Tears, woes for travellers on Lagos-Badagry Expressway 10 years on
Years of paying lip-service to the Lagos-Badagry Expressway project and wobbly reconstruction efforts by the Lagos State Government have made no appreciable impact on the international corridor. In fact, it has worsened and become an embarrassment. WOLE OYEBADE, BENJAMIN ALADE and CHIBUZOR NWANERI report the plight of commuters, motorists and residents on the route that is now seemingly impassable, yet, a den of extortion for the state’s uniform men.
The front door cracked open suddenly. Before a word from the charged 18-seater bus, the middle-aged man, apparently the driver, offered: “All of you get down.
I’m not going.” Without an apology, he slammed the door and vanished into the rain.
The showers had intensified this time. Initial anger of the waiting passengers dissolves into disbelief. Exactly what is going on, none of them could say.
They had been stranded at the Mile 2 bus stop before the bus supposedly brought relief. Despite 100 per cent increase in fares it was filled in seconds.
The conductor had gathered the fares and went in search of the driver. His boss has other plans.
What started as a drizzle is now torrential rainfall. Heavy pelting on the windshield and drops from the leaky roof added to passengers’ pique, forcing hisses and curses.
“These transporters are so useless, he is not going to Badagry after collecting our money,” a passenger muttered from the rear.
About 10 minutes later, the conductor appeared with soaked and tattered refunds.
“Bring N100 to collect N500”, he said, apparently unbothered by the babel of swearwords that greeted him. “You better collect your money now and find your way. I wan go park; no work today.”
Unknown to the stranded passengers is that theirs was the fourth commercial bus that had refused to ferry commuters on that morning.
“Once it rains heavily, the Lagos-Badagry Expressway is a no-go area,” the driver, who rather preferred to loaf around all day, later said in response to inquiry.
The driver, identified as Akoko, said he was not unwilling to carry out an honest day’s work, but there are times when idling is more of wisdom than folly.
“Wait! When last have you travelled this road (Lagos-Badagry expressway)?” He pointed with irritation.
“Go and try it with your car and come back to tell me the experience. I am a driver that pays the-owner N12,000 daily.
Yesterday, I left here (Mile 2) since to Seme, I did not return to Mile 2 until 4:30pm. Just one trip!
“What kind of business is that? Full tank was finished on one trip. How will I make profit, with all the security people that I settled?
That is why I am angry. When three to four trips start becoming one, and the-owner will not hear go-come, it is better to park the bus or give it to the-owner to go drive it himself,” Akoko said.
Implicit in the outburst of Akoko, is the pains of motorists and commuters alike that daily ply the ever-busy Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
The road that connects Nigeria to other West African countries, via the Seme Border, is now deplorable and the pain is enough to well-up tears from the stranded passengers.
The craters on the road can sometimes leave three-quater of the body of a small car buried.
Back in the 70s when the road was newly constructed and until recently, travel time on the 64.8km road (Eric Moore to Seme) was between 30 to 45 minutes.
Now, and barring rainfall, one would be lucky to travel the stretch in five hours, no thanks to multiple failed portions, inaccessible alternative routes, chaotic bottlenecks, excesses of commercial operators and traders, as supervised by extorting state security officials.
The long stretch of the Lagos-Badagry expressway is itself a metaphor for skewed infrastructural development in the state.
The expanse, which begins from the Eric Moore interchange and up to Mile 2 axis already has a semblance of modernity.
However, upwards into Okokomaiko, Ijanikin, Agbara, Owode, and Seme is seeming abandonment and an eyesore.
“From Mile 2, one could hardly have a three-minute free drive.
If it is not ditches that have cut the road into two, then it is human factor; traders, transport unions and motorists,”a motorist told The Guardian.
The Abule-Ado, Trade fair and Abule Osun section of the road has failed completely. It is a mishmash of mud, stones and all sorts.
A commercial operator, Olumide, lamented the gridlock he experienced on Monday evening. It cost him two-hour to do a normal 10 minutesdrive from Alakija to under bridge at Trade fair.
Olumide further said that similar fate now regularly awaits travellers from Barracks, Ojo Cantonment to Lagos State University (LASU) gate, given bad road and traffic snarls on both sides of the road.
Besides the poor state of the surface, quite disturbing is also the excesses of commercial operators and traders.
At Iyana-Iba around the LASU main campus for instance, wares’ displaying traders and buyers have encroached into the road, restricting three-lane traffic flow to one.
