…As govt interventions, security agents, contractor, others compound problem
…Why there’s no end in sight to gridlock
…Road users blame govt, security agents, construction firm, touts
…The many man-made factors responsible for the problem
By Mike Ebonugwo, Kingsley Adeboye, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Godwin Oritse & Godfrey Bivbere
THESE are indeed excruciatingly trying and frustrating times for motorists, commuters, and residents in the Mile Two/Berger/Tin Can axis of the Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Expressway, which has for long been blighted by lingering traffic chaos. With no end in sight to the problem, the area has come to be described, and aptly too, as an axis of unending nightmares and suffering. Indeed, for months it has been on traffic lockdown and has, therefore, become a no-go-area for all categories of road users, thanks to a multiplicity of factors, especially the continued invasion of tankers, trailers and other articulated trucks that routinely but completely cripple traffic in the area.
With the situation taking a turn for the worse in recent days, questions are now being asked rather angrily why the problem persists and escalates frequently, and what the relevant government and non-governmental authorities are doing to restore traffic sanity in the area. But while many have conveniently chosen to blame truck drivers for the development on account of their penchant to park indiscriminately on roads and bridges, accusing fingers are also now being pointed in other directions, especially at multiple factors caused or created by individuals and organisations whose actions or inactions are impacting negatively on traffic in the area.
Among them are the Lagos State government and the contractor handling the reconstruction of the road. But more culpable in this regard following Vanguard investigations and reports are security agents deployed to the area by the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Customs Service, and the Military, as well as other government agencies such as the Federal Road Safety Corps and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, to ensure traffic sanity.
It has since emerged that when they are not busy taking advantage of the chaotic situation to line their pockets, they inexplicably abandon their duty-posts, leaving hapless motorists and commuters to an uncertain fate, stuck in standstill traffic, and at the mercy of marauding cudgel-wielding motor park touts and other criminal elements lurking around the area, especially at night. As residents and motorists continue to groan under the worsening traffic situation, they are also frantically calling for urgent government intervention to bring respite to their plight and long-suffering.
Apapa-Oshodi Gridlock: Sanwo-Olu’s traffic team fails
Motorists blame the Lagos State government
The current situation has been blamed on the Lagos State Government for closing the Second Rainbow Bus-Stop on the axis to traffic for the on-going road rehabilitation. The closure, which commenced on December 24, 2022, is expected to last till tomorrow January 5, 2023, for review prior to the road being reopened. While announcing the closure, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, the Commissioner for Transportation, said it was necessary to allow the launch of beams at the Second Rainbow Bus-Stop to prevent vehicular interference and ensure motorist safety.
Oladeinde advised motorists on the Apapa-bound lane from Cele Bus-Stop heading inwards on the Mile 2 axis to take the Festac link road at Second Rainbow and turn left, then follow traffic signs to continue their journeys.
Also, motorists on the Oshodi-bound lane heading towards the Cele Bus-Stop are advised to make a right turn at the Second Rainbow Bus-Stop and proceed to their desired destinations. Earlier, both the Federal and Lagos State governments had announced that there was no definite date for the completion of the ongoing construction of the Second Rainbow Flyover and the motorway itself.
When Vanguard contacted the Special Adviser to the State Governor on Works, Aramide Adeyoye, an engineer, he appealed to the public to be patient as work is ongoing to complete the project without unnecessary delay. Mr. Sola Giwa is also the Lagos governor’s special assistant on transportation. Giwa, reacting to the gridlock in the area, attributed it to the ongoing rehabilitation of the expressway, as well as fuel scarcity because of the high influx of tankers to access tank farms for loading. He explained: “There is road construction by the Federal Government and a flyover by the state government on the axis; these have worsened the traffic situation.
Massive construction work by the HITECH construction company, diversion everywhere by the service lane, a high influx of tankers coming from all over the states to load fuel in Apapa due to the fuel shortage—these are the issues we are currently dealing with in the axis. We implore the motoring public to bear with us as we are doing everything to address the situation. We are deploying more LASTMA men to the area to ensure the free flow of traffic.
