Building the airport road
The Lagos State government has flagged off construction of the access road to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport after receiving the necessary approval from the Federal Government. This is highly commendable and all citizens should cooperate with the Akin Ambode-led Lagos government and its contractors in making the job a first rate one. Many states have acted in similar fashion on segments of federal highways in their cities. This step in Lagos, however, stands out as the most ambitious in terms of cost and scope.
The project involves rehabilitation of a segment of the 10-lane Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonsoki federal highway, and the expansion of the link to international airport terminal. The access road will be reconstructed into a 10-lane expressway in which three express lanes will be separated from two lanes for local traffic for the abutting Ajao Estate and Mafoluku.
The first part of the works takes off from the Transport Hub already under construction at Oshodi interchange to the exit to international airport. This entails massive reconstruction of the section, involving excavation and replacement of existing but silted drainage system. This is the more challenging part of the project.
The second part requires the acquisition of adjoining land on which there are existing structures housing banks, hotels, offices and residences. The buildings to be demolished have been appropriately identified and marked. The universal requirements of Resettlement Action Plan must be complied with, entailing negotiations and acceptance by the affected parties. If there is a dispute and subsequent recourse to arbitration, this could drag on unless the state ensures speedy settlement. It is hoped that Lagos State government has already made room for this in its target of 15 months for completion of the project.
In the economics of public projects, whenever the costs of compensation are prohibitive, this often becomes a deterrent; especially because there are many demands on the resources of government. There are those who have raised questions over the justification and opportunity cost of the estimated N50 billion price tag. They make a case for many secondary and tertiary roads that are full of potholes and need urgent attention. But this is frivolous.
When the questions and criticisms on the project are considered, the irrefutable fact of history is that every tenured administration decides its priority project, the legacy it will bequeath to posterity. A Lagos State that is rebranding itself has to be concerned about the first impression of a visitor arriving in the country. At present, the visage of squalor that abuts access to Nigeria’s leading airport cannot be ended soon enough.
Some of the secondary roads that people talk about are state roads. The streets to homes, are the responsibility of the local governments but this tier of government is yet to awaken to its responsibility for roads. Now that some states have carved out Local Development Areas, they must carry out an inventory of roads in their domain and plan a systematic improvement on an annual basis. In many urban areas, a policy of improving a street or two every year will eventually lead to the attainment of clean neighbourhoods because good roads are an indication of better living. Certainly the local governments have the responsibility for routine maintenance of streets and they must set a goal of zero tolerance for potholes. As a complement to such initiatives by state governments, it is important to plan for the improvement and regular routine maintenance of roads and streets used by citizens on a daily basis. There are many of them.
While the Federal Government administers national roads and the state governments do the same for state roads, it is necessary to call on the local governments that their failure concerning roads is giving the nation and states a bad name. The enforcement of their responsibility for roads will be a relief to the Federal Government.
While Nigeria is yet to establish an agency for funding and administration of roads, there is an annual meeting of the National Council of Works, involving federal and state officials responsible for roads and housing. However, with specific aspects of public works already carved out as separate ministries or agencies, there is need for a periodic national forum on roads. Each state must institute a similar forum of state and local government officials responsible for roads.
Once again, the Lagos State project brings to the fore the experiences of other states, which developed segments of federal highways. In many cities, after the demolition of structures for the expanded right-of-way, there are shanties and slums behind the parapet of modern expressways through neighbourhoods. The subsequent improvement of such adjoining areas must therefore be included in the development agenda.
All Nigerians must applaud and support Lagos State for undertaking the construction of a befitting access road to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and saving Nigeria the embarrassment the current blight has been.
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