Lagos roads in grip of darkness despite millions spent on streetlights
Increase In Criminality Inevitable — Motorists
How vast swaths of a road, as strategic and as important as the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road, Lagos was left without functional streetlights for six months or thereabouts, in the nation’s commercial nerve centre still beats many hollow.
For years, the sights and sounds from that road constituted a national embarrassment to both the state and the Federal Government before the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration took away the reproach.
After a series of back-and-forth movements, the Federal Government, in 2017, under the leadership of then acting president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, gave approval to the state government to commence the total reconstruction of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road, from the Oshodi area.
But since that road was reconstructed and eventually commissioned for use, the streetlights have refused to remain functional for several months at a stretch. Instead, they have been operating in fits and starts.
Recently, an elated avid user of the road and an Ajao Estate resident, Ebuka Nwanne, in a Facebook post exclaimed: “Finally, light returns on Airport Road, Lagos. The streetlights had been off for over two months. It feels good once again to cruise on this road at night. Kudos to whoever fixed it.”
But Nwanne was disappointed 24 hours after he made the post when he discovered that a long stretch of the road was again without illumination hence poor visibility for motorists and pedestrians. The situation has remained like that for a couple of days now.
Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road is not the only major road that is experiencing epileptic functioning of streetlights. Many other roads, including major and minor roads, are experiencing unfortunate underdevelopment where streetlights are working in fits and starts.
The immediate past administration in the state, in its commitment to building a virile economy that can deliver quality, seamless services round the clock, sunk huge sums of money into the “Light Up Lagos” project, which it initiated.
That initiative was part of a tripod consisting community electrification, the Light Up Lagos Advisory Committee, and the Street Lighting Initiative, which was an important part of the state’s security strategy geared towards keeping it safe, secure, and competitive.
Be that as it may, the incumbent administration keyed into the vision of illuminating the state, and further strengthened it by embarking on the replacement of streetlights in the state with Smart Light Emitting Diode (Smart LED) lighting in what it termed “Streetlight Retrofit Project.”
Expectedly, the initiative enjoyed the State Executive Council’s unanimous approval since it was in furtherance of the administration’s T.H.E.M.E.S agenda of making the state a 21st-century economy, by leveraging private sector partnerships to accelerate infrastructure interventions.
One of the major features of the LED lighting system is its ability to use very low energy to produce the same amount of luminosity. And after the first year of the Smart LED deployment, a significant reduction of up to 60 per cent was noticed in the operations and maintenance costs of streetlight infrastructure across the state.
But presently, residents of the state are bothered by the pit darkness that envelopes many streets despite the quantum of resources so far committed to illuminating the state.
Another major road in the state, which residents are worried has remained dark at night, despite its strategic importance is the ever-busy Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.
Since it was reconstructed by Dangote Group through a public-private partnership (PPP), the lampstands are yet to fully return to the 35-kilometre road linking Tincan, Apapa port, to Oshodi, Oworonshoki up to Ojota. The reconstruction work was valued at an initial cost of N73b.
Oluyinka Afolabi, who resides around Cele Bus Stop, is deeply concerned about the plight of pedestrians, who board buses around Charity Bus Stop, Toyota, Five Stars, Iyana Isolo, and even Ilasamaja.
“When I drive past these bus stops on my way from work, at Ikeja, quite late at night, I am always filled with pity for pedestrians because as the night wears on, they would surely be at the mercy of criminals and sundry elements.
“I understand that the situation at both the Five Stars Bus Stop, and Toyota Bus Stop is particularly bad because unsuspecting pedestrians are robbed there daily by hoodlums. Akinwunmi Street, which runs deep inside the Ladipo Auto Spare Parts Market has also remained completely dark at night. The road project, which was abandoned for years, was completed with lamp stands on both sides, but a reasonable part of it that borders on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway remains a criminal’s haven.
Running across at least four local councils/local council development areas, the Agege Motor Road is another major road in the mainland part of the state that large parts of it are without illumination at night.
“When sections of major roads are dimly lit or allowed to be in darkness for a long time, the authorities are unwittingly giving enough room for criminals and street urchins to establish their territories unhindered from where they launch attacks on unsuspecting members of the public,” said Oyewole Aladesuru, a social scientist.
He continued: “Sweeping dark alleys routinely by security agencies, is what keep criminal elements on the move until they fall into nets displayed by these security operatives. Once they are made to operate too long in a particular location, they become comfortable with their nefarious activities while torturing innocent members of the public, who may not know the right channel to adopt in reporting their suffering to the authorities. This is one of the reasons dark spots should not be tolerated by a government that claims to fight crime.”
Aladesuru stressed: “When public spaces, including roads, are poorly lit, criminal elements take advantage of such atmospheres to unleash terror on their victims. These hoodlums rape and, have also capitalised on the darkness to rob and rape passers-by on the route.
Between Mile 2 and Oluti Bus Stop on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, there are dozens of streetlights. While the streetlights between Mile 2 and First Gate bus stops are epileptic, the ones between Mosalashi and Oluti bus stops have been permanently off in the last few months.
A civil servant who works around Toyota Bus Stop, along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, who elected to remain anonymous, said that the government must, at all times, recognise the importance of lighting up public spaces, including roads once darkness falls because light plays the dual roles of illumination and security.”
He continued: “Not long ago, two men were heading towards the Murtala Muhammed International Airport when their vehicle broke down. As they tried to ascertain what went wrong, they were attacked and one was dealt with a machete cut on the head while the driver was severely assaulted, his personal effects carted away and the vehicle vandalised. There are chances that the situation could have been different if the streetlights on the link bridge were on,” he said.
Oshodi transport hub is one of the most dangerous points to be found late at night in the state. It is home to hundreds of street urchins and touts of diverse shades. How the state government has kept mute while Oshodi and its environs continue to remain in a blackout is very worrisome.
Heading to Iyana Oworo from Oshodi, one is faced with the same scenario at night with everywhere in palpable darkness like a village scene. Oshodi towards Iyana Ipaja presents a similar dark spectacle.
Driving along Oba Akran Road in Ikeja down to Pen Cinema, motorists used to enjoy the experience with the streetlights beaming beautifully. But today, the Guinness axis of Ikeja is constantly in darkness with bad roads adding to the plight of motorists at night.
When the streetlights around Pen Cinema were resuscitated sometime ago, road users and residents heaved a sigh of relief and were very excited. But as of today, from Pen Cinema in Agege to Mobil Filling Station also in Agege, streetlights have remained epileptic.
A civil servant, Adigun Adenekan, is of the view that “those living in Oshodi, Iyana Ipaja, Ikeja, and Agege enjoyed the services of streetlights during the Ambode-led government. But today, some streets in these areas are in darkness. The danger here is that darkness gives rooms for hoodlums to operate freely, and they are quite a number of them in these areas.”
When contacted on the poor state of streetlights, the Commissioner for Energy, Mr. Lere Odusote simply said: “There are agencies that are concerned with matters concerning streetlights. So, I will find out what the issues are. When you asked what the government is doing, I am not sure I am supposed to tell you. However, the government is making sure that the streetlights come on. Particular agencies need to do some things. I will ask them,” he ended.