BY AUGUSTINE AVWODE
The last thirty days have been horrendous for commuters plying the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. Reconstruction of the ever-busy Lagos/Ibadan Expressway by the Federal Government, which ordinarily should elicit joy and happiness, has turned tasteless in their mouths even as the reconstruction work inches to a conclusion.
From losing precious man-hours in which they are stuck in the perennial gridlock on a daily basis, to the untold hardship of having to deal with broken-down vehicles and to the emotional trauma associated with the irritating and agonizing development, both residents on the stretch from Kara/OPIC outbound, including Warewa, Arepo, Magboro, Ibafo, Asese, Mowe, the Redemption Camp and interstates travellers all often mix together in a taste of misery and helplessness.
Last week was particularly disturbing as the spillover from the reconstruction site along the expressway turned Lagos State into a no-movement state. Lagosians lamented the increasing hardship of commuting after nearly 24 hours of gridlock in some parts of the state over the weekend.
In areas like Ojodu Berger inward Lagos-Ibadan expressway; Kara outward Berger, Ikorodu road, and Berger/Ogunnusi road, among others were particularly terrible.
Commuters blamed the diversion after the Kara Bridge section of the highway inward Mowe, Ogun State, for the reconstruction of the ever-busy corridor, as the cause of the gridlock.
Some residents along the Ogun State corridor told The Point that they had resorted to prayer and Google Maps to maintain their sanity. They have now developed the habit of checking the traffic situation before venturing out.
A staff of a communication giant, Adeolu Paulson, stated that “I must of necessity pray first, that the vehicle doesn’t develop any sudden fault on the Long Bridge.
That is what I feared most. That portion of the road is very dangerous; you can’t find a mechanic readily if you are face to face with an electrical or mechanical fault with your vehicle. And I also frequent Google map to ascertain the traffic situation before venturing out,” he said.
Curiously, not even transporters who are thought to be enjoying the development because they use the opportunity to hike fares on the route from Ketu to Mowe, failed to condemn the traffic snarl. Taofeek Adedotun, popularly called Sir T, told The Point in smattering English that people think they are enjoying the development but in actual fact, their vehicles are at the receiving end and what they spend on repairs is always double whatever they make. He too, prayed that the work will end on time.
“Oga, before now, I use 25 minutes from Ibafo to Abiola Garden in Ojota, now I use two hours. Before, I can go many times a day, but now, I can only go three times a day and the vehicle will do overheating. So, we are praying that they will quickly finish the road, and let life come back to normal. Help us beg Baba Buhari ooo,” the driver of the yellow bus called “Paragon” said.
A distributor of vegetable oil, Godwin Oduma, who frequents the axis from Mushin in Lagos, said he could no longer make it every day again as he had to restrict himself to only two trips a week instead of the usual five or even six, sometimes.
He too, depends on Google Maps and Lagos Traffic Radio for guidance whenever he plans to ply the route. “My customers are calling me every day, but they don’t know that it is not possible to drive on this road every day. If I spend three to four hours from Mushin to Mowe and Ibafo and finish distributing the vegetable oil, I will spend another three to four hours back to the company before going home for the day. If you do that every day, I can assure you that you are playing with your health and the cost will be too much for you to bear. So, we have been praying that God will help them to finish the road on time before heavy rains start failing in May. But from the look of things, they cannot finish it before President Buhari leaves office,” he stated.
As if the Federal Government was reading their mind and as an answer to their prayers by God, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, at the weekend assured both residents and business owners along the Lagos-Ibadan corridor of the expressway that some respite was afoot beginning, Sunday. That assurance would be the second in less than 10 days, which underscores the gravity of the situation on the road.
The first was while inspecting the road project on Saturday, April 22. Fashola had explained that the contractors were working on the last stretch of six kilometres which he considered the most difficult aspect out of the entire 44 kilometres of section one of the highway which spans from Ojota in Lagos to Sagamu Interchange. He also highlighted some of the challenges observed by construction workers on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and asked motorists to cooperate with the contractor.
But over the weekend, he called on commuters to be a bit patient with the contractor and the government as the notorious Kara Bridge-Long Bridge axis of the expressway had been completed and would be opened.
“On Friday, I stopped at Kara and made a piece of my mind known to the contractor handling the Kara end of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, my stopping there was with respect to the very poor traffic management and the resulting traffic gridlock subjecting innocent travellers to untold hardship”
In a statement released on Saturday by Hakeem Bello, media aide to the minister, Fashola assured that the axis would be opened to traffic on Sunday. The minister said although “a combination of factors” hindered the completion of the expressway before the promised date, work had been wrapped up on some sections of the road.
“As the reconstruction work on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway enters its final phase, the Federal Government has appealed for patience and understanding of motorists on account of the heavy traffic being experienced on the stretch from Toll Gate to Kara Bridge in Lagos,” the statement reads.
“According to the Minister, the intensity of work and the high volume of traffic which had to be accommodated at the same time have been complicated by impatience on the part of some motorists who drive against the planned traffic flow and breakdown of vehicles.
“He however noted that the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing is working with the Lagos State Government, all traffic management and security agencies to minimize the discomfort of motorists.
“The Minister also explained that the contractors are also being encouraged to ensure that the final challenging phase of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway reconstruction work is concluded as soon as possible.
“While noting that the earlier envisaged April 30 date for the conclusion of the final stretch could not be achieved due to a combination of factors, work within the OPIC area between Kara Bridge and the Long Bridge has been completed and would be opened to traffic tomorrow, Sunday (April 30). This means that the main carriageway, both bounds, from Berger (New Garage) and Sagamu Inter-change on Section 1 of the Project has been completed.
“All attention, according to the Minister, would now be focused on the outstanding work between Otedola Bridge and Berger (both bounds),” the minister was quoted as saying in the statement.
In the same vein, an obviously concerned Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, on Saturday, revealed that he had extracted a commitment from the contractors handling the road that part of the road would be completed and open to traffic on Sunday.
Abiodun reportedly got the commitment on Friday from the contractor through the Federal Comptroller of Works when he had an on-the-spot assessment on the cause of the constant gridlock on the road which had been causing the people discomfort.
He said, “On Friday, I stopped at Kara and made a piece of my mind known to the contractor handling the Kara end of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, my stopping there was with respect to the very poor traffic management and the resulting traffic gridlock subjecting innocent travellers to untold hardship.
“I am glad to note that I was able to extract from the firm handling the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway through the Federal Comptroller of Works a commitment to complete the construction causing the bottleneck on or before Sunday 30th April and open the road to allow free flow of traffic both outbound and inbound,” Governor Abiodun said.