass through River Valley Estate to link the expressway. Also, motorists coming to Lagos now pass through Babcock College, opposite Enyo filling station, to link the expressway. Alternatively, they pass through Ojodu and make a U-turn in front of Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Ojodu, to link the expressways at Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Bus-Stop. This is to allow for repair works around the Berger Bus stop and the adjourning areas. Again, this has led to another round of bottlenecks, with motorists finding it difficult to enter Lagos or leave the city. Many motorists now spend an average of three hours navigating that axis.

Julius Berger has been unable to find a solution to managing traffic on the route and the bad driving culture of many drivers, particularly commercial drivers, have compounded the problem. Since last week when those adjourning link roads were closed to traffic, there has been bedlam on the route.

A road reconstruction should not be this difficult. The repair work on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is meant to ease the commuting time of motorists and not to add to their misery.

The pressure on the road, again, is due to the fact that there are no alternative routes out of Lagos that could easily be accessed by many motorists. The Lagos-Abeokuta Express has been in a state of disrepair for several years with both the Federal and State governments not bothered about their deplorable state. The Sango-Ota portion of the road has become a deep gully that even trailers have difficulty navigating. Motorists now take one-way on the route and many passersby have been maimed in the process.

Governor Dapo Abiodun, while seeking votes last year, was on the road and gave assurance that palliative work would be done to make the road motorable. Few days after his promise, hardcore stones were deposited on the very bad side of the road but a few weeks after, the road became impassable again. Elections are over, Abiodun has gotten his second term, and the people are once again, abandoned to their fate.

Apart from that, the Lagos-Sagamu Road through Ikorodu is another road that motorists have abandoned except for those in Ikorodu and adjourning towns heading out of Lagos. Though a bit motorable, it does not make sense if one resides in Abule-Egba to first of all drive to Ikorodu, to link Sagamu, before heading to Abeokuta or Ibadan.

The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was first constructed in 1978 but with over 8,000 vehicles plying it daily according to figures from the Federal Road Safety Corps, the road was a living hell for motorists until the Federal Government decided to reconstruct and expand it in 2009.

The Federal Government had initially made a concession agreement with Wale Babalakin’s Bi-Courtney to rebuild and manage the road for 25 years. The company was to expand the road from Lagos to Sagamu interchange to 10 lanes while the portion from Sagamu to Ibadan would be reconstructed to six lanes. But after the company failed to make much progress, the Government, on November 19, 2012, terminated the contract. Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, in July 2013, flagged off the reconstruction of the road and awarded the project to Julius Berger Nigeria and Reynolds Construction Company Nigeria at a cost of N167 billion with a completion period of four years. Julius Berger is to handle the Lagos-Sagamu axis of the road while RCCG takes care of the Sagamu-Ibadan portion of the road.

The project, which started in 2013, had 2017 as the initial completion date but was later shifted to the end of 2018/early 2019. However, the completion period was further shifted to 2021 and in meeting up with the new deadline, the Federal Government granted Julius Berger’s request to close the Berger-Kara section of the road for reconstruction. Again, in 2018, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved N64 billion for additional work to be carried out on Section I of the Lagos-Sagamu interchange of the expressway project. The Council approved the sum to cover over 43.6 kilometers, which include pedestrian bridges and toll plazas for the section to accommodate the changing nature of the road.

The road project was also penciled down as one of three of the Federal Government’s priority projects to benefit from the repatriated $311 million loot recovered from the late head of state, General Sani Abacha. The three priority projects are the second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Expressway, and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. It is however unclear, the amount that was set aside for the Lagos-Ibadan Road project from the repatriated Abacha loot.

As a major artery that connects Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, to other parts of the country, the Lagos-Ibadan expressway needs to be rehabilitated as it is a vital link for the movement of goods and services. However, the ongoing repair work taking forever has caused significant disruptions to the country’s economy. Besides, the 127.6-kilometer-long road connects Oyo, Ogun, and Lagos states, leading to the northern, southern, and eastern regions of the country.

This is not how to reconstruct a major road. This is not how it is done in saner climes, and this is not a good scorecard for those in past and present governments. The reconstruction of such a road shouldn’t take this long. It is either that the construction companies are incompetent or the project has been turned into a money-guzzling venture where all parties involved smile to the banks every time the contract is reviewed or expanded. Before works began on the road, alternative routes should have been repaired for use ahead of closure of this particular one.

Public enlightenment campaigns should have been done to sensitize members of the public on the reconstruction of the road and alternative routes available to road users. If available, train and ferry services should have been provided and traffic managers deployed throughout the duration of the reconstruction. But when you have an unending major road reconstruction in a third-world country like Nigeria, this is what you get, bringing to mind, the words of the iconic musician, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti, “suffering and smiling”. Nigerians continue to suffer and smile while commuting to work while those in government are only after their pockets and least concerned about the welfare of their people. May God continue to help us, and heal our land!

See you next week.

 

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