For some time now, motorists have been passing through hell as a result of the ongoing reconstruction work on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Last Wednesday, the entire stretch of the road was locked down for hours after a tanker laden with diesel fell at a spot between Ojodu-Berger end of it and inwards Ibadan and spilled its content.
A similar incident occurred on Tuesday, April 2, at the Ibafo end of the expressway, which also caused gridlock that lasted for almost 48 hours. As a result, many motorists and other road users were forced to spend a whole day on the road.
The situation almost caused a man travelling to the United States of America to miss his flight. He had to quickly devise a means of getting to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport by passing through bush tracks on a commercial motorcycle. By the time he arrived at the airport it was almost too late to check in his luggage. He just managed to board the aircraft without his bags.
A quick glance at the history of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway shows that the road, built about 40 years ago, has suffered neglect from successive Nigerian Governments, so much that it has become a case study of how not to treat an important national asset.
The current situation on the expressway, no doubt, calls for urgent attention from the Federal Government, corporate organisations and well-meaning Nigerians.
Many Nigerians familiar with the stress daily experienced on the expressway must have heaved a sigh of relief when President Muhammadu Buhari awarded a new contract for the construction of the road to Julius Berger Plc and RCC in 2016. A time frame of three years was initially given for the completion of the road. Unfortunately, as I write this, not up to 60 per cent progress has been achieved in the ongoing construction work. According to information released by the Federal Ministry of Works, Housing and Power, the date for the completion of the project has been shifted to 2021.
The most painful thing is the way and manner the companies handling the construction of the expressway are going about it. Their approach to the task could best be described as clumsy, lackadaisical, nauseating, unscrupulous, unserious and callous. A construction firm takes up a portion of the road, dances around it for some time and then abandons it for several months at a stretch, only to return and erect barricades before starting work on another section of the road.
For emphasis, it is almost one year since a section of the road from Ibafo to Asese has been under construction. Having failed to complete it in December 2018, the same construction company barricaded another section of the road from the Magboro Bridge to MFM’s Prayer City, thereby throwing motorists and residents into untold hardship.
Nowadays traffic builds up right from the beginning of the Long Bridge down to Mowe. As a result of this, motorists now spend an average of three to four hours driving from the Ojodu-Berger end of the expressway to Mowe on a journey that should last less than 10 minutes. The impact of this on the health of commuters, motorists and residents is better imagined than not. Vehicles plying the expressway are daily subjected to a lot of stress, which causes them to frequently break down. Each time there is gridlock on the road, especially at night, motorists and commuters are often at the mercy of criminals who take advantage of the situation to attack and dispossess them of their property.
There is reason to believe that that the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is not being done in good faith. Otherwise, how do we explain the seeming lack of seriousness on the part of the firms handling the project?
The best thing to be done now is for the construction companies to speed up the pace of work, stop further barricading and narrowing of the road and open up sections of the road at Magboro, Ibafo, Asese, respectively, for free flow of traffic. They should also concentrate on finishing one portion of the road at a time and open it for public use before moving to another section.
The construction companies should, as a matter of urgency, start patching and smoothening up sections of the road that are in dire need of rehabilitation. This will make a huge difference. The Federal Government on its part should try and fulfil its contractual obligations to the construction companies by paying them the agreed fees as and when due.
The Minister of Works, Housing and Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, should as a matter of priority undertake a tour of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, at least once in a month, to inspect and assess the work in progress.
- Austine Uche-Ejeke wrote in from Lagos