By Jude Njoku
MR. Emeka Nwokeke is a driver with Chisco, a popular transport company that has buses plying different parts of the country. Emeka left Lagos about 7p.m.Â penultimate Friday en routeÂ Port-Harcourt. Unfortunately, he ran into a traffic gridlock at Ore and by 12.30 pm the next day, Emeka who was totally worn out was still trying to manouvre his way out of the jam which he attributed to bad spots along the expressway, the illegal parking of trailers on both sides of the expressway and the recklessness of drivers.
Corroborating what Emeka said, another driver, Mr. Bolaji Badejo said they had spent over six hours in the gridlock. Bolaji who works forÂ ABC Transport company narrated his experience along the Benin- Ore road. â€œIÂ left Lagos at 7.30Â for Aba and you can see where we are, there is no way I can get to Aba today. I came back from Jos yesterday, the road there was bad but the traffic was moving slowly. But in this case, the traffic is not flowing at-all. We have been stuck in this traffic for the past five to six hours,â€.
The parlous state of this highway which links the South Western part of the country to the South East and South- South geo-political zones may have compelled many people intending to travel for the Christmas and New Year celebrations to reconsider their stand.
Also trapped in the traffic jam, an embittered Dr. Ejike Ezeja who is a dental surgeon at the University of Benin Teaching hospital could not control his temper as he rained abuses on those in the corridors of power for allowing the Lagos-Ore -Benin road to deteriorate to the point that it has become almost impassable.
â€œYou can see how bad this road is;Â we have been trapped in this traffic for over five hours and we have leaders gallivanting all over the place. This road will still be the same by December when people will be travelling for Christmas. The former Minister of Transportation, Mrs. Allison Madueke came here, saw the bad state of the road and wept.
Three years have passed and the road is still in a deplorable state. The way we are being governed in this country is shameful, shameful in the sense that we cannot afford to have leaders that come in and just roll out promises. It is the height of manâ€™s inhumanity to man;Â whether they use the road or not, they subject the masses to untold sufferings. I have been using this road for more than ten years and I stand to be quoted that this road has been this bad for the past ten years.
How do you expect the people to have confidence in their leaders when a road as major as the Benin -Lagos express road is in such a dilapidated state?
Continuing, Dr. Ezeja said: â€œThere is no gainsaying the amount of traffic along this road. You can see it yourself, the heavy duty lorries. The luxury buses that carry passengers donâ€™t use this road anymore. They are using the old road which is even worse because my friend just called me on that road.
You know the annoying thing in this country, what the masses are asking for are simple things.Â Â If you can give the people water, light, roads, Nigerians will not be as aggressive as they are. They say that Nigerians are aggressive, the youths donâ€™t want to stay in the country, they want to travel abroad,” he lamented.
Asked to proffer solution to the problem, he retorted: â€œThe solution is to get the roads fixed; it is as simple as that. We have heard a number of times that contract has been awarded for the Lagos -Benin express road, why has it not been done? Are they not paying the contractors? What of those who are supposed to supervise it so that it will be done?
Another annoying thing is that by the time they do this road, it will be such that in two or three years time, you will start finding potholes. If they want to do something, it can done. they should do something that will last. It is painful that this road was done by the Yakubu Gowon regime. Between then and now, what have those who ruled this country been doing?”he queried.
FG offers palliative reconstruction
THE Minister of Works and Housing Minister, Dr. Hassan Muhammad Lawal who was also caught in the gridlock with the Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko has howeverÂ promisedÂ that the Federal Government will accord the re-construction of the ever- busy expressway top priority.
Dr. Hassan Lawal who was evidently overwhelmed by the traffic jam and the complaints of commuters, acknowledged the fact that the road has expired and required total reconstruction. He was however quick toÂ blame the impatience of motorists as partly responsible for the gridlock.
Governor Mimiko who joined the Minister and other security personnel on the entourage to control the traffic amidst praises and jeers from the commuters said the government will liaise with the Police and other law enforcement agencies to join the Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC) to control the traffic in the area pending the completion of the rehabilitation work by Messrs Reynolds Construction Company (RCC).Nigeria Limited.
Asked their impressions about the gridlock, Dr. Mimiko who spoke first said: â€œWe have all been witnesses to the harrowing experiences that our people go through on this road on a daily basis. There is no question about the fact that part of the problem is impatience on the part of the drivers. We cannot run away from the fact that this road is congested hence the road has broken down completely. The solution I see is simple, from Lagos to Benin, this road has to be reconstructed.
The palliative that is going on is okay for this season but ultimately, the Federal Government must commit itself to rebuilding this road. This is a very important atrial road in this country. We must do something about this road, people sleep here for two, three days and you know what that means in terms of loss of economy to this nation not to talk of the psychological torture that people go through. There is no question about the fact that this road has to be rebuilt. Yes, we welcome the rehabilitation that is going on but ultimately, this road must be rebuilt. Our appeal to our people also is to have a little patience.
When a road is been rehabilitated, we must obey traffic directions so that we donâ€™t have this kind of jam where four to five lanes are created artificially by the drivers. A little patience and we would probably have averted this very bad experience that we have here. I am happy that the Federal Minister of Works is here. He has seen it himself, we were actually going out to see the extent of work going on at that end that is being rehabilitated when we came to this jam. There is no question about the fact that we must address this Lagos- Benin Road and I am sure that the Minister has seen it.
The Works Minister would not agreedÂ more.Â â€œWe are all witnesses to the congestion this afternoon, I couldnâ€™t agree with the Governor more. There are several stages of fixing a road, it could be repairs, it could be rehabilitation and it could be outright reconstruction. This road was repaired, now they are doing rehabilitation and like he (Governor) suggested, there is need for outright reconstruction of the road and I couldnâ€™t agree with him more. However, I want to reiterate the need for patience.
I think we cannot take laws into our hands by leaving our lane and coming into the second lane simply because we are in a hurry. A little patience from our road users will definitely bring sanity. You can see that after some two, three minutes that we are here, a new lane has opened and people are now driving on the right lane and you can see how the traffic is flowing smoothly.
We have heard the remarks by the governor and other observers and we will go back to the drawing board and I also believe that there is a need to reconstruct this road and by the special grace of God, we will commit resources. Believe me, we are worried about this road; rehabilitation work is going on, at least, something is being done. It is not as if the government is folding its arms and saying we are not going to do anything.
Briefing the Minister and Governor Mimiko on the progress of work on the 86 kilometres stretch, the Director, Federal Highways, Construction and Reconstruction, Engr. Sani Haliru said the rehabilitation was awarded in two phases to two different contractors. â€œThis portion is section 2 of the Benin-Shagamu Road; section 1 is between Benin and Ofosu which is the border between Edo and Ondo States while section 2 is between Ofosu and Ajibandele which is the boundary between Ondo and Ogun Stateâ€.
The Engineerâ€™s representative, Engr. Joseph Nwachukwu gave details of the construction method adopted in the reconstruction work. â€œWe are doing total reconstruction to recover as much length as we can have. We are excavating the existing road up to 600 millimetres minimum and we are filling it with hard core and sharp sand in the event of any water movement it will contain it.
After this, we are putting what we call Makadam specially designed to carry any weight that this road can take. If you look at what was happening at Ore, you will see that volume of traffic on this road is one of the heaviest in Nigeria. So with this 600mm Makadam, we will apply another 600mm asphaltic concrete on top of this binder and another 40mm asphaltic core and we hope that by the time we complete this, Nigerians will be very happy with this administration. We are going to put about 300 mm asphaltic material which is unprecedented in this country. This is what we are doing to recover this road,â€ he said.