December 28, 2018

BADAGRY-EXPRESSWAY: A gateway of pain, anguish

An accident scene at a bad portion of the road

By Dayo Johnson

THE Lagos-Badagry Expressway is usually described as a “Gateway to Nigeria’ because it is a major access into the country from neighbouring states in the West coast of Africa. In the last two decades, plying this all important route, in its terrible state, had become associated with anguish and pain for road users, including visitors from neighbouring countries.

An accident scene at a bad portion of the road

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It was therefore good news when Lagos State Government in 2009 embarked on extensive reconstruction of the road from four lanes to 10 lanes, including Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) lane and new mass transit light rail line in the median.

The road expansion project, initially meant to be completed within three years, has, however, stretched far beyond that date, creating more sufferings and causing unbearable gridlocks for road users.

Commuters and motorists told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that they experience untold hardships daily on the road which had become very ‘terrible and problematic.’ A motorist, Mr Lukmon Adisa, lamented the deplorable state of the road and its effect on vehicles.

“This road is really bad, I urge the construction company handling the road to expedite action, so that we, the commuters, can have easy passage on the road.

“I had thought that by now, construction work, which commenced during the time of former Gov. Babatunde Fashola, would have been concluded by now.

“We are really suffering on this road and I urge those involved to quicken rehabilitation work and lessen our traffic burden,” he said.

Another road user, Mr Peter Ogene, commended the government for embarking on the reconstruction work but frowned at the slow pace.

“If construction work had continued at the pace it commenced in 2009, it would have been concluded by now.

“Though it is painful now, but I believe when it is completed, “Lagosians” and other road users will heave a sigh of relief,” he said.

A top official of the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC), contractors handling the project, had told NAN that sectors 1 and 2 of the road, which covered between Orile and Okokomaiko, was scheduled for completion by 2019. But this projection seems a mirage, going by the quantity of work that still needs to be done.

He said that the present reconstruction and expansion of the road from Orile Iganmu will terminate at Afromedia, near Okokomaiko.

The CCECC official, who craved anonymity, however, said certain challenges had delayed the project in the past. “We had to stop work for three years, between 2013 and 2016 to allow NNPC relocate their pipelines buried between Alakija and Abule Ado,” he said.

He said that the third sector of the project was also experiencing delays due to the military cantonment in Ojo.

“Another delay we have is the military barracks along this road, part of the fence has to give way for the road expansion but we cannot do that immediately due to the sensitive nature of their work.

“The Lagos State Government is, however, engaging them to see the best way we can achieve our aim without compromising security,” he said.

However, around May 2018, construction work on the road stopped abruptly, with construction workers moving equipment out of the site. This further heightened the sufferings of commuters and other road users, particularly, as it was a rainy season.

NAN observed that the situation on the highway became worse following the suspension of work by the contractor, CCECC, thus, creating chaos among road users.

Meanwhile, the first and second sections of the road from Orille to Alakija had been completed and opened to motorists.

The third section, Alakija to Okokomaiko remained outstanding and problematic.

Various construction activities such as excavations and construction of drainage stopped midway, leaving motorists with no option than to ply any available space to avoid getting stuck in mud.

Mr Joseph Samuel, a road user, complained over the loss of man-hour on the road, stressing that he spent many hours from Lagos to Badagry.

“Work has stopped since May, and nobody is saying anything about it, “he said.

Another user, Donald Abiodun, complained that the suffering on the road was unbearable, adding, “Even when we leave home early, we still get to work late. “The construction company and the Lagos State Government should resolve their differences for work to continue,” said Abiodun.

Mrs Toyin Adigun, a civil servant, advised the government to reconsider its stand on the project for the construction company to return to work. “My advice is that the government should take urgent steps to ensure that appreciable progress is recorded on the road before the next rainy season,” she said.

The official of construction company, however, said that work on the road stopped due to shortage of funds.

“The work is no longer progressing because Lagos State Government has not released funds for some time.

“Our presence on the road now is just for skeletal jobs as we cannot pull out completely. More than 80 per cent of our workforce has been disengaged due to failure of the government to release funds.

“This will most likely extend the job completion time beyond 2019,” he said.

However, Mr Ade Akinsanya, the Lagos State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, insisted that the project was on course.

He said the state government would open the completed portions of the road for the motorists. “We want to open those portions for motorists very soon to prevent encroachments before moving to other portions of the road,” said the commissioner.

He added that the issue of indebtedness to CCECC did not arise because the process of valuation, which preceded payment, was ongoing.

As the construction company continued to bicker with the state government, road users are not only patiently expectant but praying that their years of anguish and pains on Lagos – Badagry road will soon be over. It is, however, cheering to note that the Federal Government has taken responsibility for the reconstruction of the Agbara – Seme section of the road.

The Federal Executive Council on October 24, approved the award of a contract for the 46 kilometres stretch of the road from Agbara-Badagry-Seme Border, while the Lagos State Government would continue with the repair of the section from Eric Moore to Okokomaiko.

It, however, remains unclear what will happen to the 10 kilometers stretch of road between Okokomaiko where the ongoing reconstruction will terminate, and Agbara, where the new federal government project will start.

In the meantime, residents and road users in the Badagry axis will have to continue to endure the pain and anguish of travelling on that all important route while waiting for government to do the needful, timeously.