Still On The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway

Opinion

Opinion

By Tayo Ogunbiyi

Last year, when the Federal Government terminated the concessionary agreement it entered with Bi-Courtney Limited (the Concessionaire) in May 2009, for the redevelopment and modernisation of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the general consensus across the land was that it was a welcome development in view of the concessionaire’s foot dragging on the project. The Federal Government subsequently went ahead to appoint two reputable construction firms, namely Julius Berger Plc and RCC to do some palliative works on the road in order to reduce the stress of motorists along the road. According to the Federal Government, the palliative works to be carried out on the road was particularly meant to make the road motorable for people travelling during the 2012 Christmas and New Year festive period. Consequently, Julius Berger was asked to handle the section of the road from Lagos to the Sagamu Interchange while RCC was given the second leg of the road, stretching from the Sagamu Interchange to Ibadan.

It should be stressed that the palliative works done by the two firms, to a large extent, reduced the trauma of motorists along the road, especially during the December 2012 festive period.  However, the understanding then was that by 2013, real work on the redevelopment and upgrading of the road would begin in earnest. However, till date, there is nothing concrete on ground to suggest that government is about to start work on the road. The result is that the road is gradually returning to its hitherto distressing and frustrating state.  In particular, the portion of the road from Sagamu intersection to Lagos is the worst. This is quite understandable as this is the busiest section of the expressway consisting of a vast business and residential hub made up of emerging communities such as Mowe, Arepo, Magboro, Ibafo, Asese, Olowotedo, Pakuro among others.

Hence, traffic chaos has become heightened along this axis as a result of failed portions of the road at places such as Mowe, Ibafo (especially the portion leading to MFM Prayer City) as well as the OPIC end where quite visible pot (man?) holes constitute great danger to motoring on the road. Particular reference should be made to the nuisance which the OPIC end of the road has turned to in recent time, especially when it rains. It has become so bad that a journey on the popular long bridge linking OPIC to Berger which ordinarily ought to take less than ten minutes now takes up to one and half hours. No thanks to the failed parts at OPIC which have made driving on the road for regular commuters and motorists quite a nasty experience. It has become so bad that motorists moving from Mowe/ Ibafo to Lagos now drive against traffic, facing on coming vehicles from Lagos to Ibadan, in order to avoid the traffic jam occasioned by the failed portions of the road at the OPIC end.

If nothing is urgently done to address the situation, it could lead to health hazards, road accidents, untimely deaths among others. Recently, a school bus conveying school children was involved in a ghastly motor accident with a petroleum tanker on the NASFAT side of the road while trying to avoid failed parts of the road.

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Foreigners travelling for various reasons on the road would surely have quite a spiteful opinion about the country because of the chaotic situation that has become a regular occurrence on the road. It is understandable to some extent, if we are finding it a bit challenging to tackle rising terrorists’ insurgency in the country.  But we need not turn ourselves into a laughing stock over the rehabilitation of a major and important road such as the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

For all our efforts at 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. 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 takes urgent steps to ensure that the condition of the road improves.

The attendant road crashes occasioned by the dilapidated state of the road and the fallouts — 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 lost 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 driver’s delight.  There must be a time-frame known and acceptable to Nigerians for the completion of this road. While the Federal Government is fine tuning efforts to redevelop and modernise the road, one would like to implore the Federal Road Maintenance Agency, FERMA, to as a matter of necessity mobilise its men and resources to address the failed portions of the road in order to avert imminent disaster, reduce travel time as well as prevent every trouble associated with travelling on the road.

•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.

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