The road the President must fix, by Adelaja Adebanjo

It is trite to talk about the sorry state of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway especially the stretch between Berger in Lagos and the Sagamu intersection in Ogun State. Not that the stretch between Sagamu and Ibadan is any better but at least it is passable and users are not exposed to the monumental danger and harrowing experience of the Lagos Sagamu end.

Actually, referring to that road as an expressway is a contradiction in terms because at different sections the road has failed abysmally and motorists have to slow down considerably and literally force their way through; and it is getting worse by the day.

The undulating surface and bad patches that dot the entire stretch are the reasons why minor and major accidents have now become the norm. Now, no week passes without petrol bearing tankers upturning and spilling their combustible contents on the road.

We’ve had raging infernos caused by accidents that took more than three days to put out thereby effectively shutting down what is unarguably the country’s busiest road.

Apart from the accidents which have now become a daily occurrence, the constant loss of precious lives on the road is a major cause for concern. Hence, President Goodluck Jonathan should rise to the occasion and declare the road a disaster emergency that requires urgent attention. Just like he did for the Ore – Benin end of the Sagamu-Benin Expressway which is now almost fully restored.

What we demand from our President is an urgent step that will lead to the rehabilitation and eventual reconstruction of the road. Nigerians who ply the Lagos –Sagamu stretch of the expressway do not want to know the process that will lead to the salvaging of the road. The President may decide that the Federal Government should go it alone, fair enough. The Federal Government may collaborate with the Southwest states to deal with the situation, which is also fine by us.

There may also be a tripartite initiative comprising the Federal Government, the South west States and the concessionaire, no problem. Our major concern and demand is that the road should be fixed, and quickly too, because time is running out and the road may become completely impassable very soon.

Going by the successes that have been recorded on the Ore –Benin Federal road and similar roads throughout the country in the last 15 months, the reconstruction of the Lagos-Sagamu road, is achievable.

When President Goodluck Jonathan assumed the mantle of leadership of the country, the Ore- Benin road was impassable. Between 2005 and 2009 to be precise, those going to Edo, Delta and other Eastern and South-South States for the Christmas and New Year celebration were trapped on the road for over three days. We are not talking about potholes riddled road. It was far worse.

Some of the vehicles could just not make any progress on the road because there were gullies and craters at different points. Some stretches had also been completely washed away by erosion. Plying the road was not only a nightmarish experience; it was fraught with dangers of all kinds. Things got so bad that when the then Minster of Works wanted to pay a courtesy call on the Oba of Benin, the Monarch declined to receive him on account of the deplorable state of the major road that leads into his domain.

The President, it was learnt, gave express directive that the road should be made motorable within months. An emergency of sort was declared and those charged with the responsibility carried out Mr President’s instruction to the letter. The Ore –Benin road is now wearing a new look and those who ply the road are already singing a new song. Feelers from the ministry of works indicate that the first phase of the project has been fully completed while the second phase is also nearing completion.

All the craters and gullies along the road have been taken out and fully rehabilitated. The Benin- Ofosu -Ore stretch which was a virtually impassable has now been fully restored to motorable standard. Because of this travel time between Benin and Lagos which was almost ten hours had been reduced to just over 4 hours. It is expected that by 2013 the entire length of the road from Benin to Sagamu would have been fully completed.

The Abuja- Abaji- Lokoja Road which had deteriorated progressively is also being given a new lease of life under what the Ministry of works describes as the transformation agenda of Mr. President in the Road sector. The contract for the construction and rehabilitation of the major road into the Federal Capital Territory was awarded in 2006.

Afterwards it was abandoned owning to what contractors called paucity of funds. Mr. President, some ten months ago, gave express orders for work to resume on the road. The work done on the road in the last ten months has turned things around with various section already opened for traffic. Officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission have confirmed that this has led to the reduction of accidents along the major arterial road.

Just like the Abuja road, the dualisation of the Kano- Maiduguri road has been given a shot in the arm since the assumption of office of President Jonathan; and officials say the road which connects Yobe, Bauchi, Jigawa, Borno and Kano State is due for completion in late 2014. The same feat is being recorded on the Onitsha- Enugu Expressway. The Ibadan-Ilorin new road also testifies to the determination of Mr. Jonathan to improve the country’s road infrastructure.

The road has been under construction since 2001 but the first section has just been completed while the critically important section 11 is now being tackled. Before long this road will be delivered for the use of the Nigerian people. Officials have also confirmed ongoing works on the Gombe-Bye-Pass in Gombe State; rehabilitation of Katsina-Daura Road, Katsina State; rehabilitation of Aba-Owerri road in Abia State; construction of Eleme Junction Flyover, and the dualisation of Access Road to Onne Port, Phases I & II in Rivers State; rehabilitation/construction of Ijebu Igbo-Ajegunle-Araromi-Ife-Sekona Road, Section II, in Ogun and Osun States; emergency reinstatement of Collapsed Section of Gombe-Potiskum Road [Km.12] in Gombe State; and other similar projects across the country.

If all these other roads could be fixed, then President Jonathan should and must fix the Lagos -Sagamu Expressway, this is because it is not just another road, it is the country’s busiest, and a major economic artery. It connects people, goods and services in a way that no other road does in the country.

It is also critical to the economy of the nation as most goods which arrive through the country’s busiest airports and ports in Lagos pass through the Lagos–Sagamu expressway to other parts of the country. It provides a window into the state of Nigerian roads for first time visitors into the country. It is also a road that will become one of the signposts of the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan just like the Ore- Ofosu-Benin Road.


Adelaja Adebanjo writes from Ijebu Ode and can be reached via adelajaadebanjo@yahoo.com

 


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