Monday, 4th December 2023

10 years of endless agony, pains on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway

By Bertram Nwannekanma
24 August 2023   |   2:20 am
Perhaps one of the longest durations in road construction in recent times is that of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Though the busiest in interstate networks, the snail pace of the contractor negates the economic importance of the highway.

If the Federal Government and Julius Berger alliance has spent 10 years to complete just 43.6km road repairs in good times, in how many decades will it fix similar roads in lean times? Beyond belated completion of the busy expressway, stakeholders said the government perhaps needs new contractors and a Ministry of Works that is fit-for-purpose, Bertram Nwannekanma reports.

Perhaps one of the longest durations in road construction in recent times is that of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Though the busiest in interstate networks, the snail pace of the contractor negates the economic importance of the highway.

Motorists have already lost count of the completion deadlines set by the Federal Government or those Julius Berger sets for itself, to bring to an end the grueling hardship routinely suffered on the road. None has been kept in the last two decades of repairs on the 127.6km road, connecting Lagos, Ogun, Oyo states, and beyond.

Interestingly, a larger chunk of the entire stretch has been completed, but for the Lagos-end spanning 43.6km, and in care of Julius Berger. In the last 10 years, Julius Berger has been on it, but endlessly!

Recall that the project, which started in 2013, was billed to be completed in 2017, but was later shifted to the end of 2018 and early 2019. In 2018, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved over N64 billion for additional work on Section one of the Lagos-Sagamu interchange of the expressway project.

The FEC approved the sum to cover over 43.6km, which include pedestrian bridges and toll plazas for the section, to accommodate the changes on the road. Immediate past Minister of Power, Works and Housing, BabatundeFashola, had said: “Since its conception, so many new structures: religious institutions, factories, universities and increased human activities, have spring up. The inherited design didn’t provide for these at all.”

Fashola further explained that the additional work was to modify the quality of bitumen to accommodate the heavy duty vehicles that passes through that road.

In 2018, the council approved N105 billion as intervention funds for 44 road projects across the states, out of which N80.199 billion was earmarked as revised sum for the second section of the Lagos-Ibadan road project.

Yet, the completion period was further shifted to 2021 and to meet the new deadline, the Federal Government granted Julius Berger’s request to close the Berger-Kara section of the road for reconstruction.

But beyond steady adjustments in timeline, the ripple effects of snail pace construction is telling more on motorists. Besides the regular bottlenecks and log-jams that keep motorists in several hours of traffic, there has been recurring accidents occasioned by barricades, robberies, and modification of designs.

Under the cover of darkness, robbery, kidnapping and murder, among other heinous crimes, have been recorded on the road with motorists, commuters and residents of surrounding communities scampering for safety.

A motorist, EmekaOchendu, said the slow pace of work and several demarcations on the road account for severe sufferings for motorists and residents on the axis.

According to him, for several reasons, the Lagos-Ibadan expressway is a major infrastructure project, which should not be delayed, He, however, blamed officials of the ministry for lack of supervision, saying “scraping already laid asphalt on the road (a redress of faulty construction), especially within Ibafo, Berger, and Secretariat sections of the road, would not have happened if proper supervision was done”.

Ochendu said the cost and energy being expended in replacing the asphalt with its attendant impact on motorists “should have been deployed to finish untouched portions of the long bridge –Kara-Berger-Toll gate sections”.

He added: “Each time the contractor deploys equipment on the road, it narrows the carriageway and motorists are often at the receiving end. The ministry often comes out to plead with motorists to bear the inconvenience that could be avoided without doing much.

“This is the situation at Berger and Secretariat Bus Stops, where they are currently reworking the finished portion.

“In the last 10 years of reconstruction after the project was re-awarded by President Jonathan, many people have died on account of avoidable accidents on the expressway. Officials of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing are not monitoring development on the road because some actions of the contractor are insensitive to the motoring public and unacceptable in other climes.

“For instance, recently, a motorist rammed into the centre divider at km 24+800 (Lotto axis) after a brake failure inward Lagos. The accident caused severe traffic on the road, until the car was taken out from the middle of the road to enable traffic flow by Julius Berger’s emergency night team.

“Similarly, a ghastly accident recently occurred opposite CJ Park, near Christopher University, inward Lagos, where traffic was also affected, until emergency responders intervened, took the injured to the hospital and cleared the road to ease vehicular movement.”

An Ibafo resident, Monday Ayinde, said there is also no information on what to expect on the road at any given time, either from the contractor on site or the Ministry. He said residents often wake up to see that parts of the road had been divided without proper enlightenment.

According to him, most of the accidents are caused by lack of information on the road as some motorists, who are already used to the road, returned to see sudden dividers without caution and light at night.

A resident in the Olowotedo area of Mowe, Emmanuel Ojeih, lamented the unending works on the road, stressing that road dividers are often placed indiscriminately, even where works have been completed, leading to avoidable road crashes, especially at nights, resulting in loss of lives and property.

Speaking on the development, chairman of Journalists Estate, Phase One, Arepo, Jide Oke, said Julius Berger has no good reputation in the management and handling of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway project.

Oke, a former chairman, the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, Lagos Chapter, said road engineering and construction is not about technical capacity, but it involves other areas like stakeholders’ management, environmental impact assessment/management and most especially, transportation direction and management.

“They have failed woefully in this area. So, if they say they are completing it by the end of the month, it would be hard to trust them because they have failed integrity tests over time in the past in the handling of the road.

“Many times they have given deadlines and failed the test because they never showed commitment to match their timelines, always with scant regard to the pains motorists and commuters on that corridor are facing.

“In fact, the consensus now is that if you have a road project in a high density area, please avoid Julius Berger because they cannot manage the project and the lives or livelihood of the beneficiaries together. A lot of people have developed serious health complications, while many have died because of their lacklustre approach to the handling of the road.

“Expansion joints they did on the long bridge have been repaired four times in one year. Gross incompetence. This is not the same Julius Berger we were used to,” Oke lamented.

A resident at Pakuro, Endurance Iyawa, acknowledged that the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway project would bring relief to commuters, especially those living within Arepo/Ibafo/Mowe/Ofada axis in Ogun State and working in Lagos.

“Since the construction, there has been a significant rise in insecurity as a result of the massive gridlock along the route, causing many difficulties and pain for travellers.

“However, with the completion of the project, it is expected that these issues would be resolved, leading to improved travel experiences and reduced congestion on the road.

“Additionally, the completion is likely to have a positive impact on economic development in the region, as it would enhance connectivity and make transportation more efficient.

“Overall, the improved road infrastructure can act as a catalyst for business expansion, attract new investments, and contribute to overall economic growth in the region.”

A senior official of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, who disclosed a new completion date of August 2023, lamented the effect of rain on the project. He said that for every time it rains, it takes the contractor four days backwards as they could not make any progress.

“So, it depends on the rains. But all things being equal, the contractor is on site working hard. Right now, the Lagos side of the road is left with 200 metres, while it is 400 metres for the outbound Lagos side. I don’t think that should take the contractor more than three weeks to complete.

“We want to surprise motorists by delivering the project by the end of the month without giving them a date because of previous promises that were not met,” the official said.

Similarly, an official of Julius Berger, who also pleaded anonymity, said: “It’s a sensitive project with a lot of sensitive politics. You never know who is making a criticism or his motives for speaking negatively.

“However, Julius Berger’s superlative performance and serial project deliveries in a critical ecological, and also quite densely populated cosmopolitan city like Port Harcourt, puts the lie to and empirically defeats the argument of the critic.”

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