Of late, plying the Lagos -Ibadan expressway has become a torment for commuters, especially those residing along the Mowe-Ibafo axis of Ogun State. It is rather sad that a journey that should ordinarily not take more than 15 -20 minutes now takes over four hours and even more.
Recently, a fatal road accident involving multiple vehicles occurred on the road, claiming three lives. This unfortunate incident caused a serious gridlock that almost brought the whole of Lagos to a standstill.
Being a major road that links Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria to other parts of the country, it is of course one of the busiest roads in the country. The situation of the road becomes even more complex with the growing population of residential communities along the Mowe-Ibafo axis. This greatly increases vehicular movement along the route.
However, ongoing repairs on some critical sections of the road which began about six months ago have enormously compounded the situation. It is disconcerting that the repairs of a major exit route with economic relevance and implication is taking so long. Julius Berger Plc which handles the repairs has been foot-dragging on the job to the consternation of many. Initially, when the construction firm began the work, it didn’t give commuters sufficient reason for optimism, considering its lackadaisical approach. Though, the firm has since relatively braced up, but the agonies and frustrations of commuters along the road linger on.
As a result of on-going construction work which necessitated the narrowing of a long section of the road, especially the popular Long Bridge, gridlock lingering into the dead of the night has become a usual episode. Many residents are now compelled by the traffic situation to sleep outside their homes in order to avoid the terrible gridlock. The sorry sight of school pupils trekking hazardously home, sometimes through the scorching Lagos sun due to shortage of public transport since they were all trapped in traffic while transport fares tripled, would make even a heart of stone to melt.
Aside the niggling gridlock on the road and resultant stress, security of lives has also become a serious concern. Since the road has been narrowed and traffic now move at snail speed, that is if it is even if it moves at all, robbers and other evil minded people now daily unleash terror on commuters along the route. In the last few weeks there have been numerous cases of daring gangsterism on the road in which commuters lose several valuables such as handsets, wrist watches, money, laptops among others. One of such incidences that is still very difficult for one to hurriedly forget involved a middle-aged woman who was thrown down the bridge by these dare devil hoodlums. The fear of hoodlums along the route has now become the beginning of wisdom. To worsen things, security personnel rarely patrol the road, as bad as things stand.
The manpower lost to the traffic jam per hour, per day and per week is unquantifiable and irrecoverable as time and resources are daily lost to the traffic. It has been alleged that there are lots of intrigues behind government contracts and construction. Or how does one explain a construction work that has affected millions of lives and little seems to be achieved in terms of concrete results? The snail pace with which the company is working is not in tandem with the realities of the 21st century where things are done with civility and human considerations.
Sadly, Julius Berger plc doesn’t seem to care a hoot about the condition of commuters and residents along the route. There are even unconfirmed reports that in spite of the much anticipated Yuletide season traffic rush along the route, Julius Berger’s staff working on the road would soon embark on their annual end of year vacation. If this were to be true, it only goes to show that our nation has become a banana republic where anything goes!
Recently, there was a colossal road collapse in one of the Asian countries aired on CNN, where a major part of an express way collapsed leaving a gaping hole that claimed almost the entire road. Interestingly it was fixed within three hours and opened for people to traverse without any problem. That is how things are done in developed and progressive societies. There is a consciousness of time and conservation of energy and resources. Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind in science and technology, we must move at the same pace with the developed world if we want to discard the status of a third world country. It is quite unfortunate that such a repair work could take well over six months to complete. And no one is even sure of how long the work is going to take. Initially, the federal government said work would end by last November. This, of course, has turned a mirage.
It is time for the federal government to pay close attention to the activities of the company handling the project as it is taking rather too long for its completion. More importantly, there is need for quality control as one side of the bridge that is recently completed is already developing potholes; this is between Wawa ends of the Long Bridge while coming to Lagos. It is important that the Federal Ministry of Works steps in right now to ensure proper assessment of the job so that it won’t be a case of a shoddy job; a situation where Nigerians will be left to suffer the same cycle of hardship on the road all over again.
Perhaps, more importantly, it becomes imperative to have alternative routes connecting other parts of the country to Lagos. The fact that the nation cannot boast of other such routes is, indeed, the shame of a nation. Also, special consideration should be given to the grading and tarring of access roads on both sides of the Long Bridge as this will also a long way in reducing stress on the road.
If, indeed, we are concerned about human lives as a people, now is the time for the federal government to pay better attention to the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and other such critical roads across the nation.
Mrs. Aruya wrote in from Arepo, Ogun State.