By Olasunkanmi Akoni
As another Yuletide approaches:Lagos-Ibadan, Benin-Sagamu expressways remain death traps
The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway:This is main gateway into Lagos, the nation’s hub of commercial activities. It is arguably the busiest and most traversed trunk road in Sub-Saharan Africa. It serves unquantifiable number of traffic daily such as heavy duty trucks, commuter buses and other vehicles to and from the Lagos metropolis to every other parts of Nigeria.
Such is the volume of traffic that the slightest hitch or accident soon snowball into serious chaotic traffic jam whose ripple effects if not properly managed as often the case soon degenerates into logjam and snarls that lasts for several man-hours loss.
Road happens to be the most common mode of transportation in Nigeria and accounts for more than 90 per cent of the sub-sector’s 3 per cent contribution to the Gross Domestic Product, GDP
Road transport activities involve the conveyance of passengers en-masse or in small numbers, the transportation of animals, farm produce and merchandise and the rendering of mobile services clinics, libraries and banks.
The situation on the Lagos- Ibadan expressway is being exacerbated by the acquisition of land along the same road by various religious organisations whose programmes particularly towards the end of the year multiply in many folds movement difficulties on the already pressurized road.
To worsen the matter, gullies have sprung up on the road with night marauders taking advantage of the helpless situation to rob innocent citizens of their hard earned valuables even sometimes their lives.
Sometimes the journey from Lagos to Ibadan that would have been made in slightly over an hour takes over eight hours usually because of the hitches experienced during end of year religious prorammes along the route.
Among the religious organisations along the expressway which is also dotted by several estates, including Journalists Estate, are: The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry, Deeper Christian Life Ministry, World Evangelism Bible Church and even the Muslim’s NASFAT sect, to mention just a few.
It is believed that the pressure these organisation’s programmes place on this ever busy road is sometimes best imagined than experienced.
In fairness to a some of these religious bodies, steps have been taken to reduce the impact of their activities to a manageable minimum. However, the human factor, the deplorable state of the road, and other variables like articulated vehicles, tanker drivers among others often make nonsense of such efforts.
The fact remains that the activities of these bodies act as the major catalyst for the intractable traffic situation along this road.
Their leaders often defend themselves by pointing government’s neglect of the road and other basic infrastructure as being the main reason for such problems. To a certain extent, they are right. Normally, it is not the role of private institutions to provide services that is the preserve of government. The road and transport network are indisputably the responsibility of the Federal, State and Local Governments.
Nigeria has the largest road network in West Africa and the second largest south of the Sahara.
Nigeria’s road networks are poorly maintained and overused as alternative modes of transport are poorly developed. However, after various failed interventions to address the need for the maintenance of the federal roads network, the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, was created in November 2002 (Establishment Act 2002) to monitor and maintain the federal roads network.
FERMA, along with the Highways Department of the Federal Ministry of Transport are responsible for looking after the federal roads network. The Highway Department is charged with the construction of new highways, and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of badly damaged highways, while FERMA is charged with maintaining the highways at acceptable levels of usability.
FERMA began patching the federal roads network in 2004, and has outlined a short, medium and long term strategy to carry out its work.
•Short Term Road Maintenance Strategy (STRMS): This focussed on making the roads accessible for the movement of people and goods. Under this strategy, the agency adopted the direct labour, retainership contract and regular contract type of methods to carry out its activities.
•Medium Term Road Sector Maintenance Management Strategy (MTRSMMS): The MTRSMMS is a form of Output and Performance_Based Road Contracts (OPRC). Under the scheme, contractors who are responsible for the maintenance of the roads will be paid for their based on agreed service levels at which the contractor has to maintain the road over a long period of time.
•Systematic Road Strengthening and Enhancement (SRSE) Programme: This approach is the same with MTRSMMS with the scope of works expanded to include periodic maintenance. The strategy will be used to recover the 30% of the network that required overlay and strengthening over a period of 8 to 10 years.
Therefore, taking a cue from the successful completion of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, under Public-Private Participation, PPP, the Federal Government last year finally approved the concession for the rehabilitation of the decrepit Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to Bi-Courtney Limited, owned by prominent lawyer cum businessman, Mr. Wale Babalakin.
The 110-kilometre of road under Build, Operate and Transfer, BOT basis was concessioned at the cost of N89.5 billion for a period of 25 years.
