By Theodore Opara, Kingsley Adegboye, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Olasunkanmi Akoni & Godwin Oritse
Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, business owners, residents and commuters have decried the slow pace of work on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway especially from Cele to Sunrise Bus Stop, saying it has not only worsened the traffic situation, but exposed road users to dangers.
The slow pace of work by HITECH Construction Company, the sub-contractor handling the reconstruction of the ever busy Apapa-Oshodi Expressway coupled with the construction of a flyover bridge by Lagos State government at Second Rainbow by FESTAC link road, has worsened traffic nightmare being experienced daily on the dual carriageway.
Besides the slow pace of work, the contractors handling the reconstruction of the expressway and the flyover bridge have barricaded the dual carriageway on both sides of the highway beginning from Sunrise up to Cele Bus Stop axis thereby diverting all road users to service lanes towards Apapa and outbound Apapa.
Speaking, President-General of MWUN Adewale Adeyanju, faulted the slow pace of work by the contractor, lamenting that it has exposed road users to all sorts of dangers including robbery attacks.
He said “We call on the Nigerian Port Authority, NPA, to do the right thing by talking to the contractor handling the Access Roads to the Ports to speed up the work because road users are going through difficult and torturous times on the roads. Because of the slow pace of the construction, users pass through terrible gridlock on daily basis. And as a result, bad elements have taken advantage of the situation to attack and harass road users every day. You cannot pass there from 9 o’clock in the night. These bad elements will either attack you or rob you. That is what we experience everyday when we are passing from Berger to Second Rainbow. The contractor has closed the main road leaving only the service lane from Berger till you get close to Cele Bus stop.
“The road situation is impacting negatively on the health of the Maritime workers, Port users among other Nigerians. The poor state of the roads has forced many importers to relocate their businesses to the ports in neigbouring countries. A sizable portion of the Tin-Can Island Road has been turned into a marketplace where people are buying and selling, creating serious security threats to lives and property. I want to use this opportunity to call on government to declare a state of emergency on the roads leading to ports because Nigeria is losing lots of revenue to the state of the road.”
Also reacting, a medical doctor, whose hospital is located at Olodi Apapa, Dr Anthony Ufere, said it has not been easy doing business around the axis, lamenting that “We have lost customers because of the endless construction. Some patients from Festac, Mile 2, Satellite Town and Okota who could not access the hospital have ceased to do business with us.
“A regrettable situation is a patient, a 75 year- old chief, who was coming to my clinic but got stuck in the traffic. He went back and never came back to us again. There are many cases like this.
“As for retainership, we have been pleading with them, and while some of them still come to the clinic, others have embraced other hospitals. It has been a pathetic situation since the reconstruction of the road started some years back but we have resorted to take it in our stride.”
Similarly, a businessman, Mr Andrew Oyeagwu, decried the plight Nigerians who ply the road on daily basis have been subjected to by the construction company, saying the contractor has no regard for Nigerians that ply the road.
According to him, “the government is not supervising the construction at all. This is not the only place where they construct road. How can you close the main lane from Berger to Cele on one side, and close from Second Rainbow to Sunrise on the other side? If you go there now, you will not see any work going on besides those constructing bridge across Second Rainbow.
“Take for example, if you are going toward the Ports, from Second Rainbow, the main lane is closed till you get to Sunrise. If you are going toward Oshodi, you cannot access the main lane from Sunrise till Cele Bus Stop. To worsen the situation, the service lane is in a very terrible state. Ordinary palliative, they cannot even do but they have closed the road since September without any sign of work. This is not fair at all.
“We are calling on the government to call the contractor to order. We are talking about the only road that leads to the country’s busiest ports, the gateway to the Nigerian economy”.
In the same vein, Mr Anthony Ekhria a commercial bus driver told Vanguard that he “believes the punishment is deliberate from the government. Why do you think they have refused to open other ports across the country like in the South East and South- South? The truth is that without decongesting the ports, even if you construct 20 lanes express way, the problem would persist.”
According to him, “As long as the government feels that only Lagos ports would be the answer to their port needs, they would never develop other parts of the country and more problems like insecurity, housing problem, etc would continue to hunt us.”
Also, a truck driver, who refused to give his name, said “when I think of what I go through on the route, I feel like leaving the job but there is no job elsewhere and my family must survive. We go through hell in the hands of touts, security men and even fellow drivers but we don’t have an option because the government has decided to inflict permanent hardship on us.
“I don’t want to talk about the money we waste on diesel which has become very expensive these days or the money we pay to touts who would waste no time in damaging the truck mirror or inflicting injuries on the drivers and motor boys. We hope that one day, all these would end and we will be treated like human beings.”
Lagos absolves self
Reacting, Lagos State Government said it is not responsible for the situation but the Federal Ministry of Works.
When contacted, Special Adviser to the Governor on E-Works and Infrastructure, Aramide Adeyoye, simply said, “Please see the Federal Controller of Works Lagos for comment.”
As of press time, the General Manager, LASTMA, Bolaji Oreagba, could not respond to the message sent to him over poor traffic management due to absence of LASTMA officers.
Recall that after the tour of Apapa/Tin-Can/ Mile 2 access roads to the port, Managing Director of the NPA,Mohammed Bello-Koko, Wednesday, called on Buildwell Construction and HITECH Construction, contractors in charge of works on the Leventis Bridge and Apapa-Oshodi Expressway respectively, to work 24/7 round-the-clock to see to the early completion of the roads.
According to him, the opening of the Leventis Bridge is critical because shutting it down to traffic has started affecting port operations, saying “With the closure of the Leventis Bridge, everything is almost at a standstill. This road is critical to the economy and the nation at large. We understand the importance of closing the bridge around Leventis for repair to avoid a collapse but it is seriously impacting port operation.”
He explained that Western Avenue had been the major means of movement of cargo into both Tin-Can and Apapa Ports since 2021 when the Cele/Mile 2/ Sunrise end of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway was closed to traffic for construction.
On his part, Robert Turnor, a representative of HITECH Construction, said that the issue of insecurity has been a challenge to workers and property owners on site, thereby limiting work at night. He added that rains are also a big challenge to work on site.