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Tears, woes on Lagos-Ibadan expressway six years on

Gridlock on Mowe-Ibafo axis of the highway


The current administration has shown renewed commitment to hasten repairs on Lagos-Ibadan expressway and complete same by 2019. But with the ‘obsolete’ poor design and zero plan for emerging religious centres, institutions and new communities, commuters may need more than just a well-paved road for good travel experience. WOLE OYEBADE, SULAIMON SALAU, BENJAMIN ALADE and CHIBUZOR NWANERI write.

Jamiu scorned at the offer. With disdain, he dismissed the customer too. He turned in the opposite direction murmuring.The intermediary, who is also a driver at the Orisunbare Park, Ojota, Lagos, apologised to the customer. “He (Jamiu) is still angry over last night. He was stuck on the road all-night.”The customer looked in disbelief. “Yes, the road (Lagos-Ibadan expressway) is so unpredictable. Be it rain or accident, the road is on a lockdown and for hours. It is worse when those churches have one programme or the other. Jamiu is the sure one. If he is not doing Lagos-Ondo charter, nobody else will go sir,” the driver said.

Treasurer at the park, Olabisi Adekanye, later explained that Jamiu could hardly be blamed.“Traffic gridlock has been a major issue on the road. Usually, we spend one hour and thirty minutes to reach our destination but when there is traffic snarl, you spend seven to eight hours. Last Saturday, majority of our drivers, who left this park at 6 p.m., got to Ibadan 3a.m. Once a tanker breaks down or falls off the road, the road also gets blocked,” he said.
Long road to rehabilitation

It would be recalled that the 127.6km long expressway is one of the oldest and busiest inter-state routes in the country. It daily handles more than 250,000 Passenger Car Units (PCUs) and a major inter-state artery that networks the southwest and the rest of the country.  Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, during his first stint as the Head of State, commissioned the road in August 1978. Obasanjo had a second coming in 1999 when he was democratically elected as Nigeria’s president.

The clamour for the reconstruction/rehabilitation of the expressway dates back to 1999, during Obasanjo’s second coming to presidency. After much ado, the Federal Government in May 2009, awarded the contract to Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited (BHSL) at the cost of N91 billion and on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.

By the concession agreement, Bi-Courtney had a mandate to reconstruct and expand the expressway and recoup its investment through tolling and advertisement rights over 25 years.

Decision to revoke the contract by successive administration took the matter to court, until the contract was eventually terminated in November 2012.About seven months later, former President Goodluck Jonathan, flagged off the project anew, with the contract awarded to Julius Berger Nigeria Limited and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) Limited at a sum of N167 billion, covering two sections of the expressway. Delivery date: December 2017.

Two sections of the expressway were awarded to be reconstructed. They include Section I (Lagos to Sagamu Interchange) and Section II (Sagamu Interchange to Ibadan). But due to the non-release of funds to contractors as and when due, the project was most times either sloppy or stalled.

The current administration breathed fresh life into the project by remobilising the contractors back to site in June 2016. At the moment, the contractors are on site, and this has resulted to the traffic gridlock being experienced by motorists on a daily basis.
   
But the approval of additional N64.1 billion by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in April this year suggests that government is poised to completing the reconstruction of the Segment I of the highway. The section from Lagos to Sagamu Interchange was initially awarded to Julius Berger for N70 billion; and an additional N80 billion in May for the rehabilitation of 84 kilometers section II (Ibadan to Sagamu).
State of the Expressway
 
A recent trip from Oshodi end of Lagos to Ibadan, Oyo State lasted for three hours, but was quite revealing. From Kara Bridge to Wawa and down to Ibafo and Mowe is the story of multiple gridlocks up till Redeem camp diversion where Julius Berger has constructed the four lane expressway to Sagamu interchange.

After the interchange, the road to Ogere down to Fidiwo, through to Ajebo, is bumpy with manholes and potholes along the road. In between Ogere and Fidiwo there is a diversion that forces vehicles to funnel into a lane. Just after Fidiwo to Ajebo, where the Foursquare Gospel Church camp is located, there is a diversion that leads to the expressway where RCC has constructed down to the Satguru Maharaj Ji Ibadan end of the road.

A commercial driver, Elijah Chiazor, faulted the “slow pace of work by the contractors.”He said: “Travelling on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway normally should take an hour-thirty minutes but one can be there for seven hours. The road is terrible. We can see them work today and tomorrow, they have removed their equipment from the road.

“This is the major road that links Lagos to other parts of the country such that any breakdown on the road will lead to hours of traffic. Part of the cause of accident on that road is the trailers parking indiscriminately and unsuspecting driver runs into them.“The wear and tear of the road causes so much damages to our vehicles. We spend heavily on tyres, clutch and other vital parts of the vehicles. I bought a new tyre but my first trip on the road after trying to manoeuvere through a bad spot punctured the tyre. This means I have not even recovered the money spent on the tyre before it needed replacement,” he said.

A truck driver, Sikiru, faulted Julius Berger’s barricades and blamed same for traffic snarl on the contractor’s section of the road. He said while road crashes had reduced on the Berger axis, due to restrictions, the man-hour wasted commuting the section most time is outrageous. Sikiru added that on the part of RCC, the built road causes more fatal accident, which increases daily, stating that the Ogere axis is still in bad shape.

A driver, who spoke anonymously, said: “I think the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) partners with the Julius Berger’s workers to extort drivers when there is diversion or heavy traffic on the road. Traffic snarl has been a challenge on this road. On the long bridge, we spend up to three to four hours in traffic at the Berger section of the road.

