By Emeka Mamah, OlasunkanmiAkoni, Kinsgley Adegboye & Chris Ochayi
The Oshodi/Apapa Ex-pressway, which leads to the biggest sea port in the West African, has completely failed after about 30 years of use.
The government announced the award of contracts for the reconstruction of the road before the dissolution of the immediate past Federal Executive Council, FEC, to Messrs Julius Berger Plc and Borini Prono.
Julius Berger was awarded Section II (CH 7 + 000 to CH 23 + 000 of Oshodi-Apapa), while Borini Prono got Section I (CH 0 + 000 to CH 7 + 000) part of the road. But work was yet to begin on the two sections when rainy season began.
President Goodluck Jonathan had directed the Ecological Fund Office to work out modalities for the release of ecological funds to Lagos State Government with a view to finding both short and long term solutions to the flood problems.
The Lagos State Government had also awarded contracts for the upgrading of all identified canals that had been blocked, just as the government said about N13 billion was required to effectively solve the problems associated with flooding in the state.
A journey from Mile 2 to Apapa, which normally takes less than 10 minutes, lasts for five and a half hours as trailers, tankers and other heavy duty vehicles, which throng the ports to take delivery of imported petroleum items and other goods, block the highway filled with the potholes, thus making such journeys hellish.
Apart from the ports, there are five industrial layouts on the road from where the country generates about 95 per cent of its customs duties and other taxes.
Experts believe that the only remedy is for the Federal Government to reconstruct the entire expressway in view of the volume of the heavy duty vehicles which throng the ports through the road daily.
Lagos State is said to be reluctant to be involved in the repair or rehabilitation of the expressway because of the little or no income generated for it from the road.
A trip through the road from Oshodi shows that the areas badly affected by deep gullies and pot holes start from Iyana-Isolo through Cele Express, First and Second Rainbow up to Jakande Low Cost to Mile Two; Berger Yard bus stop to Tin Can Island Port gate is also bad.
Petroleum tankers which throng the jetties to load fuel also constitute a major source of traffic jam between Berger Yard and Berger Cement bus stops along the expressway.
Mr. Muyaideen Akinsanya, Permanent Secretary, Office of Drainage Services in Lagos State Ministry of the Environment, who conducted the Federal Government’s delegation round some of the drainage channels in the state, said some of them needed to be expanded while those longer than 11 kilometres have to be aligned with concrete.
Akinsanya said: “More importantly, lack of proper guiding culverts, especially on the Lagos- Abeokuta federal road, is causing serious ecological problems for many communities which were submerged by the last flood.
“The earlier we are able to align the entire channel, the better for easy facilitation of the volume of flow and the easier life gets for the residents.’’
Mr. Moses Ogunleye, former Chairman of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, said that Lagos, being a coastal city, has a peculiar flooding challenge. Ogunleye said no matter the volume of rainfall, Lagos would always be vulnerable to flooding.
With the prediction of forecasters that Lagos will witness heavy rainfall and flooding this year, the situation becomes unimaginable. The Sunday, July 10, and Monday, July 11 experiences further reveal the deplorable state of the drainage system around the metropolis which experts attribute to total neglect.
In addressing the flooding question in Lagos, it is important to understand certain issues according to Mr. Ogunleye, who is also the Lagos State Branch Vice President, Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria, ATOPCON.
He said the first issue was the fact that the Federal Government had neglected Lagos in terms of infrastructure development, particularly the highways such as Oshodi-Apapa Expressway; Lagos-Ibadan Expressway; and Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
He added that these highways provide sustenance for the country’s economy.
He noted further that because of neglect of Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, the dual carriageway has continued to suffer colossal damage and this damage has been aggravated by defective drainage facility.
‘The Federal Government has not given emphasis to maintenance of Oshodi/Apapa Expressway. The critical element of the required maintenance is the storm water channels which are non-existence.
‘However, because of urbanization, the drainages that were provided for the roads have become inadequate and there have not been expansion programme for them.
‘’Most channels on both sides of the highway are heavily silted. This has led to diversion of water to the road surface which causes continuous damage to the road. Let there be regular maintenance, clearing of drains and resurfacing of the road where necessary’, Mr. Ogunleye said.
Explaining further that certain negative practices easily aid flooding, he stated that despite the availability of civilized options for waste disposal as provided by the Lagos Waste Management Authority and its other PSP partners, people still turn canals, streams and drainage system into refuse dumping sites.
Describing it as attitudinal problems of the people, the ATOPCON Vice President said solid wastes still get into the drainage channels across the city, adding that it was even so bad that while it is raining, people come out to toss their refuse into the flowing water.
According to him, no matter the level of government’s preparedness at tackling flooding, such practices will continue to negate its goals.
‘’As much as the government is doing its bits, Non-governmental organizations, community development associations, the media, members of the civil society and all well-meaning individuals as well as groups in the state should partner with the state government to achieve attitudinal change towards the environment.
“There is the need to let people know that they have to change their orientation towards waste disposal. There should be enlightenment campaign to this effect. Drainage designs can be changed in some heavily built areas of the city to meet disposal needs of the people.
‘’There could be open drains and covered drains to serve different areas of the metropolis”, he explained.
Mr. Ogunleye who said the major problem of the city in terms of flooding is that not many parts of the state are well planned and integrated, added that only their integration will make water flow from one point to another even as there is the need for systematic planning of most parts of the city.
Meanwhile, the construction giant, Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, has pledged that it would meet the 40- month completion dateline for the full rehabilitation of the Section II of the dilapidated Apapa-Wharf-Mile 2 Oshodi dual carriageway, if the Federal Government does not default in funding the projects.
Managing Director of the company, Engineer Wolfgang Goetsch, who disclosed this in Abuja, assured motorists, particularly, Lagosians that the difficulties being experienced by the users of the express way due to its deplorable condition would soon be a thing of past.
Goetsch further assured that the company is committed to complete and deliver the projects at the stipulated time “if it is adequately funded by the Federal Government.”
He said that though the contract was awarded to it not long ago, the company was determined to put in its best and ensure the project is completed before the deadline.
Also, Bi-Courtney which was awarded the contracts for the rehabilitation of the Lagos-Ibadan Express way has installed a bitumen plant to ensure quick completion of the job.
The Concessionaire, Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited, BCHSL, was weekend putting finishing touches to the installation of a $6.5 million Asphalt mixing plant at the RCC yard, at Kilometre 45, along the highway to enable it complete the job on schedule.
The machine, built by Power-Plus, will produce the asphalt needed to build the road and further maintenance.
According to Bi-Courtney’s spokesman, Dipo Kehinde, the plant will produce over 155 tons of asphalt per hour.
He said that the expatriates installing the bitumen plant commenced work more than a week ago, adding that Bi-Courtney resumed work on the Express way last month, after the final design for the project was approved on May 10, 2011.
Kehinde said: “All we can do now is to put in some palliative measures while waiting for the rainy season to end. We are aware of what motorists are going through on that road, and we are determined to deliver a world class product.”
However, in his reaction, member of the House of Representatives for Epe Division of Lagos State, Hon. Lanre Odubote stressed the need for special allocation to the state as a former federal capital and commercial hub of the country.
Odubote urged the Federal Government to forget about party affiliation and assist the state government in tackling the problems of flood which has caused a lot of problems for the residents.
Some residents of the state have also warned that ‘’whatever solution the government is planning must not involve demolition of houses’’ adding that such moves would compound the problems instead of solving them.’’