It is worthy to note that Bi-Courtney Consortium handled the entire project for the construction of the $250 million Murtala Mohammed Airport Terminal 2, Ikeja, Lagos on Build, Operate and Transfer, BOT, basis.
The approval of the concession by Federal Executive Council, FEC, was the culmination of a three-year screening process for bid which started in February 2007.
The Lagos-Ibadan expressway constructed 31 years ago which is now in a terrible condition is very strategic as it is the main link road to the East, South and North of the country.
Babalakin recently pleaded with Nigerians to bear with the contractor for the delay in the commencement of the second phase of the road reconstruction project, blaming it on the expected torrential rainfall this year.
He assured that as soon as the rain is over, equipment would be moved to site to finally commence reconstruction work. One, therefore, wonders how is that going to transform to positive use for Nigerians that would be travelling out of Lagos to their various states to celebrate the Christmas and the New Year with their families in the villages.
This means there will be high volume of traffic during this period and with the current condition, if something urgent was not done, there might be high proportion of carnages on these roads at this critical period.
According to Information and Communications Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili , Bi-Courtney shall undertake the reconstruction, expansion and modernization of the expressway to international standards.
She said: “After exhaustive debate and considerable input from the recently inaugurated Infrastructure Regulatory Concession Commission, ICRC, the FEC has approved the reconstruction, expansion and modernisation of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which is estimated to cost about N89,533,688,879.84 with a concession period of 25 years.
“It will be executed under a BOT scheme with 100 per cent funding by the concessionaire. The investors cost and return on investment will be recovered via tolls subject to regulatory guidance from the Federal Government and other charges on road support services such as trailer parks and rest areas.
“To ensure the highway is in good condition throughout the concession period, routing and periodic maintenance will be carried out to a minimum level of service under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Works, Housing and Urban Development,”
As it concerns the concessionaire’s scope of work, the minister said the project involves the full reconstruction of the existing carriageways, construction of additional lanes to the two carriageways and provision of associated facilities for the security and welfare of road users.
“The concessionaire will modernize the highway by providing the following services and facilities to improve safety and security of motorists such as: vehicular parking areas for heavy duty vehicles; rest areas with eateries and conveniences; emergency communications equipment; clinics and emergency ambulances; electronic traffic control and enforcement measures; highway lighting between 7pm and 6am, through the installation of a gas-fired plant; overhead pedestrian bridges at designated locations; modern toll points with electronic tolling system; and modern road signs and lane markings,” she added.
It was learnt that when completed, the expressway will have eight lanes (four on each side) from Lagos to Sagamu interchange and from there six lanes (three on each side) to Ibadan.
The Benin-Shagamu Expressway:
This road is not left out of the total neglect of federal road infrastructure especially in the South West region of the country.
The Lagos State chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria has, recently drawn the attention of Nigerians to the decrepit nature of the Benin-Shagamu Road, saying that the failure to maintain the road has become a deliberate punishment for Nigerians who use that road. The party said that the government must move with speed to rescue that road especially in the critical Christmas period.
Concerned over the development, the Lagos State Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, said the continued decay of the road is a damning verdict on the incompetence of the Federal Government. The party said it was a national shame that for a period spanning 20 years, the Federal Government had not been able to fix the road despite the strings of hypocritical attention various governments have attached to the badly deteriorating road.
“As a party, we do not understand why it is taking eternity for governments, especially those of the last 12 years to effect a passable repair of the road. We do not understand why the Benin-Shagamu Road should be a subject of national discussion for many years when the country has a government in place.
The continued deterioration of that very important road is a sad statement of the continued decay that has afflicted governance, especially at the federal level for many years now.
“We see the progressive degeneration of the road as a shameful statement on the competence of successive government at the centre who have proved abysmally incapable to handle simple problems of statecraft.
“Lagos ACN wants to align ourselves with the position of the Ondo State Governor, Dr. Segun Mimiko that the terrible nature of the Benin-Shagamu road shows the incompetence of FERMA.”
Igbokwe, therefore, called for an emergency attention to the Benin_Shagamu Road , especially as the peak holiday period is fast approaching.
Unequivocally, the importance of a good road network has not been lost to many of the emerging economies, especially in China , which did not have an inch of expressway in 1998 and now has the second largest network of expressways only after the United States of America , USA.
It has often been suggested that Nigeria can learn from China , India and Malaysia about developing a network of expressways which provide a real boost for the economy. This can be done by Federal Government merging the Department of Highways and FERMA to form a singular agency which will be responsible for the growth and maintenance of the federal roads network.