For some time now, the Lagos/Ibadan expressway, Nigeria’s busiest road, has been witnessing gory accidents. Sights of mangled flesh and spurting blood have become routine and emergency medical services, where they exist at all, are grossly inadequate. Last Saturday, no fewer than seven people were burnt to death in an accident involving two vehicles around the Ogunmakin area. The Ogun Sector Commander, FRSC, Mr. Ahmed Umar, said three other persons sustained various degrees of injury during the accident involving a truck and a bus, both without registration numbers. On Tuesday, the road claimed five souls around the Ogere area. The accident occurred at night after a tanker laden with Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) spilt its contents on the highway. The spill affected other vehicles parked at the hard shoulder of the road.
Confirming the incident, the spokesperson of the Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC), Ogun Sector Command, Florence Okpe, linked it to dangerous driving. Worst still, the experience on Wednesday was yet another disaster as eight persons lost their lives in a tanker explosion and bus accident on the expressway. According to reports, a tanker laden with PMS spilt its contents following a head-on collision with a truck. The result was an explosion around the Kwakyama area of Ogere axis. Five people lost their lives in the tanker explosion while three persons died when a commercial bus caught fire around Sandcrete in the Ogunmakin axis. The FRSC spokesperson, Florence Okpe, said that a total of 17 persons were involved, and that five vehicles were burnt into ashes following the tanker explosion.
In dilly-dallying on the project over the years, successive administrations have certainly not covered themselves in glory. If anything, the road is emblematic of the state and nature of civil rule in the country since 1999. It is distressing that Nigeria’s major road has not been completed in 20 years. In July 2013, there was much excitement when President Goodluck Jonathan flagged off the reconstruction of the expressway to ease the pains of Nigerians. The contract was awarded to Julius Berger Nigeria and Reynolds Construction Company Limited at the sum of N167 billion. Work progressed on it and in 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari came on board, there was hope that the project would be completed in no time. However, it is yet to be completed six years into President Buhari’s rule, and the bad portions of the road coupled with the typical reckless driving by motorists regularly occasion ghastly and fatal accidents.
Quite naturally, there has been no shortage of assurances. For instance, in September, the Federal Government indicated that it was collaborating with the Ogun State government to secure the right of way for the construction of three bridges at Makun, MFM and Lotto (Mowe) areas and an interchange on the expressway. Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, noted that the road accommodated over 40,000 vehicles daily, hence the urgent need for additional flyovers and interchanges for decongestion. He added that the Buhari administration inherited several stalled projects which he was committed to completing through adequate funding, expressing satisfaction with the progress of work on the road.
It is time the Buhari government matched rhetoric with action by completing the Lagos/Ibadan expressway. Allowing more lives to be wasted on the road would not just be callous; it would be an abdication of responsibility. In the meantime, the relevant agencies must ensure that traffic laws are adhered to.