By Emmanuel Edukugho & Gab Ejuwa
Lagos, the industrial, commercial and economic capital of Nigeria has a complex, often bizarre networks of roads, mostly characterised by deep pot holes, ditches and mini-gulleys that are death traps of road users across the sprawling metropolis.
But by far, the most traumatic, horrific and agonising is the Orile-Okokomaiko stretch, traversing Mile 2, Trade Fair Complex, Barracks, Volks, Iyana-Iba, to Okokomaiko. From here, there seems to be some respite for the motorists who are going further to Agbara, the border town between Lagos and Ogun states which also is the industrial hub of Ogun.
From Agbara to Badagry could be smooth due to absence of chaotic traffic but riddled with countless road blocks mounted by greedy men of Customs and Police extorting money from travellers and dare-devil smugglers transporting contraband goods across Seme border separating Republic of Benin and Nigeria.
Between Mile 2 and Iyana-Iba, motorists and commuters can spend about three to four hours at any given time, whether day, evening or night. Ditches and pot holes, deep and wide enough to swallow a three-year-old child are the features of this road plied by several vehicles from cars, buses of all types, tippers, oil tankers, lorries, trailers-conveying large, unprotected containers, not to talk of numerous motor cycles (Okada) being ridden by reckless men without the slightest regard for human lives and traffic regulations.
Traffic jams have become the permanent characteristics of the road worsened by motorists who often go on one-way eventually blocking both sides of the expressway. At times, there are complete stand-stills; no movement for several hours, forcing people to either abandon their vehicles and go home or sleep inside till daybreak. Such is the harrowing experience that people encounter almost on daily basis.
In most cases the road is completely blocked – from Barracks (where the Ojo military cantonment is located) to Iyana-Iba, the point where those going to Iba, Igando, Isheri, Ikotun- Egbe, Ipaja, Agege, divert to these places. There is usually a sort of gridlock until getting to Iyana-Iba, when the traffic eases, creating a leeway for those going ahead to Okokomaiko, Agbara and Badagry.
Beside the vast expanse along the Volkswagen massive fence corridor, vehicles divert into the rough, uneven, bumpy, pot-hole ridden terrain, in efforts to escape from the terrible, crippling traffic hold-up and trying to link up at Volks. Motorists who are compelled to enter the ‘jungle’ when the traffic jam is heavy, often fall into the hands of security operatives who demand money at certain points.
Another hazard is that posed by touts disguised in camouflaged caps and T-shirts as soldiers when in fact they have no connection whatsoever with the Army. They thus deceive gullible motorists, extorting vast sums of money from them.
Both military, police and Agbero(touts) take different positions to extort tolls from motorists, especially commercial vehicles. LASTMA officials are not left out in the menace that afflicts the road. All these operative constitute serious impediments to the free-flow of traffic. Lanes are changed with impunity while the law enforcement agents are more concerned with extortion than efficient control of traffic.
The construction of the 10-lane Orile-Badagry Expressway with a railway which has started with so many structures and buildings being demolished is bringing hope and sense of relief to the people who use the road. Julius Berger and a Chinese Construction Company have been entrusted with the project that would completely turn around the Orile-Badagry international expressway.
Reliable sources say the construction will take up to five years to finish, and will cost several billions of naira jointly financed by the Lagos State Government, the Federal Government and the World Bank.
Speaking to Vanguard Metro, a minibus driver at Iyana Iba, Mr. Emmanuel Ebere described the Badagry Expressway from Orile- Iganmu to Iyana-Iba as a veritable no-man’s land as regards law enforcement, affirming that a different set of laws, that of the survival of the fittest, operates on this stretch of road, and that anybody who would survive on it must embrace a new mindset and believe it is a jungle.
Mr. Amosu, another driver, this time at Okokomaiko put the blame for the madness on the road squarely at the doorsteps of the law operatives: the regular police, the road safety VIO, and LASTMA who use the many faceless touts as fronts.
According to him, all the agberos extorting money from motorists are actually installed there by the operatives themselves, so that the greed and graft may not be traced to them.
As for a roadside seller who craved anonymity for obvious reasons at Iyana Iba, the touts were the ones who gave them the permission to be at the roadside, despite the risks and hazards. According to her as early as 5pm the touts distribute tickets for all those that will trade by the road, and nobody dare challenge them.