WITHOUT playing down the importance of other major expressways, the 126.6-kilometre Lagos – Ibadan Expressway is easily the most important trunk road in Nigeria.
The reasons for this are not farfetched. It is the main corridor into Lagos, the nation’s economic capital which holds its major seaports (the Apapa Ports and the Tin Can Island Port) and the foremost international airport (Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja). It also holds numerous petrol and gas tank farms which serve the fuel supply needs of the country in place of the dilapidated pipeline network and comatose inland depots.
The Lagos – Ibadan expressway bears the greatest burden arising from the collapsed railway system which is only recently being slowly resuscitated. Heavy cargo-laden vehicles and other public and private road passenger cars and buses from the Western, Eastern and Northern parts of the country ply this trunk and converge in Lagos for business and pleasure. The miseries of the decade-old Apapa gridlocks bear eloquent evidences of the strategic importance of the city and the main road leading into it.
Apart from the neglected rail system which has burdened the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway beyond its intended load, also the neglect of the seaports towards the Eastern parts of the country (Warri, Koko, Port Harcourt, Onne, Ibaka and Calabar) because of undue preference for the Lagos Ports makes the near-total dependence of our people and the economy on the Expressway inevitable.
Why such an all-important road was even allowed to go to absolute ruin in the first place is one of the puzzling illogicalities that make Nigeria a strange country indeed.
The former four-lane expressway, initiated with our oil boom money by General Yakubu Gowon and commissioned under the General Olusegun Obasanjo military government in August 1978, bore the brunt of constant, heavy usage for nearly 40 years until the regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan redesigned it into an eight-lane auto highway and started a reconstruction effort. Happily, the current Muhammadu Buhari regime has continued to push the project towards completion.
However, the slow pace of work, frequent accidents and general indiscipline by road users have combined to make life difficult for the numerous users of the expressway. It is not just the people that are suffering, the economy is also feeling the heat.
We call on the Federal Government to ramp up efforts to complete the good work it is doing on this and other expressways around the country. Work on the rail system, rebuilding of our broken pipeline networks and redevelopment of other seaports outside Lagos should also be fast-tracked.
These are the only ways to minimise misery on the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway. National infrastructure revival should be treated as an emergency.