Window dressing all-important Lagos airport road
The Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road, Lagos State, the gateway into the nation’s commercial capital by air, has been neglected over the years.
First-time visitors to the country no doubt shudder at the sheer lack of national sense of pride exhibited by managers of critical national facilities, compared to other countries.
From whatever prism it is looked at, the Murtala Mohammed Airport Road deserves to be pampered, in view of its location and strategic importance to the country. But unfortunately, since it was constructed, this all-important road has been oscillating between being a pothole-infested road, to one which shabby patchworks are carried out by nonchalant government officials, who pay scant attention to finesse.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, touched, by the pathetic state of the road, when he was in office, awarded a contract for it to be face-lifted and expanded. This was during the tenure of incumbent Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), as governor of Lagos State. Sadly, the contract never took off until both left office in 2015.
Only recently, the road started receiving some kind of “attention,” with the ongoing grassing and planting of flowers on the broad median. The initiative, which is at the behest of the state government, is a development that many see as window dressing when there are major structural issues on the road yearning for attention.
The beautification, which is yet to cover the entire length of the road, is also complemented by the erection of streetlights as part of the state government’s efforts to light up Lagos Metropolis.
The flower planting notwithstanding, potholes, craters, badly eroded pedestrian paths, and sundry evidence of neglect are found at different sections of the road. The totality of all these give residents and road users the impression that the Federal Government, which owns the road, may not be interested, or ready to give the deserved attention to such an important road that any international visitor to the state gets in touch with.
Some residents and motorists are quick to point out that efforts to improve on the aesthetics of the road has nothing to do with pathetic situation, which has made movement difficult during peak periods, especially with commercial bus drivers running riot daily.
According to a resident, Mrs. Titilola Adeoye “You need to see this road anytime it rains. You will weep for us who are living here because parts of the road are always flooded because of the absence of drainage. So, it is high time the Federal Government turned its words to action by salvaging this very popular road.”
Another resident, David Kunle, decried the fact that a road as important as that could be left to become an eyesore, as well as a blight on a city that is laying claim to being a smart city.
A commercial bus driver, Ahmed Idris, who plies the road daily said it would be a great idea if the government goes beyond beautifying the road to fixing it.
For Francis Nwokedi, who runs a business outfit around 7/8 Bus Stop: “The Airport road is wide enough for a six-lane road, which would be a thing of joy for not only residents, but also frequent travelers that are always stuck in traffic gridlock during rush hours.
Nwokedi said: “Driving through the road is a nightmare for most road users because of its worsening conditions at some times of the year, especially during the rainy season. Because of the absence of drainage, some portions of the road are also flooded for lengthy periods during this season.
As a result of the persistent gridlock on the road towards evening, some passengers have missed their flights. Also, most first-time international visitors after suffering from many hours of jetlag on air, are subjected to another horrendous experience in their bid to navigate their way to hotels in town.
“A good construction company of international repute should be contracted to redesign the road to accommodate more lanes. This should be done as a matter of urgent national priority. No matter the cost, the country can afford it. Also, a very short and realisable timeline should be allotted for the completion of the project, which work could go on round the clock, with concerned ministries, departments and agencies monitoring.”
Nwokedi added: “We know that streetlights are very important because they provide illumination at night and scare away miscreants, but the state of the road proper should also be a priority. Planting of flowers that will enhance and beautify the road is also important, but it should not be the priority, even though this will make the road appealing to users. None of all these is as important as fixing and expanding the road.”
A banker, Godwin Olukayode, who resides at Ajao Estate, off Airport Road said it is a shame that an international airport road still harbours shanties and other unbefitting structures, including shacks occupied by furniture makers and illegal, fairly used car stands, which have taken over the road’s service lanes. This mess should be stopped immediately.
Olukayode continued: “If we are to prop up the road to acceptable international standards, all structures within certain perimeters of the road should be discarded. It may not be out of order to suggest that only registered buses with a particular colour should be designated and approved to ply the road. This will bring a semblance of orderliness to bear.
“Where commercial bus operators pick their passengers should be specifically designed and well-constructed to avoid the rowdiness experienced there daily. All issues pertaining to touting and unruly behaviour in, and around a road of such magnitude should be stopped. This is of paramount importance since most first-time visitors to the country would form their impression of the country based on some of the things they see there.
The Federal Controller of Works in the state, Godwin Eke, said in a telephone interview that the road is under procurement for 2017 budget, meaning that if the budget comes through, the ministry would commence work on the road.
Asked to hazard a guess regarding when construction work would commence, Eke said: “I cannot assure you of the particular month construction work will commence because the road is under procurement. Until the procurement process is completed, it would be difficult to say when work would commence.
“I would advise people to be patient with the government because they are going to enjoy the road once construction work is completed,” he said.
On why work failed to start on the road expansion, after Jonathan endorsed the contract, he said, “I cannot comment on that because I am not in position to do so. I can only tell you the one I have right to comment on. Thank you.”
Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, during his 2017 budget presentation, listed the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road from Oshodi, as part of the capital projects for the year.
Public Relation Officer (PRO), Ministry of Environment, Lagos State Mr. Mukaila Sanusi, declined to comment on the ongoing beautification project, saying it is only the commissioner, Dr. Babatunde Adejere, that can speak on the issue. But several calls put across to Adejere’s mobile phone were never answered, neither were the calls returned.