“From Ojota Park to Ibadan we spend two hours without traffic. When there is traffic, we usually pass through alternative route which is Ikorodu road to link Sagamu through Ijebu Ode. The route is also terrible but we only use the alternative when the traffic is tight from Otedola Bridge to Magboro,” the driver said.The challenges of urbanisation, encroachment Principal partner of an automobile resource company, Media Advocate Limited, Manny Philipson, told The Guardian that the problem with Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is hydra-headed.

“I understand that the United Nations is a part-builder of that road and back then, they spelt out series of conditions including the dos and don’ts, especially along the corridor of this expressway. Unfortunately, they were all discarded and thrown to the waste bins. State governments particularly, where the road crisscrossed began to sell portions along the road to generate income. That in the first place is wrong.

“Today, even private properties including places of worships encroach on the expressway, constituting menace of sort. The way it is right now, that road may never be completed because there are too many interests, of course schlock ones at that.“In my opinion, I think the Federal Government should hands-off the road and concession the expressway to competent road contractors who could build, maintain and manage it. It is so sad we have to subject such an important road to dirty and trivial politics. Indeed, it is shameful.” Philipson said.

He added that several new communities springing up along the stretch should under normal circumstance not be there; “if indeed we have an efficient town planning authority in the respective states where the expressway adjoins.”“Lands in the city centres are not exhausted yet but residents are drifting en masse to buyout property along the corridors of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. That’s stupid.”

So doing, he said, makes development cumbersome when you consider the cost of electrifying and building good roads for communities around that neighbourhood.“I think it’s time we begin to live in clusters that would make communities feel the impact of the government rather than spread apart in droves.An expert on road safety issues, Patrick Adenusi, said government must start creating alternative roads to support the expressway.

“Right now, we should be thinking of a coastal road. Government cannot really do anything as a matter of fact about either the religious body or private organisation or manufacturing company springing up on the corridor,” he said.

Adenusi, who doubles as the Director of advocacy, Safety Beyond Borders, a non-governmental organisation, said: “Part of what should be looked at also is that they are expanding the road. What is the size of the expansion they are considering? Lagos-Ibadan Expressway should by now be thinking of six lane roads and an alternative road should also be mapped out so that the traffic volume can be easily and evenly distributed.”

“We are really not a serious set of people because life is very cheap in Nigeria. Years ago, there was no Ibafo or Mowe. Right now, there is Ibafo, Mowe, Ogere and many more are going to spring up. There is a Journalist Estate and several housing estates.

“The design of the road will have to carry along the fact that development is going to come on that axis. There is nothing that says a service lane cannot go parallel to the main carriage way of which the residents do not necessarily need to go on the main carriage way,” he said.Chairman, Bi-Courtney Highway Service, Dr. Wale Babalakin, recently in Abuja, rued the quality of work, describing it “completely inappropriate and outdated”. Babalakin said the road being built today is a resurfacing of the 1977 road. “It is a road that is inadequate to accommodate the geographical growth that has taken place on the road since 1977. This includes the emergence of towns like Ibafo, Isheri, Mowe and Redeemed Church camp.
 
“The current road cannot contribute meaningfully to the development of road infrastructure in Nigeria. Julius Berger Plc is constructing a road in Nigeria that it will and can never suggest or contemplate building in Germany. Our heaviest traffic road in Nigeria is being built without the necessary accompanying things that should be on a highway.”The design of the road by the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing is inadequate, considering the interruption to traffic on the expressway by the different towns along the expressway.

He said: “Our (Bi-Courtney) design provided for entry and exit to these towns without obstructing the flow of traffic on the expressway. We realised that simply resurfacing the road as being done now by the Ministry of Works is a serious disservice to Nigeria.“Nigerians continue to suffer on that road till date. The reason given for the termination of the project, which is the need to complete it expeditiously, has not been realised six years after.”Babalakin said he did not believe the big construction foreign firms had the capital required to develop Nigerian infrastructure.

“Most of the things they seek to do here; they can’t suggest them to their own homes. But if Nigerian engineers lead from the front, they will be able to insist on certain parameters,” he said.He also said there had been so much waste of government resources, as the cost of delivering the road had skyrocketed. Babalakin said: “The cost of the project has now ballooned. Bi-Courtney Highways had agreed to build the road with seven overhead bridges at a cost of N112b. The cost of this project now is indeterminable. However, it cannot be less than N300b. This is serious waste of government resources in a country that has very little resources.”

Fresh plans for underpasses, flyovers, toll plazas
Meanwhile, there are indications that the completion date for the expressway project initially slated for this year has been extended by another one year to accommodate additional work already approved by the Federal Government.The Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Adedamola Kuti, said when the road contract was awarded, the Federal Government did not envisage some of the activities currently going on along the road.

 
He said: “The end of 2018 is no longer feasible; what we have is that the government has awarded additional work that is not part of the original contract. When the contract was first awarded, we did not take into consideration the religious organisations that are springing up rapidly in the area.

“So now, we have to make provision for toll gates, flyovers and plazas, among other additions, such that if you don’t even have any business with the religious bodies, you can take the underpass and continue your journey. So, the completion date has been extended to December 2019. We need additional one year to complete the work that has been added.”

The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had stated that the additional work would cover flyover and pedestrian bridges as well as toll plazas for that section in order to accommodate the changing nature of the road.Reacting to complaints by motorists on the slow pace of work, Kuti said the rainy season had contributed significantly to this.He said: “This is construction work; the pace of work is usually slower during rainy season. Once a material is wet, you must allow it to dry before it can be used. Instead of people to complain about the pace of work, they should consider the fact that the contractor is on site and we are moving,” Kuti said. 

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