By Victor ‘Tunde Oso
In an article on August 1, 2019, Niran Adedokun, a newspaper columnist, wrote: “Hell will officially be visiting Nigeria via the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway from August 3, 2019”, apparently because the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos State, Mr. Adedamola Kuti, had insisted that nothing would stop government’s plans to partially shut Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to traffic for four months.
The Federal Government, in apparent indifference to concerns of motorists and other road users, said the partial closure would not be postponed, even with the looming Sallah holiday and other religious activities that would increase traffic on the road.
The news report stated that Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, the construction company handling rehabilitation work on Section 1 of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, had given notification of its plan, urging motorists to use alternative routes such as the Lagos-Ota-Itori-Abeokuta and Ikorodu-Sagamu roads during the period.
In his response to Sunday Vanguard inquiry on plans for the duration of road closure, Bisi Kazeem, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Public Education Officer, confirmed that “Julius Berger Nigeria PLC has notified the Corps of extension of rehabilitation work to Berger, specifically KARA bridge (otherwise known as Ogun River bridge, around the Kara cattle market) on the Lagos-Ibadan section of the expressway, covering 1.4 kilometers, commencing from Saturday 03 August 2019.”
Kazeem explained that the rehabilitation work, which would initially affect 600 meters of the corridor, would cause the temporary closure of the inward Lagos traffic at that particular place to enable the construction company effect the rehabilitation of the road and temporary diversion of traffic that would transfer the Lagos inbound traffic to the same carriageway conveying traffic outward Lagos at that point thereby making both the traffic inward and outward Lagos accommodated on the same section of the Expressway.
Accordingly to him, the Corps is advising motorists to drive within the maximum speed limit of 50km per hour, prescribed by the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2012, as the maximum speed at construction zones while observing lane discipline and avoid driving against traffic, as violators risk impoundment of their vehicles and liable to payment of N50, 000 traffic fine.
Kazeem said corridors like the Epe/Ajah – Ijebu – Ode; Lagos – Ota – Itori – Abeokuta, and Ikorodu – Sagamu could also be used as alternative routes, while motorists are further advised to contact the FRSC toll-free number 122 during emergencies.
Meanwhile, government said on Friday that the partial shutdown will not take effect yesterday as previously announced, but now on September 2. This is about four weeks away.
Many Nigerians, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard seem to share the view of Adedokun that Nigerians are in for a torrid time if the Federal Government fails to do remedial rehabilitation work on the alternative routes, which they insist are in a terrible state of disrepair.
Mr. John Ogunlela, the Managing Director of Thermoclays Nigeria Ltd, said, “My doubt is this scheduled closure: why should a 1.4-kilometre section of road take four months to build? The time seems unnecessarily too long. Is it possible they work 24/7 for earlier delivery? I believe this can be done.
“Two; we will expect that some remedial work have been done on the alternative routes of Sango-Ota and Epe. The last time I went to Epe through Ijebu-Ode, it was a bad road, I found out, until you get to Epe.
“Three; perhaps the movement of bigger, articulated trucks could be more strictly regulated during this period of partial closure to enhance a smoother flow of traffic. If that is to be done, the Ogere trailer park will need some rehabilitation because it will be taking a lot more trucks that will be waiting for their specific passage time. Passage time slot for such vehicles could be late at night, perhaps from 11p.m.”
For Mr. Al Humphrey Onyanabo, the CEO of Majestic Farms and Food Processing Co. Ltd, whose firm does a lot of business in that axis, the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) should first fix the alternative routes before the closure.
Onyanabo stated, “All concerned have had too many excuses. Let them become proactive. FERMA is a serious agency that has capacity to fix any road. Let the Federal Government give them the marching orders and you will see wonders.”
He said that a lot of travellers, already, are full of complaints of hardship on the Lagos- Ibadan Expressway, with some people spending as much as six (6) hours on the road or less as the case may be. “That is a very important road and I am glad the government has decided to focus on it head on and finish it once and for all”, he added.
