GENGA Akintola is the Executive Chairman of Lagos state Public Works Corporation,LSPWC,-an agency saddled with the responsibility of rehabilitating and maintaining all roads in the state. In this interview with CHARLES KUMOLU, he regretted that federal roads in the state have been neglected, noting that the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency commence rehabilitation across federal roads in Lagos.
MOST federal roads in Lagos state are in a state of neglect. How did we get to thia sorry state?
What we have today is a result of abandonment and neglect. They don’t really have the maintenance strategy to deal with the roads under the care of the federal government. I will quickly mention some of these roads for the sake of clarity. We have Ojota Ikorodu road, there is one after Marina, Akpongbon, Herbert Macually Osborne road, Lagos Badagry. There are so many federal roads in the state. Apapa is the busiest federal road in the state and maybe in Nigeria. That is a road that is so important to the economy of this nation, yet the road is a pitiable sight, which is responsible for the heavy traffic on the road. Same heavy traffic and neglect contributes to the breakdown of most portions of the highway. To say that the road is an eyesore is an understatement. The neglect of these roads is something I can’t believe is happening because this people have been in government for several years. Take another road, Ikorodu to Ketu. We had flooding there recently, the neglect of that road is so bad that we the concerned workers in Lagos state did not leave it to remain in that state. When the flooding occured, we did not just relax because it is federal, we had to come in order to create room for normal activities. We also have so many other roads where we have worked on.
Some have argued that the collapsed state of these roads are preventive if there was partnership between the state and the central government on the matter of repairs. Is theresuch partnership with the federal government and if yes what does it look like?
There is no partnership as far I know. What I know is that FERMA is responsible for the fixing of federal roads while the Lagos state public works maintenance is responsible for roads in the state. We only come into the issue of the federal roads in Lagos because we bear the brunt of the collapsed infrastructure because this government owes it a duty to people to be responsible for the safety of lives. We have been maintaining all federal roads in Lagos. For instance, we did Maryland to Ikorodu, Akpongbo, after Marina. We maintain Ahmadu Bello to Bonny camp, down to Barbeach, we also maintain Osborne Road,Lagos to Badagry,Herbert Macually, Adeniji Adeile. We started from Herbert macually to Ebute Meta area. We also fixed First avenue in FESTAC. Some parts of Apapa/Oshodi Expressway is receiving our attention. We are also working on Epe/Ijebu Ode road. We are doing these because we are concerned about people leaving in the state irrespective of whether the roads are federal or not.
Apapa/Oshodi Expressway is an eyesore, especially at Berger bustop. That spot appears to be perpetually collapsed and sometimes it is fixed through community efforts, but such palliative does not last. What plans does the state government has for this portion?
But for the rains, you would have seen us there working to make sure that the place is motorable. The problem of that portion is drainage. I can assure that by next week we would resume work there doing some palliatives. I can assure that the road is the responsibility of the federal government and I do not know why it has been left to decay to that extent.
We gathered that some states, especially Lagos that had fixed federal roads in the past with state funds did not get refund from the Federal government. Does this account for the state of some roads in the state?
I don’t want to give you the fact that I am not sure of. I don’t know if the federal government have refunded the money. But what I can assure you of is that the funds we use in maintaining the roads are solely from the coffers of the state government. As far as I am concerned nothing is coming from the federal government. The amount of money that is being spent on Abuja is not replicated in Lagos, which is the former federal capital and the economic nerve centre of the nation. Imagine what the state gets as monthly allocation, compared with places like New York that is of the same status, it is like a drop in the ocean. We are trying our best to make sure that we realise the mandate given to us with the little available resources.
When people talk about failed federal roads across the states, the crux of the matter is usually what the federal government failed to do. But we have a Lagos State that generates revenue from companies and owners of heavy duty vehicles that damage the roads, yet the roads have been left to rot away.
Like I mentioned to you earlier that we have not relented in the face of federal neglect. We have about seventeen federal roads , where we have made meaningful impact. And they are there for anyone to see. The work we did on these roads are world class jobs. You are right, the Lagos state is benefitting from the tax regime, but the areas we have intervened justifies that. Recently, we worked three nights on Ikorodu road to make sure that the place is motorable. Whatever income these companies generate, they pay bulk to the federal government. Look at the percentage that goes to the state and fedearal and the companies pay directly to the federal government. What goes to the state are personal income tax. It is not that the state does not generate tax from these companies, but what we generate is minute compared to the damage that the companies wreck on our roads. From all the tax the federal government gets from this state, it is important that they allocate special fund for the maintenance of these roads. What the state government is saying is that, given that we have the largest port in Lagos, the federal government should reciprocate by ensuring that the federal roads in the state are in good order. There is no state in the federation that takes care of federal roads like Lagos state.
Instances abound where some of these roads fixed collapse within a short time, does this not question the quality of job done?
When you talk about this, try to consider the time the road was constructed because roads have specified life span. As we are working on one portion, we also discover that another side is breaking down. These are challenges we face. But go and look at the federal roads we have rehabilitated, you will discover that it is of good quality. We have added new products to the old ones we use, and that helps in stopping water from penetrating the roads. We tested it for over a month and settled for it. The quality of our work is superb and I can challenge anybody to contest that. We have also developed the use of interlocking stones. At the junction between Gbagada before the expressway to Apapa, we worked on it with this new product.
for a long time and the road is still in good shape and that road is a federal road. We even have a peer review from another state in the south-south to take a cue from our concept. That says load about the quality of our work.
Would you say that FEMA as a sister agency has complimented your job in the state, because the view about the agency is that it has performed below popular expectations?
I will say that if they have done that it has been minute, because the way they access their fund is also a challenge because of bureaucratic practices. And before they can access that fund another portion of the road they want to fix will go bad. There response time has not been commendable and that is why all the roads under their jurisdiction appears as if they are not doing anything. If they had actually been complementing us adequately, there would not be problem about maintenance of federal roads in Lagos. What we trying to say is that any response from FERMA should be done on time, because if a pothole develops and it stays for six months without being rehabilitated, it would lead to total collapse of that portion. We have witnessed that manhole covers on some federal roads have been stolen in many occasions. We have written to Nitel about it but they did not respond to us. And people have lost their lives as a result of these. And the majority of the breakdown on the roads is as a result of trailers and containers