25th May, 2011
When in May 2009, the Federal Government signed a concession agreement with Bi-Courtney Limited (the Concessionaire) for the Lagos-Ibadan expressway modernization project, the general consensus across the land was that help was around the corner at last. However, two years after, the hope has given way to despair as the expectations of people concerning the road seem to have been dashed. The age long traffic problem experienced on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, particularly at Ibafo and Ogere, has continued to pose a great challenge to the socioâ€“economic development and security of Ogun State and Nigeria at large, considering the nature and importance of the expressway in question.
Having successfully rehabilitated Murtala Mohammed Airport 2 to international standard, the Federal Government believed that the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, unarguably Nigeriaâ€™s busiest expressway, could be well managed by Bi-Courtney. The project is aimed at improving substantially upon the current geometric standards of the road; expand the carriageway into a limited access eight lanes divided highway between Lagos and the Shagamu interchange and a limited access of six lanes divided highway between the Shagamu interchange and Ibadan. Equally, modern expressway services and facilities to be introduced include dawn lighting, improved and new interchanges, a new drainage system, recessed service areas, lay-by emergency parking areas, footbridges in heavy pedestrian areas, weigh bridges, electronic traffic control and obligatory/informative signs. Under the DBOT, there will be no monetary costs to the government. Bi-Courtney is to raise all the required
funding, largely through equity and long term loans and to a much lesser extent, from revenue generated from the operation of the highway.
However, all this have not really been translated into concrete improvement on the state of the road as recent events reveal. It is obvious that something urgent need to be done to improve the state of the road. No one knows what is the situation with regards to the FGN- Bi-Courtney pact. What is sure, however, is that the road is in dire need of help. Users of the road donâ€™t care about who is not doing what but are interested in what should be done and how soon it could be done. What we have on our hands is an emergency that cannot wait for the usual Nigerian style of foot-dragging. If indeed, human lives mean anything to us, the time is ripe for the Federal Government to tackle issues relating to the road head -long. Imagine the number of foreigners that ply the road on a daily basis. Imagine their perception of the country. For all our cry about attracting foreign investments into the country, if we cannot take care of minute details such as
improving a major highway that could enhance such investments, then we had better forgotten it. The state of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway is a serious damage to the much publicized rebranding project of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Being the main expressway, providing the primary link between Lagos, the former administrative capital and major commercial centre and other parts of Nigeria and hence, a road of primary economic and social importance to the nation, it is imperative that the Federal Government take urgent steps to ensure that the situation of the road improves.
One thing that is not really clear is who is actually in charge of the road presently. Bi Courtney, the concessionaire seems not to be getting its acts together. The Federal Government, as it is, might be working on the perspective that the road is no longer its responsibility while the Ogun state Government lacks the needed capacity to provide the needed intervention. The consequence is that travelling on the road has become a nightmare . Indeed, the road is fast turning into a center of un-ending carnage. Three people were recently killed in an early morning explosion that resulted into multiple vehicles accident on the road. Three articulated tankers laden with petroleum products and another truck were also completely burnt in the accident that created serious panic for early users of the ever-busy expressway.
The issues involved on the road are multi-faceted. For one, it is in a real bad shape and needs urgent rehabilitation. No more, no less. Second, the nuisance of trailer drivers on the road is becoming quite alarming. Not only that they drive recklessly, but they equally pack their trailers indiscriminately. They have become a law unto themselves. Nobody seems to be capable of getting them to act responsibly. On the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, there is one law for other drivers and a different one for the trailer drivers. The indiscriminate packing of trailers on either side of the road is a serious factor in the painful traffic gridlock that commuters regularly suffer on the road. Some of the truck drivers plying the expressway are reckless and recalcitrant, an attitude that has become a major cause of this age-long traffic challenge on the expressway. Third, incessant cases of abandoned vehicles constitute a major hindrance to motorists on the highway.
Also, the transformation of the axis into a vast business and residential hub, with emerging communities such as Arepo, Magboro, Ibafo, Asese, Olowotedo, Pakuro among others, has equally heightened traffic chaos along the road. Of equal importance is the location of the international headquarters of many religious bodies along the axis. Even though they have evolved strategic means of traffic control to ensure free flow of traffic during their programmes, efforts need to be intensified to improve on these traffic management strategies.
The attendant road crashes occasioned by the dilapidated state of the road and the fall-outs-deaths, injuries and destruction to properties (vehicles, goods etc) have, no doubt, come with enormous economic cost. In its most recent record, the FRSC disclosed that Nigeria loses three per cent of her GDP which translated to 17 per cent of current national reserves through road traffic crashes in 2009. The income loss from 2009 and road traffic crashes in Nigeria was more than GDP of over 20 individual African countries. No nation that is desirous of economic development and growth will handle with levity a situation where its vibrant work force and other citizens are wantonly wasted through otherwise avoidable occurrences as in the case of the carnage on Nigerian roads. To put the Nigerian economy on the lane to speedy recovery and growth, Federal Government would have to immediately commit itself to a result-driven programme that would make the road a
driverâ€™s delight. There must be a timeframe known and acceptable to Nigerians for the completion of this road if the federal government must convince the people that we are in a new dispensation with the fresh breath of air. It must do everything to ensure bi-Courtney wake up from sleep or cancel the agreement with concessionaire and re-award same to able and competent company to demonstrate that the administration is serious about giving the masses the fresh breath of air the nation deserve.
â€¢Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja