The importance of the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway to the socio-economic and even socio-political life of Nigeria and her citizens cannot be overemphasized. It is one of the most important arterial roads in the country, connecting almost all the six geopolitical zones.
Its importance derives majorly from the fact that Lagos hosts the nation’s largest sea and airports as well as the fuel depots from where fuel is lifted and distributed across the country.
But that is why the Federal and Lagos State and even Ogun and Oyo State Governments are not treating with levity the ongoing reconstruction, rehabilitation and expansion of the Expressway and the resultant traffic consequences at particular Sections.
If the traffic buildup already being experienced along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway sincethe reconstruction of Berger Bus Stop to Kara Cattle Market portion of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway beganearly this weekis anything to go by, then, it is going to be a challenging time for travellers along that route in the next 60 days.
The anxiety, however, will not be as a result of lack of palliatives by the Federal Government to reduce inconveniences to the barest minimum during the period but rather due to the lack of discipline and failure to obey traffic rules by the road usersthemselves.
A test of the buildup was first experienced when it was earlier announced that the project would begin on August 3, 2019. But in spite ofthe fact that the commencement date was shifted to early September due, according to the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos State, Engr. AdedamolaKuti, to show sensitivity to Nigerians and make provision for an effective traffic management plan, buildups were experienced on both sides of the Bridge; sometimes from as far as Lagos Secretariat bus-stop on the Lagos State side and as far as Warewa (WAWA) on the Ogun State side. And as at Wednesday, two days after the commencement of work on the Bridge, that buildup has reached Oworonsoki on the Lagos State side and beyond Magboro on the Ogun State side.
Yetsince early last month,all that the main contractor, Messrs Julius Berger Plc, had been doing was ensuring palliatives by widening the approach roads and putting road signs and concrete dividers on the Bridge itself to direct traffic. And, as promised by the Federal Government, agencies have been put in place to manage and control traffic during the period. Active partnership was sought and received from Traffic management agencies like the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), traffic police and others in collaboration with traffic wardens from the main contractors, who have all been on ground to direct andmonitor traffic during the period of the project to ensure that there is no logjam.
Also ahead of the commencement, the Ministry of Works and Housing in conjunction with all the Traffic management agencies, released through various platforms a travel advisory to motorists explaining that as a result of the sealing off of movement from Kara Bridge inward Berger for construction work, traffic would be diverted into the other part of the road going out of Lagos.It also noted that the road would be divided into two lanes both ways and traffic would be diverted back to the road going inward Lagos at Berger intersection which links River Valley Estate. Expectedly also the Authoritiesannounced alternative routes for road users travelling in and out of Lagos, urging them to take advantage of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway from/to Abeokuta, connecting from/to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.Other routes recommended by the agency are Sagamu-Ikorodu Road to Sagamu connecting through Sagamu Interchange to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, as well as Ijebu-Ode – Itoikin Road to Ijebu-Ode connecting to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.All these palliatives are, obviously put in place to ensure decorum in traffic and lessen the inevitable inconveniences that are bound to occur during the period.
Yes, inconveniences are bound to occur and be experienced by motorists and commuters alike during the period as a result of the necessary restrictions. The Lagos State Command of the FRSC has already assured that no motorist would suffer unduly if lane discipline and road diversion signs were observed. Acting Sector Public Education Officer of the Commission, Ms.BisiSonusi, had told newsmen on Monday that the command, in partnership with other traffic control agencies, had taken measures to mitigate motorists’ hardship along the affected corridor.
First, vehicles are being diverted to the out bound Lagos lane of the bridge which now serves as both approach to and exit from Lagos. Obviously, this will reduce the number of vehicles that could enter the bridge the same time. But, as Sonusi said, “there isa lot of traffic control personnel on the road to ensure sanity and lane discipline so that no one will waste time unnecessarily on the road in and out of Lagos”.
In other words, if motorists maintain their lanes, obeying diversion and other traffic signs, everyone will be able to move in and out of the state with some ease. Besides, according to Sonusi, traffic agents comprising officers from the FRSC, Police, LASTMA and TRACE will work shifts, including nights if necessary, to enforce compliance to diversion signs and lane discipline. And for any obstruction occasioned by break down of vehicles, she said, FRSC and LASEMA tow trucks are on ground to evacuate them.According to her, to ensure the smooth running of traffic during the period the corps has also withdrawn officers from other commands to join in the work and will remove all impediments so that people do not spend too much time on the road as “everything that is needed to be done is in place,”. As at Wednesday, the Corps has deployed 480 of its workforce to the bridge and adjoining roads.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. BabatundeFashola SAN, Tuesday in Lagos also made his own contribution to the means to reduce congestion on the road at this time. While giving reasons why the roads are being reconstructed by the Buhari Administration after forty years of neglect by former administrations, Fashola, who appealed for understanding and forbearance during the reconstruction works, suggested that those who have no dire need to use the road should desist while people could also make use of technology enabled access like telephone, emails and Skype, among others to conduct their businesses, where possible, instead of putting their vehicles on the road.According to him, the purpose of the reconstructions, which also included those on Lagos-Abeokuta, Lagos-Badagry and Apapa-Mile Two-Oworoshoki Expressways, which, according to him, “are being reconstructed simultaneously”, was to make them better for the benefit of all Nigerians.
Given all these palliatives and assurances as well as advice, one would think and expect that there would be smooth traffic movement along the road. Some motorists spoken to on the route lamented the “hardship” they were facing; saying the decision to partially close the road was ill-advised as if needed repairs could be done without rendering the construction site free of traffic.
But, the FRSC have insisted that the problem was being caused by lack of discipline and obedience to the diversion and lane signs. And given the propensity of Nigerian motorists especially commercial motor drivers to disobey traffic rules, the allegation of indiscipline may not be far from the truth. That is why it is very important at this stage for the traffic management agencies to insist on the enforcement of the rules and applying sanctions where and when necessary to deter offenders.