By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Barring any unforseen development, work will soon commence on the planned expansion of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway which has generated mixed reactions from the public. Since the plan was first mooted and brought to public attention through the media, many have wondered whether it would ever see the light of day.
The common question was: How feasible is it to convert the usually chaotic, traffic jam-prone Orile/Iganmu-Badagry expressway into a 10-lane road? Of particular concern is the cost implication of doing that, including the huge compensation to be paid those whose property would be affected by the project.
However, it would seem that the Lagos State government is undaunted by this and other precluding factors as it last weekend unveiled the technical details of the planned construction of the 10-lane expansion project which, from every indication, would commence very soon.
At a stakeholders meeting held at the state secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja, all issues relating to the project were extensively discussed.
The meeting, organised by the Lagos State Government, had in attendance representatives of the affected communities, the security agencies, including the Army, Navy and the Police, as well as government officials.
Among areas of discussion were payment of compensation to persons whose properties were affected, the clearing of Rights of Way (ROA) and affected structures, management of traffic during the construction period, the anticipated relationship between the contractor and the host communities, and the need to employ the youths in their areas of competence.
Explaining the preparedness of the contracting firm to the gathering, the Regional Manager of Julius Berger, Mr. A. Byle, said the company had brought into the country all the necessary equipment, construction materials and personnel needed for the project, adding that they would move to site any moment from now, â€œsince government had fulfilled its obligation by paying the mobilisation feesâ€.
While soliciting for support from the host communities and road users, Byle assured that his firm would do everything possible to ensure free-flow of traffic in the course of project execution.
Governor Babatunde Fashola, assured the stakeholders that the state government would meet its obligations in the area of compensation payment. Although he admitted that the exact amount to be paid is yet to be determined as some people are yet to show up.
His words: â€œEven, beside that, the process of determining the amount of what to pay as compensation is not easy. But we would ensure that those who are qualified receive the payment. Nobody would suffer deprivationâ€.
The Governor dismissed concerns over the public structures that would be removed, given the cooperation the state government has received from affected agencies, notably Army, the Police, operators of public utilities, such as the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, (PHCN), operators of telecommunications, the Water Corporation and private building owners.
For instance, he said the state government had reached an agreement with the Police authorities on the relocation of the Orile Police station and also with the Army authorities on the affected parts of the Ojo Army Barracks.
â€œJust like we worked together during the rehabilitation of the Murtala Muhammed Road from Yaba to Oyingbo, where the two security institutions were affected, similar collaboration has taken place in the present situation,â€ he said as he commended the hierarchies of the Army and Police for their support.
Earlier, the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Francisco Bolaji Abosede, a town planner, had assured that any demolition exercise was ruled out of the plan. According to him, most of the affected property owners had already complied with governmentâ€™s directives by removing their structures peacefully.
â€œIt is only where they lack technical capacity to remove such structures and we are called upon for assistance that demolition would be done by us. So, government would ensure that the exercise is executed peacefully.â€
To maintain stress-free and smooth traffic environment in the course of project execution, the Ministry for Transportation has reeled out various measures to be adopted. Apart from mobilising the various traffic agencies in the state to some identified spots, it would also work with the contractor to ensure that alternative routes are created and traffic regulations are strictly adhered to by the road users, particularly drivers.
Stakeholders present at the meeting included traditional rulers, represented by Whenu Menu Toyi of Badagry, Oba Babatunde Akran, Prince Rafiu Olushi, the representative of the Ojora family and the chairmen of Ojo and Badagry local governments in the area.
While they pledged their support for the project, they urged government to expedite action on the payment of compensation to enable the affected persons plan for their lives.
Besides, the Chairman of Ojo local government, Prince Durosinmi called for involvement of youths in the area in the execution of the project, by being employed in areas of their skills and competence.
Seeking the support of the security agents to provide adequate security, Mr. Solomon Avhose noted that due to the inflow of traders along the route, there was the possibility of miscreants seizing the occasion of construction to perpetrate their nefarious activities.
â€œWe want the presence of more security personnel on this route during this period. It is a time that all hands must be on deck to ensure that miscreants do not seize the occasion to unleash terror on the road users and the communities,â€ he said.
A landlord in Maza-Maza, Mr. Mutairu Aiwajoye, urged the governor to entrust the compensation exercise to hands of â€œGod fearing people so that some unscrupulous minded people would not corner the money.â€