Under the “command” of men of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), commercial buses and motorcyclists, popularly called, Okada, are having a filled day loading and offloading right on busy junctions at Iyana-Iba, Okoko, Ishasi and Agbara among others.
Indeed, traffic snarls during peak and off-peak periods have been the second nature of Lagos mega city.
In such circumstances, the alternative routes are as strategic for exit as the main routes. Woe betides major roads that have little or no bypass.
Lagos-Badagary expressway has multiple alternative roads that are equally not motorable, which makes the travel experience worse for the likes of Akoko and commuters.
Examples are: the Old Ojo Road, Afromedia to Adaloko, Isashi waterworks to Ayetoro to Ijanikin, Magbon through Obele to Araromi, Ilogbo Eremi to Igborosun, Ikoga through Iragon, Erekiti Agbovipe to Badagry, to mention a few.
Higher cost of living
Amidst the confusion, it was not unexpected to see the cost of transport go up in notches.
Motorcyclists that erstwhile charge N100 from Abule Ado to the Ojo Barracks now demand N200 and at rush hours, the fee is as much as N300.
A resident of FESTAC, Paul Nwaze, said: “I can’t drive my cars anymore. I park them at home because it will save my time and money.
The traffic is too much, and I don’t have money to do repairs every day.”
Nwaze is not alone. Madam Asogba Oseni, a native of Badagry, said: “When the road was good, we pay a fare of N150, but now it is N400.
At nightfall, you pay N500 sometimes. Because the road is bad, I have stopped driving.
One day, I plied the road twice from Badagry to Iyana Iba and ended up spending N20,000 for repairs. I had to start using public transport instead.
I haven’t seen Badagry road gone so bad.”
She added: “I want the government to please hasten up on providing solution to the road because as the rain falls, the road gets more deplorable.”
A commercial driver, Mudasiru Akanji, also confirmed raising transport fares by 50 per cent.
Akanji said: “We spend a lot repairing our vehicles due to the bad road. Government should come to our aid in repairing it.”
Unending reconstruction exercise
It will be recalled that the former governor of the State and now the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola awarded the contract for the reconstruction and expansion of the road into 10-lane in 2008.
It was a three-phase and seven-year reconstruction plan initially, with provision for light rail system and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The estimated cost then was N220 billion.
Putting the money where her mouth is, the state government awarded the first phase to Julius Berger Plc, covering Eric Moore/Orile Iganmu to Mile 2. Julius Berger completed the work in three years.
The government, in 2012 awarded second phase to the CCECC, which included the railroad to run from Maza-Maza to Okokomaiko.
While the work has been done half-way, it remains abandoned till even as the mounted road infrastructure are already getting destroyed by street urchins.
The Guardian learnt that with the change of baton from Fashola to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in 2015, and the bloating cost of construction now doubling initial figure of N220 billion for the project has lost steam under the current administration.
Apparently an albatross on the integrity scale of the government that had promised to complete the project during 2015 electioneering campaign in Badagry, the Ambode administration is now considering a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model for the completion of the phase three stretch from Okokomaiko to Seme Border.
The State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Ade Akinsanya, confirmed the discussions with private investors, saying talks were already at advanced stage and the Memorandum of Understanding would be concluded soon.
Examples of such PPPs are the toll-paying Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge and Lekki-Epe Expressway.
Police, Customs, LASTMA on extortion spree
It may be herculean to detect the most lucrative between the illicit business of smuggling and “official extortion” on the road.
While the traffickers of contrabands and Customs continue to play hide and seek all the way from Seme border to Markets like Daleko in Mushin extorting police and LASTMA officials are more daring demanding tolls from commercial operators and smugglers.
According to keen observers, there are between 10 to 15 police checkpoints on the road, aside the Nigerian Custom Service (NCS) officials who allegedly collect bribe of N1000 upwards, depending on the number of goods (prohibited items) in the trunk.
A lecturer at Adekunle Ajasin College of Education, Ijanikin, and user of the road observed that the police appears to have created artificial toll plazas at various points, collecting N100 to N500, with identification numbers issued to “customers”.
He said: “Any day, you will see them there. Men of the Morogbo police station collect their tolls from immigration checkpoint Agbara to Oko-Afo.
At Igbo-Elerin are policemen of Okoko police station and Adoff. In fact, these ones have two checkpoints, collecting N100 each.
“Those of Isashi police station and Adoff police station have turned Iyana School-Isashi road to toll plaza.
