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LAGOS-BADAGRY ROAD: The very slow light rail!

…more than five years to ‘travel’ 61 kilometres
• The trauma

By Olasunkanmi Akoni

The snail speed of the reconstruction of Lagos-Badagry Expressway, LBE, has been a major issue.

Lagos-Badagry Expressway

In spite of the flag-off of the continuation of the project by Lagos State government, the end of the pains of residents and motorists on the road does not seem to be in sight.

Heavily dilapidated due to the stoppage of reconstruction work, driving through the road, which used to take 15 to 30 minutes, was taking between 3 and 4 hours before ongoing palliative efforts.

The Eric Moore-Badagry project was first conceptualized by Lagos State government in 1974 and constructed into a four-lane dual carriage way by the Federal Government in 1977 when the need for a highway to connect all the countries of the sub-region was agreed upon by the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS].

The LBE connects Nigeria to the Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana, through to Senegal and other countries in the sub region.

It is the Nigerian section of the Trans–West African Coastal Highway.

The initiative to expand the four-lane LBE to a 10-lane road with light rail in-between was mooted during the Tinubu regime and started under the Fashola administration in 2009. The initiative was borne out of the need to ease traffic in the state and upgrade the infrastructure.

But the 61-kilometre road reconstruction has been hindered by funding problems and litigations by those whose properties are affected by the development, among others, compelling the contractor, China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation, CCECC, to stop work.

According to the schedule, the Okokomaiko to Marina segment of the road expansion project (also tagged Light Blue Rail) was expected to be completed by December 2014 and projected to transport over 19.2 million Lagosians annually.

In essence, the project is already five years behind schedule.

For motorists and residents along the LBE, the allocation of 20 percent of the Lagos 2014 budget to the Works and Infrastructure Ministry raised the hope that the stress experienced on that axis will soon be over.

The multi-billion Naira project had been tipped as a rare opportunity to open Lagos to economic opportunities in West Africa.

The project, which aimed at making transportation faster, convenient and more efficient, was initially estimated to gulp at least N170 billion ($1.12 billion) covering both design and construction from Marina to Okokomaiko. The project was divided into three lots.

Lot 1, Marina to Mile- 2, Lot 2, Mile 2 to Okokomaiko, while Lot 3 is Okokomaiko to Seme, Badagry.

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But Fashola, while presenting his 2014 budget of N496, 690 billion, lamented the frustration of the early release of the World Bank loan to fund the Light Blue Rail among other projects, saying “it slowed down the state government activities for two years.”

He added, “In 2010 when I presented the year 2011 budget, I announced that we had negotiated a World Bank loan for $600m to fund a three-year medium-term expenditure framework for years 2011, 2012 and 2013 which required Federal Government approval.

“Although the approval for the loan was given then and the year 2011 first tranche for $200m was released in that year, the year 2012 and 2013 tranches were frustrated by Federal Government agencies.

“It is the year 2012 component and year 2013 component that is now being approved in the last quarter of 2013.

“Our state’s development was held up and slowed down for 2 years. The progress on the rail was held back. Progress on LBE was slowed down. Improvement in the quality of life of Lagosians was slowed down.

“But painfully we have had to borrow money at shorter tenures of 7 years and higher interest rates of 17 percent and 14 percent, instead of 1 percent and 40-year-tenure which the delayed World Bank loan offered”.

Back to site 

Meanwhile, there were high expectations when the state government, on July 2, 2019, flagged off the continuation of the project which experienced low activities in the four years of the Ambode administration.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had, immediately after his inauguration, led a team to visit the site and promised to mobilise contractors back to site within one month.

Specifically, he assured that the Agboju –Trade-Fair segment of the road project will be done before the end of the year.

The contractor, CCECC, has since returned to site.

The deputy governor of the state, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, while lamenting the poor condition of the road and the harrowing experience road users and the residents at the corridor experience, expressed the determination of government to complete the LBE.

He expressed satisfaction that the synergy between Lagos State and Federal Governments on the road was yielding positive results, saying that the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) had commenced maintenance work on the Igbo-Elerin Junction to Agbara, while the Federal Government had also awarded the reconstruction and expansion of Agbara to Seme to six lanes.

