Undeniably, one of the best populist projects being executed by the Muhammadu Buhari administration is the on-going reconstruction of the Lagos- Ibadan Expressway, the oldest inter-state and arguably the busiest road in Nigeria. The 41-year-old road is central to all activities in the country. However, the pace of executing the 127.6-kilometre road is something of great concern deserving critical attention.
The contractors handling this very essential project, Julius Berger Plc. and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC), must be goaded to increase their speed in view of the road’s position as the major artery from Lagos, home of the major ports and the country’s economic hub.
Besides the need to make sufficient funds available to the contractors as against obstruction of the speeding completion of work on the road by the National Assembly, which redistributed its budgetary allocation in 2018, it has become absolutely indispensable for the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing to closely monitor the reconstruction, traffic diversions and work quality to ensure compliance with the current design.
While the reconstruction of the Shagamu/ Ibadan end of the road, constructed in August 1978, has been enjoying an impressive pace, the Lagos/ Shagamu wing is anything but exciting. Sadly, during a visit of the Senate Committee on Works sometime in 2018, the contractors put the completion date at 2021, an indication that challenges are not in hurry to disappear.
In retrospect, the project seemed jinxed initially from its inauguration by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, though awarded previously by the Olusegun Obasanjo regime. Since its commencement in 2013 with 2017 as completion date, the job only received remarkable speed and expansion when President Buhari assumed office. The cost has also witnessed upward review by N64 billion, as the Minister of Works, Housing and Power, Babatunde Fashola, put it, to accommodate additional works like inclusion of pedestrian bridges, toll gates and plaza.
Though it has received greater stimulus, this road, evidently central to the haulage business in the country as the major artery from the Lagos ports, is perhaps today moving at snail speed. Although the presence of the contractors on sight is immaterial, it has been observed that their commitment seems minimal, not only by the number of personnel and equipment moved to site, but also by the availability of such vital items as mixer.
The roads are narrowed down into two lanes, forcing various sets of articulated vehicles, fuel tankers, buses, cars and commercial vehicles surging in and out of Lagos, Nige-ria’s economic and commercial capital, to crawl through, with attendant dangers. A few commuters and other road users have lost their lives therein, as tankers are sometimes incinerated, while scores of vehicles break down.
A 20-minute journey often last up to four hours, compelling helpless road users to arrive home as late as 2a.m. And when the tens of the religious groups hold their monthly revivals, the situation becomes even worse, sometimes forcing traffic diversions by the Federal Road Safety Corps and security agents.
If the busy road, egress and ingress, is almost impassable as a result of gridlock on first Fridays and Saturdays of every month, the basest instinct and recklessness of some drivers are manifest at the slightest of traffic hitch.
That is when they exhibit unimaginable lawlessness, which calls to question the source of their driving licenses and might necessitate psychiatric test as they throw caution to the wind, driving against traffic even at neckbreaking speed, causing traffic suffocation on both sides of the road.
Of great importance is President Buhari’s commitment to the completion of the road. However, we call on the National Assembly to support the project by ensuring faster pace of execution, possibly before the end of this year, to bring relief to users of the road who have been agonising in the past five years.
Also expected is the similar commitment of government agencies, especially the office of Controller of Public Works who supervises the project, to give requisite attention to the reconstruction and facilitate not only qualitative execution of the project, but also quick delivery.
As a way of assuaging road users’ pain, the construction companies should smoothen the corridors of the expressway to accommodate traffic spill-over occasioned by the narrowed road as part of corporate social responsibility where provision was not made for it in the project.
This will reduce the simultaneous construction and usage impact on the pace of work. We call on the Federal Government, particularly the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing, to ensure speedy completion of work on the Lagos- Ibadan Expressway. Funding of the project must be made a priority. So also, monitoring of the work progress. We also urge the contractors to increase the pace of work while agencies of government should ensure free flow of traffic on the road