Hon Keshiro Sulayman Oluwasesan, an Ogun State House of Assembly candidate in the 2019 general elections, said the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway is always frustrating to pass on ordinary days without construction works due to programmes by the Redeemed and Mountain of Fire Ministries.
According to Keshiro, it is disgraceful by all speakers and mostly the FRSC official to advise Nigerians to use those unmotorable alternative routes such as the Lagos – Sango Ota – Itori – Abeokuta, Ikorodu -Sagamu and Epe/Ajah – Ijebu – Ode roads for the next four months.
“Are they not aware of the dilapidated condition in the Ifo-Owode-Ijako-Iyana Ilogbo axis of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway? Motorist in this axis have complained that the same Julius Berger, which is shutting down work on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway has also stopped work on this section of the Lagos-Abeokuta road. With the rains, it has further fallen into a state of disrepair. It shows their level of inefficiency or lackadaisical attitude towards the well-being of Nigerians. All the aforementioned roads are so dilapidated and worse than the Lagos Ibadan Expressway they are reconstructing and, in fact, they are all death traps now”, he said.
“A sincere government with human face is supposed to create motorable alternative routes with good security before embarking on the closure.”
Mr. Bola Ogunyele, a former Chairman of Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners, decried the avoidable inconveniences and anguish motorists and commuters are subjected to during road repairs and reconstruction.
Ogunyele said the alternative Ikorodu-Sagamu and Epe/Ajah-Ijebu-Ode roads would come with additional costs such as increase in the amount of fuel used by vehicles and other costs as well, especially travel time.
Mr. Alex Ogundadegbe, a management consultant and public affairs analyst, said the alternative routes designated for travellers are hardly adequate.
“The Abeokuta- Ibadan road is in a state of disrepair and is rather too narrow for the volume of traffic that would be directed to that route. August is the month of the Redeemed Christian Church of God’s Holy Ghost Convention and millions of people are known to use the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as a route for accessing the Redemption Camp, which is located on Kilometre 46 of the expressway. Moreover, changes in routes have overwhelming effect on commuters, who are liable to be charged extra fares because of the new routes which would be an inconvenience to all concerned”, he said.
Ogundadegbe maintained that it would have gone down better with commuters and transporters if the Federal Government had opted to fix some of the alternative routes and make them more motor able before closing the road.
“The number of trucks, buses and cars that ply that expressway on regular basis is frightening and whoever planned the closure and the alternative routes ought to have a rethink. The routes around the expressway are in for total chaos!”, he added.
Chief Remi Ogungbemi, President, Association of Maritime Truck Owners, said that adequate plans for the alternative roads be made, adding that for ease of traffic, the Ikorodu-Sagamu road, a suggested alternative route, should be put in good condition and dedicated to heavy-duty trucks.
However, for Omoniyi Akinsiju, the Chairman of Buhari Media Organisation, there’s no gain without pain.
Akinsiju said he’s sure the FERMA option is being given consideration but can’t be definite on it because it is a budgetary matter.
“We can’t have our cake and eat it. We desire a smooth motorable road, we must be ready to give up our comfort, albeit, temporarily. The price we have to pay for many years of government abandonment of responsibility to the people. We have come to a point where we have to sacrifice our immediate comfort so that the future generation will enjoy the benefits of the temporary closure”, he said.
“For us road users, we need to put ourselves in the frame of mind of looking out to better and shorter travel time as the outcomes of the inconveniences we may have to temporarily endure in the four months of road closure. Seriously, it is all about upscaling our stocks of infrastructural assets and to do this, we have to give up, for a short time, our convenience.”
Perhaps to test the ground, eyewitness accounts said Julius Berger commenced the repair works on the section that will warrant the partial closure of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on Thursday, August 1, 2019, and this created an agonising traffic gridlock extending to the Alausa Secretariat axis on the expressway up to Ojota and Ojodu Berger.