Friday, January 25, 2008

Good news or empty promises

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.

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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.

14 comments:

Naapali said...

A tall order indeed, but no harm in aiming high. Is the cost 67 billion naira or dollars? If dollars that seems mighty exorbitant since it computes to over 500 million dollars per mile.

TheAfroBeat said...

Ok, so i just found out it's $67 billion (http://www.sunnewsonline.com/webpages/opinion/2008/jan/12/backpage.html)
which is pretty exorbitant (i was just about to tell you that i was pretty sure it was Naira but then decided to make sure), but if every penny goes INTO the project, then it should hopefully be a success. The name behind the project is Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), chairman of the construction company Stabilini Visinoni, and apparently, the guy's got a good track record (even though there's some talk of possible ties with OBJ), so i'm leaning on the more optimistic side with this one for a change. I wait with baited breath!

Olamild said...

I hope to God that they fix all these damages asap. It's about time they start caring about others.

In my head and around me said...

$67billion. The rape of the nation continues.

Jinta said...

and about time too

Nyemoni said...

Of course a few pockets will be lined before the project starts...I know that's inevitable but I just hope they get to the task!

TheAfroBeat said...

That's just it though - that inevitable pocket lining. with $67million at stake, just HOW much can we HOPE goes into the actual project? Just as there are simple accounting technologies for nonprofits to account for grant money, perhaps we need a national (privately-run?PPP?) organization that all contract monies go through. Electronic, publicly-assessible through quarterly reports, (what other characteristics? i'm blanking here), detailed (e.g. $10mm comes in for the first phase of this project and the system documents every single hand it passed through and what it was used for- kind of like a Customer Relationship Mgt system but in this case the customer is the money).

Of course such an agency would be the hottest workplace for every scam artist out there, but if the right person is chosen (or I don't know, it could start off as a private agency that is accredited by some international anti-corruption body, and that way, any contract that wants to have a golden seal of approval from the public would HAVE to get this rating as being a "clean contract" or sth.

Ok, enough ranting. I'm so sorry I haven't had to time to respond to individual comments, workload issues. But i promise i'll be back!!

guerreiranigeriana said...

67 billion dollars?!!...i mean, are they building the expressway?...that seems extreme...hope it does result in an improved and safer expressway...

Ayokunle said...

@ Afrobeat - Where did you get the info that Wale Babalakin had links with OBJ?

This dude excelled as a student and got his PHD at Cambridge. Beyond Stabilini getting the contract to award the MMA 2 terminal in Lagos, he cant be said to have any link with the govt. In any event, the MMA 2 project has praised in many quarters.

Lets encourage those who have walked on the straight and narrow path and I hope the expressway extension is a success. I think the Sun Newspapers sort of made a mistake with the amount. It sounds too high.

Sherri said...

that is way too much $
i hope they meant naira.

Naija chic said...

Damn, $67 million???? Honestly, av got nothing to say...haha, even if they're using expatriates, it wouldn't be up to this, No? but right now, I can only say, they should do it and get it over ASAP, I had accident on that road and almost DIED! If not for Baba God, who had mercy on me, I would be cursing all of them from heaven right now, lol!
Seriously, if they want to do it, just do it but QUALITY is paramount, I don't care if Julius Berger will do it or contractor has degree from Cambridge, I finished from Oxford but almost died on that road, so all these rank pulling under my foot, I am not naive, as a Nigerian, I know even the most innocent saint WILL get some cuts all I ask is Do something and stop making much ado about nothing...
Afrobeat, pardon my ranting but this is a sensitive issue, I lay unconscious on that road for 30 mins, No emergency, 999, or rescue team, Nada, Zilch.
All traces of 'poshness' disappeared; all element of 'good breeding' gone, just like that, that road is my nightmare re-lived.

TheAfroBeat said...

@ Naija chic, WOW! We thank God you lived to tell the tale, but for every one like you, I promise you there are 10 who are not as fortunate. You're right, the price is exorbitant (@ Ayokunle, i also checked some other sources and the $67m seems to be the general consensus on the figure), and even with the cutbacks (Which i wish we wouldn't be so quick to accept as a MUST), the work should be done, quickly and efficiently. Let's wait and see. Pele o!

@ Ayokunle, I didn't get any information about Babalakin's links to OBJ, i only presented the article, not as fact, but as food for thought/discussion. Please enlighten us further on this Babalakin fellow if you feel strongly about his good works (as the talk around town seems to be generally positive, but for some reason, I had never heard of him before this project so I can't profess to know any facts about him). I definitely agree that we should encourage those who are doing great things in the nation and continue to keep an eye on government/private projects that affect the masses as we will be the ones to face the consequences in the end.

Ayokunle said...

@ Afrobeat - You will pay me o for all this info I will give.

1)Wale Babalakin is a lawyer. You can check his bio & law firm out on www.babalakinandco.com

2)He is also the Chairman of Stabilini and I believe the single largest individual Investor in the construction company.

3) Here are some public interviews that Dr Babalakin has given
-http://www.tellng.com/news/articles/070328-5/news/bob_babalakin.html

http://www.thenewsng.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=1498

http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=50810 (interview with thisday that shows his track record in construction and when he started)etc .

Ayokunle said...

Just so you know so that I am not being accused of being a professional praise singer. He was also the Chairman of the Board of a Bank in the early 90s & Abacha sent him to jail. He was however acquitted by NDIC as the charges were trumped up so that Abacha and the Chagouris could acquire a plot of land on the island in which he was building a hotel. That land was later given back to him by the OBJ a few years ago and work has resumed on building the hotel again.

I am proud of Nigerians doing positive things and I thought you were jumping on the pull him down syndrome that we have by saying he had links with OBJ. We must really celebrate our own o.

Adenuga wants to build a brand & employ people, Nigerians will say he is Babangida's gay lover. Wale Tinubu wants to make Oando a global brand, Nigerians will say it is because he is Tinubu's nephew. Ndudi Nwuneli wants to train the next generation of Nigerian leaders, you hear rumours that she has only gone so far, so young because of her affair with Fola Adeola. it is all despicable.

Kai! This thing is too long. I guess I guess I get overly emotional with the pull him/her down syndrome. Great that you clarified your position and I hope that the links provided will give you further insight into the Babalakin fellow.