Though, we are having slight issues with the truck drivers, who are claiming there is no holding bay for trucks to park while waiting for loading.”
The menace/nuisance of miscreants and union members
The traffic situation around the axis had been compounded by miscreants and union members collecting levies from truck drivers, thereby causing avoidable gridlock. The toll collection was in defiance of an earlier suspension placed by the state government on sales of tickets to truckers on all access roads with immediate effect. But a few days ago, members of the Maritime and Lagos Parks and Garages and Tanker Unions were seen in green vests collecting money from truck drivers before allowing them access to the road. Tanker drivers also routinely flout the order against indiscriminate parking on roads as they have continued to line up on the Mile 2—Otto Wholfe axis, causing congestion.
There are two construction projects going on simultaneously. There is a flyover and road reconstruction being executed by both the Federal and Lagos State governments. While the Chinese Construction Engineering Company, CCEC, is handling the flyover, the HITECH Company is handling the road project sponsored by the Aliko Dangote Group. The areas currently badly affected by the gridlock are Second Rainbow, Fatgbems Filling Station, Mile 2 Bridge, Otto Wolfe, Sunrise, and environs.
Motorists are held in traffic for hours on end between Second Rainbow and Mile 2. Most commercial vehicle operators now avoid driving straight to the Mile 2 bus stop, preferring instead to drive against the traffic or seek alternative routes. Most times, the few military personnel seen at their duty-posts trying to control the traffic or enforce some form of sanity are clearly overwhelmed by the horde of vehicles struggling for space.
Slow pace of work by road construction contractor
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 the Lagos State Government at Second Rainbow by FESTAC Link Road, has further compounded the traffic nightmare being experienced daily on the dual carriageway. In addition to the slow pace of construction, HITECH has barricaded the Oshodi-bound carriageway beginning at the Second Rainbow-Cele axis, diverting all traffic to the service lanes towards Apapa and outbound Apapa.
This situation has compounded traffic gridlock on the service lanes, which are riddled with crater-like potholes, as truck drivers, motorists and commuters jostle for space. HITECH, which is currently working on Section 2 of the expressway, which is between Sunrise and Cele bus stops, has also worsened the traffic chaos on the highway by demarcating and barricading the service lanes of the dual carriageway, which serve as access roads to people’s destinations.
Consequently, motorists and other road users are compelled to make use of the dual carriageway, irrespective of their destination. For instance, motorists heading towards the Lagos-Badagry motorway cannot access it through the access road at Mile 2, because it has been barricaded. It is the same situation with those who are going to Kirikiri Town and Kirikiri Canal axis. The access road to these places has been barricaded, forcing people to tortuously navigate long distances to access their offices and business places.
The traffic situation is further compounded by the presence of articulated container-bearing trucks and tankers struggling for space with other motorists on the centre lane meant to serve everybody. Sometimes, breakdowns on the only lane cause several hours of traffic jams, and the situation is more terrible at night when nobody is controlling the articulated vehicles and tankers moving to Apapa ports. It was observed that HITECH which is working at different locations of the service lanes simultaneously, block several sections of the road with concrete breakers, and will not complete work on one location before moving to another.
For instance, between Sanya and Mile 2, they are working at not fewer than five locations at the same time, none of which has been completed. And they are working at various locations between Mile 2 Oke and the Berger Yard axis, with none completed. In fact, when work on the service lane inward Apapa from Mile 2 began, HITECH workers promised to complete the section between Mile 2 and Kirikiri Junction by UBA in five weeks, but the section has still not been completed after more than two months of work.This has made life unbearable for motorists plying the axis, as they tried to navigate several difficult short cuts to be able access their destinations.