They have about four police checking points where they collect N200 each from tricycle and okada at each checkpoint daily.
“Those at barracks police station stay on the Badagry expressway to forcefully collect theirs and nobody from local government, state or federal is intervening on behalf of the people.
The police have seen Badagry division as the only area where lawlessness, illegalities, abnormalities and impunities thrive without caution,” he said.
A driver, Ajide Keshinro, re-echoed the thoughts of the lecturer, when he said “activities of the policemen is a major source of worry for them.
“It is so bad that if you offer them N100, they won’t accept, rather, they will delay your vehicle, collect your particulars and passengers would start shouting at you to give them N200 bribe.
They are too many on the road. They won’t control traffic.
As at today, from Iyana Iba to Seme border, I have spent N1,300 just for police settlement.
“The bad road also spoils the vehicle. We now do repairs on weekly basis.
I just returned from a trip now, I have spent N1,700 for minor repairs on my engine. The road spoils tyres.
Most vehicles don’t have windshield anymore because when they approach potholes, they weaken the body and things start falling off.
I appeal to the government to come to our aid here,” Keshinro said.
On top of the situation
Seemingly not unaware of the plight of road users on the corridor, Ambode recently directed that the completed portions of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway from Eric Moore to Okokomaiko be opened up to traffic as soon as possible.
The governor also directed the Public Works Corporation to intensify palliative works on the road from Okokomaiko to Badagry.
Akinsanya, in a statement, said the governor was touched by the discomfort being experienced by the motoring public plying that axis and has vowed to continue to intensify all necessary steps to ameliorate their sufferings.
Addressing the issue of harassment raised by the residents, Akinsanya said that security and traffic agencies have been directed to enforce the provisions of the state traffic law by dislodging road side traders and hawkers from the road, while also arresting any law enforcement officer caught extorting money from motorists.
Hard done by
A lot of the residents and road-users that are feeling the pains are hurting the most, calling on the state and federal governments to come to their rescue.
A resident, Tijani Saheed wrote that “Since the inception of democracy, Badagry division and the local governments therein haven’t enjoyed the dividends of democracy up to 10 per cent compared to other divisions in Lagos State, particularly like the overall transformation that is going on in Epe and Ikorodu division presently,”
He said: “Since 1999, all of them have promised to bring development back to Badagry division.
Nothing to show for the promises till date. Badagry Expressway is Trunk-A Federal Government road and the road connecting majority of the West African countries to Nigeria.
Federal Government kept silent on the suffering of the people of this division in the guise of ongoing construction without palliatives and monitoring of the ongoing construction.
“They planned to build rail system on the road, which by common sense should get to roundabout in Badagry, as a state that is planning for the future, particularly given the influx of people into this division.
Unfortunately, the rail is now to terminate at Afromedia Okokomaiko and all the well-meaning people in this axis are keeping mute?”
Traditional ruler of Kweme Kingdom, Segiro Ogungbe-James, tasked the federal and state governments to partner to fix the 64.8km road in lieu of its important role of the Nigeria’s gateway to the West African market.
Ogungbe-James said the timely completion would alleviate the sufferings of motorists and commuters.
The traditional ruler said: “Urgent steps must be taken to address this problem because it is one of the major reasons the ancient city is under-developed because the state of the road drives away investors.
We have three borders around our communities in which the government generates revenue.
But we have not felt the impact of the government at the grassroots.
We hope that the new port, which the government wants to build in Badagry would come to reality because such huge project would open Badagry up to the global world.
The government should focus on developing the rural areas as this will not only woo investors but it will also help in decongesting over populated city centre,” he said.
Another resident, Rotimi Olaitan, added that it was quite unfortunate that the government allegedly chooses to suffer them this much.
Olaitan has harsh words for the authorities: “It is as if we are not part of Lagos State anymore and they are already going around making moves for 2019 election.
God will surely judge them, because we voted for them thinking they will better our lives, not knowing that they will stab us on the back.
They should start looking for votes come 2019, because we are seriously set to work against them this time.
“Badagry has been neglected for long time by both the federal and state governments.
The unfortunate thing is that our so-called honourables at the local, state and federal levels are all selfish and self-centred individuals.
Now that elections are around the corners they start to play their games of hypocrisy and lies. It is left to us to shine our eyes”.
Perhaps, the state actors would listen and take more serious palliative actions.
But at stake, is the premium, or the lack of it, that the state government places on lives of residents like Akoko, Adesanya, Nwaze, Saliu and Olumide among others, and their general well-being.