Even though we can't take stock of the outcomes for the next 2 years but this Guardian article brings some welcome news. Not sure when last I was on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway but I have heard the horror stories of people killed by out-of-control lorries, or robbed because of a flat tire caused by a pothole (crater, in this case). According to the Speaker of the House of Rep, "the cost of the recurring congestion on the road is getting unbearable for the federal government". Really? Never mind the hundreds who've lost their lives on this expressway. "Over the years, public outcry about the appalling condition of the road has not yielded any positive result." Well now that we've established that our government is only human and looking out for its (leaders') best interests, we wait with baited breath to see if this development leaves up to its promise.
Expanding the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway
THE Federal Government's decision to expand the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and turn it into a 10-lane freeway is a welcome development. This particular road is no more than a death trap and a source of anguish to travellers. It is estimated that about 30 deaths are recorded on the road daily, due to accidents, most of which are avoidable. Something surely needs to be done to curb the carnage, and to protect lives.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole made the disclosure about the road expansion plan during a recent courtesy call on the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo. According to him, "the cost of the recurring congestion on the road is getting unbearable for the federal government". He added that the private sector will be involved in the reconstruction which is estimated to cost about $67 billion.
All the necessary details seem to have been worked out. The project is expected to be completed within two years. Apart from the engineering reconstruction of the road, including the introduction of underground tunnels, facilities will be provided along the entire stretch of the expressway. Traffic will be directed away from crowded religious centres in order to reduce congestion. Hotels and recreational facilities will also be provided at strategic spots on the highway for travellers.
The Lagos-Ibadan expressway was completed in 1978 but since then it has not undergone any major maintenance work despite the fact that it is one of the busiest roads in the nation. The road has been neglected and left to disintegrate. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Lagos-Ibadan expressway has become notorious in many respects. With massive vehicular traffic, daily, traffic congestion is perennial and disheartening. Commuters waste long hours in crippling traffic. Robbers, rapists, pick-pockets often capitalise on the chaos to attack innocent persons.
Lack of management has given rise to uncontrolled development on the highway. For instance, the many religious worship centres that occupy vast sections of the highway compound the traffic situation especially when there are major events that attract large crowds of worshippers.
Over the years, public outcry about the appalling condition of the road has not yielded any positive result. The federal authorities that ought to manage the highway occasionally send contractors who put up some appearance for a few weeks without making any difference. The Lagos-Ibadan expressway should be rescued from its present state of neglect. There is no doubt that its reconstruction is worthwhile economically. The road links Lagos to other parts of the country.
Whatever contracts that may have been awarded in the past to effect repairs on the badly damaged portions of the road have been carried out haphazardly. Indeed, the money meant for the last rehabilitation exercise was allegedly diverted by politicians to finance the ill-fated Third Term agenda of the former administration. It is instructive that the reconstruction will now be carried out by the private sector under a BOT arrangement. This will reduce pressure on the Federal Government, apart from giving the private entrepreneurs a sense of partnership. For now, however, not much is known by the public about the details of the partnership between the Federal Government and the construction company that has been granted a concession on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. There is need for transparency and accountability. Quality should be the overriding consideration. Public information and input where necessary should be accommodated.
The Nigeria Society of Engineers may be involved in the project to help monitor progress and standards. The contractor that would handle the road should be given clear specifications on what is to be done. The company should be closely monitored at various stages of the work. Most road contracts in Nigeria fail to meet international standards because the contractors are not closely monitored or made to adhere to specifications.
Since the proposed reconstruction is a major engineering work, there should be an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project. People and institutions that have structures that may be affected by the expansion are advised to cooperate with government. Undue litigation that may stall or delay the work should be avoided. Property owners should be aware that highways have a right of way that should be respected. Whatever disputes that may arise nonetheless should be resolved amicably with a greater emphasis on the public interest.
Road users should cooperate while the reconstruction work is going on. Bearing in mind the busy nature of the road, the work should be done expeditiously in order not to disrupt movement unduly or expose commuters to excessive hardship.