Following the daily nightmare motorists and other road users have been going through since the commencement of the reconstruction of theApapa-Oshodi Expressway about four years ago, observers are asking when this suffering will come to an end with the expected completion of the project still not in sight. Meanwhile, Vanguard gathered that away from the excesses of the contractor, the construction work is slow because of the nature and design of the project, which is being done in phases, and the ever-present threat of insecurity. Robert Turnor, a representative of HITECH Construction Company Ltd., said at a meeting with NPA officials recently in Lagos that the issue of insecurity has been a challenge to workers and property owners on site, thereby limiting work at night. He added that the rains (while they lasted) were also a big challenge to work on site.
Responding to the situation, Federal Controller of Works in Lagos State, Umar Bakare, said the link bridge being constructed at Second Rainbow by the Lagos State government was responsible for the absence of HITECH workers at Second Rainbow for some time, as there was no way CCECC workers working on the link bridge and those of HITECH working on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway could work at the same spot on different projects without clashing.
The federal controller, who noted that the link bridge project slowed the pace of work at that section of the motorway prior to the stakeholders meeting between officials from the Federal Government and those from the Lagos State government, who resolved to collaborate for the sake of both projects, said HITECH workers were advised to move down towards Coker Express to continue construction work so that CCECC workers could finish the link bridge. Bakare, who disclosed that the new tentative delivery date of the expressway, whose previous completion dates could not be achieved twice, is now February 2023, pointed out that Section 2 of the dual carriageway, where HITECH is currently working, is the portion that has the bulk of work to be done.
According to him, the section that begins at Sun Rise and terminates at Cele Bus-Stop, was the last to be awarded; hence, the work completed on the section is 40 per cent and what is remaining to be done is 60 per cent. Pointing out that sections 1 and 3 have attained 90 per cent completion with minor works remaining to complete 100 per cent, the controller assured that the entire expressway will be delivered in February 2023.
Motorists, commuters lament
Some motorists who spoke to Vanguard blamed both the Lagos State government and the contractor for the untold hardship road users are experiencing in the area. A commuter, Mr. Segun Alabi, lamented that with what he has seen in recent days, there was certainly no respite in sight, as he accused the contractor of being insensitive to the plight of road users due to the slow pace of work being done and for frequently blocking access to sections and lanes to motorists without any explanation.
“The gridlock can be avoided if the constructors, CCEC and HITECH, have done the needful. The issue is that they are not bothered by the hours we waste on the road. There should have been alternative routes or a thoroughfare for motorists before closing the expressway. The road is supposed to have four lanes, but they were reduced to one lane for all types of vehicles due to the ongoing reconstruction, thereby creating bottlenecks on both sides of the road. “I spend an average of three hours a day travelling from Oshodi to Berger Yard; it’s such a terrifying experience,” he lamented.
Another commuter, Mrs. Agnes Iyede, said she had to abandon going through the axis and use Ago-Palace Way to Festac before connecting Kirikiri Road to Otto Wolfe. “The economic losses occasioned by the reconstruction projects are really affecting our businesses, and we want the relevant government agencies to help mitigate these losses,” she said. A resident, Mr. Idowu Olalere lamented thus: “The reconstruction has made many of us abandon our vehicles in preference for commercial vehicles, including Okadas that have been banned.”
Mr. Dele Oloyede, a worker in the area, narrated how difficult it has become for him to get to work daily, spending several hours between Second Rainbow and Berger Yard. According to Oloyede: “We have been going through a lot of hardship in this area. Yet Governor Sanwo-Olu claims that the area is now free of traffic gridlock. He should take a trip here along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway to see what motorists, commuters, and residents are going through every day.
“The transportation fare has shot up due to the terrible traffic chaos here. This is the height of insensitivity on the part of the government to the plight of residents who put their trust in the administration by electing them to office.”
Also, a motorist, Andrew Uchai, wondered why traffic managers would abandon their duty posts and allow miscreants to control traffic. According to him: “the government has completely abandoned this Oshodi-Apapa Expressway to miscreants. No single LASTMA, police officer, or other traffic manager is seen on the road these days. They have left the job to miscreants and men of the Lagos Parks and Gardens, controlled by their Lord, Musiliu Adesanya, alias MC Oluomo. “
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.