On his part, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works, Engr. Olujimi Hotonu, explained that extreme regular congestion has a significant impact on economic activities and detrimental impact on the quality of life of the millions of Lagosians on the axis.

Also speaking, the General Manager, CCECC, Lagos Headquarters, Bill Bian, promised to speed up work and deliver on schedule.

He noted that his firm was aware of the suffering experienced by road users and promised to fix the bad spots such as Trade-Fair under bridge, Barracks and Iyana-Iba immediately.

Lawmakers’ intervention

On Tuesday, July 9, 2019, the deplorable state of LBE featured at the House of Representatives when lawmakers urged the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and Lagos State government to provide funds for the contractor handling the job so that it can be completed shortly.

Ordeals

Meanwhile, concerned residents have been staging protests to draw attention to the abandonment of the road, likening their experiences travelling on the expressway to “hell.” Some of them living in Okokomaiko, Igbo Elerin, Iba Estate, Ijanikin, Satellite Town and Festac, who travel to buy goods in Badagry and neighbouring countries, say they now find it difficult to transport their wares without incurring huge losses.

They also narrated how vehicles spend several hours on the road while, sometimes, containers fall in very bad parts of the road, leading to loss of lives, swallowing of cars by craters while robbers take advantage of vehicles slowing down to attack motorists and commuters.

Protest

On July 24, 2019, residents in that axis stormed the Governor’s Office, Alausa, demanding immediate removal of checkpoints and commencement of palliative work on the road.

The protesters, who displayed placards with inscriptions such as ‘Remember, Badagry is still part of Lagos’, ‘Badagry road deserves more attention’, and ‘Good road is not a luxury but a necessity’, among others, vowed to continue their protest until government yielded to their demands.

Addressing the protesters, Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by Mr. Hundeyin Kolawole, Political Director, Office of Civic Engagement, assured that their demands would be addressed.

Also, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mudasiru Obasa, who was represented by Gbolahan Yishau, stressed that the House would give consideration to the issues raised by the protesters as soon as possible.

“Any patriotic Nigerian who passes through this area successfully will feel ashamed of this country. “Unfortunately, the road remains unattended to. Government has continued to give excuses and promises while our people die on daily basis and businesses collapse”, one of the protesters later told Sunday Vanguard.

“But we hope the Federal Government will complement the efforts of the state government by mobilizing FERMA and the contractor handling the second and third lots of LBE to immediately carry out urgent palliative work on these failed portions to alleviate the excruciating pains experienced by road users”.

Mr. Jude Wisdom, a commercial driver along the axis, also lamented: “For how long are we going to wait for the completion of the road? Our vehicles are going bad due to the poor state.

“If government wants to have pity on residents, I think they should give this project the attention it deserves.”

Situation report as at Thursday, July 11:

Trade Fair under-bridge

Traffic jam has subsided because of the palliative work carried out by CCECC. But traffic managers are needed at under bridge.

Motorists were driving against traffic because the palliative measure done was only on one side of the road.

Ojo Barracks

There was free flow of traffic following the palliative work.

Iyana-Iba

Palliative work done on one side of the road significantly reduced traffic gridlock.

Okokomaiko – Igbo Elerin Junction

Motorists were passing through the area with some measure of ease following the palliative intervention opposite Okoko Police Station and u-turn. But flood waters after the u-turn remained a problem.

Iyana-era to Federal 2nd Gate

Traffic was still building up due the dilapidated state of the road.

Vehicles were managing to go through the small motor-able part of the road because the construction company handling the Okoko-Agbara part of the road (WE) failed to carry out palliative work there.

AOCOED to Vespa to Agbara to Morogbo

This segment of the road remained a nightmare to motorists as trucks regularly fall there. No palliative yet.

Agbara

Though traffic was moving slowly, the road remained in shambles.

No palliative yet.

Pure Water, Area K to Oko-Afo

The axis remained the worst part of the road from Okoko to Badagry.

The contractor handling the Agbara-Seme portion of the road (CGC) failed to carry out palliative work on the bad and impassable parts of the road.

VANGUARD

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