By IKENNA ASOMBA
It has been over three years of unending frustration for motorists and commuters at the Mile 2 axis of the ever-busy Oshodi-Apapa expressway, since the road failed.
However, after countless promises to fix the road by successive Federal government administrations, many regular road users thought solace had come their way, when in August 2013, the Federal Government after one its Executive Council meetings, announced the award of the contract for the reconstruction of Section Two, Phase Two of the expressway to Messrs Julius Berger Plc.
At the meeting, Works Minister, Mike Onolememen, had explained that the reconstruction which was awarded at a cost of N15 billion, would be completed in 15 months ( a year and three months).
Onolememen said: “The Apapa-Oshodi Expressway is the gateway to Apapa and Tincan Island ports and parts of Trans West African Coastal Highway. It is therefore, of immense economic importance to the country and the sub-region. The road had virtually collapsed due to age and the damaging effects of heavy axle load vehicles carrying goods to and from the ports.”
10 months after
As the rains are here again,
Vanguard gathered that 10 months after the contract was awarded, on-going road rehabilitation work by JB, as well as poor channelization of flood water force commuters, motorists and residents to lose man-hours on the road, repeatedly running into days and weeks.
The traffic situation usually forces most port workers, traders, journalists working with Vanguard and The Sun newspapers, on the Mile 2, Kirikiri axis and other road users to trek long distances, even those leaving the Apapa Wharf to Oshodi after close of work spend several hours at a spot even as late as 2.00am in a journey of less than 20 minutes.
Field day for robbers
Vanguard gathered that road users have continued to decry the insensitivity of officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, to their plights, especially during morning and evening peak periods.
According to them, these agencies which are saddled with the responsibility of controlling traffic are usually not found on their duty posts each time the situation becomes chaotic. Although the Oshodi- Apapa- Mile 2 road belongs to the Federal Government, the Lagos State government collects rights of way taxes and signages on the road. Also, during late evening’s chaotic periods, hoodlums usually have a field day on the road, dispossessing road users of their monies and other valuables. This is even as they assault those who are not ready to part with anything and also molest and rape women even after dispossessing them of their valuable.
A Vanguard staff, Mr. Dave Oso who narrated how he and four of his colleagues were robbed of money and phones, last Thursday, in front of Alkem Nigerian Limited, a polyester staple fibre manufacturing company, inward the Oshodi axis of the road, lamented that some policemen mounting surveillance, looked the other way, when he cried for help.
He said: “The harrowing experience we go through on this road daily is unfortunate. The road has become a safe haven for hoodlums who usually rob road users with the police looking the other way. Just last Thursday, our car broke down in front of the Alkem Nigerian Limited manufacturing company, when in less than two minutes, six persons came our way to enquire what was wrong with our car. We thought they were good Nigerians, but, alas, they pointed guns at us, demanding we submit every valuable with us. “When I managed to escape to the other side of the road, to call some Policemen who I saw, they looked the other way, as I called repeatedly for help. Even calling the state’s emergency numbers did not work”
Road users lament: According to one Peter Esegie: “The contractors handling the rehabilitation of the road are to blame for the problem because by blocking sections of the road, they create unnecessary traffic obstruction for vehicles going either to Apapa or Kirikiri areas. They ought to have known that this is a busy road and that blocking any section of it will definitely create traffic confusion”. As far as Chigozie Egwim is concerned:
“There’s nothing wrong in rehabilitating the road since that is what we have been praying for all along. But what I will advise is that such things should be done very early in the morning or late at night when there are few people on the road , and if maintenance must take place during peak hours, alternative routes should be provided for the people.”
For Wasiu Adeleke, a commuter,, government is to blame for failing to call drivers of trailers and other articulated vehicles from parking illegally. He believes this is the major cause of the traffic on that road. His sentiment is shared by one Mrs. Bisi Ojelabi who attributed the frequent collapse of sections of the road and the recurring traffic gridlock there to the prevalence of these heavy duty trucks which ply that route. She suggested that government should provide alternative routes for trucks so as not to endanger the lives of the people.
Cause of delay: Meanwhile, spokesman for the Julius Berger, Mr. Clement Iloba had earlier told Vanguard that the inconveniences presently being experienced by motorists are just unavoidable. He stated that the alleged slow pace of work is to avoid doing a shoddy work at the end of the day. Iloba said they are working with a time frame although he refused to disclose what it is nor the actual cost of the project. But he insisted that the company will deliver the road on schedule and in line with the set standard for its projects.
Working with atimeline
“The pace of work on the road is in order. We are working with a time line. If you say the work should be done at night to allow for free flow traffic during the day, it means our workers will be idle during the day. In any case, we are working both day and night. The problem that is being experienced is because of the peculiar nature of Lagos. Even if a short portion of the road is being done, motorists and commuters on the road must face this problem of traffic jams because of the busy nature of Lagos, particularly the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, “ he said.
“This complaint has often come up whenever construction work is ongoing along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway. But what I usually tell people is that they should understand the situation and be patient; when the job is completed, the hardship of the motorists and commuters on the road will become a thing of the past,” Iloba noted.
Failed security efforts
Meanwhile, following the growing cases
of robbery and violent attacks on motorists and other road users on the Mile 2 road, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, had earlier this month, ordered a security beef up around the area to stem the activities of the hoodlums. Vanguard gathered that the police boss gave the directive during a security briefing with some senior officers at the State Command Headquarters, Ikeja.
It was learnt hat the directive, would see an increase in the number of policemen patrolling the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and the Lagos-Badagry Expressway axis of Mile 2.
Sources disclosed that the patrol would be a joint exercise involving six Police Divisions from three area commands, while two teams of policemen attached to the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, would be strategically stationed at a section of the Mile 2 Bridge and also at the descending part of the bridge to prevent any act of criminality. But with the recent robbery incident suffered by five Vanguard staff, last Thursday, with policemen turning the other way, many are begin to wonder if CP Manko’s strategies are actually not failing.