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Commuters lament unending gridlock on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway

By Tobi Awodipe and Eniola Daniel
23 May 2020   |   4:20 am
When the Group President/CEO of Dangote, Aliko Dangote took the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola on an inspection tour of the 35-kilometre Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonsoki-Ojota Highway currently under construction...

Gridlock on the expressway

• Vehicles Battle For Right Of Way On Pothole-Ridden Service Lane
• Absence Of Traffic Wardens, LATSMA Officers Render Route Almost Impassable
• Petty Robbers Take Over Highway, Attack Motorists In Broad Daylight
• November Delivery Date Still Sacrosanct, Says Works Controller

When the Group President/CEO of Dangote, Aliko Dangote took the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola on an inspection tour of the 35-kilometre Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonsoki-Ojota Highway currently under construction, last year, road users in Lagos heaved a sigh of relief, hoping the road would see completion earlier than the November 2020 deadline.

The road project, constructed by Dangote Industries Limited, is part of a bargain between Dangote group and the Federal Government to enjoy a 10-year tax rebate that accrues to N72.9 billion.

Today, however, the route has become a source of sorrow, tears and lamentations for road users forced to ply it daily, as the traffic on the route cannot be quantified in terms of revenue, time and manpower lost every day. A journey from Apapa to Oshodi, which ordinarily shouldn’t be more than 30 minutes, now takes several hours or even a whole day.

During the inspection, Fashola assured members of the press that the government was dedicated to the speedy completion of the highway to ease the problems of bad roads and gridlock on the axis.

Dangote said by the end of 2020, the entire road network would be completed, “and Nigerians will have a road that will last for 40 years.”

Fashola also claimed the project would create wealth around the surrounding areas, as trucks would be needed to convey different materials to sites and also create employment, as over 600 persons would be engaged directly.

To road users’ dismay, all these assurances are yet to be seen or felt, as construction seems to be slow. Workers are on site from Monday to Friday. They do not work on weekends.

Since the construction began, motorists spend hours between Iyana-Isolo to Toyota Bus Stop, a journey of less than a minute in a car and 10-15 minutes by foot.

With lockdown relaxation in Lagos, it seems the situation has become worse. The route has become almost impassable, forcing car owners and commercial vehicles to wrestle for right of way on the narrow service lane with tankers, trailers and unlashed articulated vehicles.

Commuters had expected that after resuming from the four-week break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, workers would have increased the pace to cover for the weeks lost, instead, they resume around 10a.m and close between 4:30 and 5p.m.

There is absence of traffic warders, especially the Lagos State Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LATSMA) to manage the traffic congestion, leaving bus conductors and concerned citizens to manage the traffic as best as they could.

A motorist, who spoke with The Guardian on condition of anonymity, said he thought the construction company would have considered filling the potholes on the service lane first before closing the main carriageways, but they did not.

Another road user, Bola Olaosebikan, was angry that construction work stopped during the lockdown.

He said the government would have used that period effectively as the traffic was very minimal,”

A commercial bus driver, Rauf Ogundeji lamented the blockage of access roads by traders of the Ladipo Automobile Market. “Activities of traders at Ladipo Market should be checked. They have blocked many of the adjourning roads from Ilasa to Five Star, Matori, Ladipo and Toyota.

Gridlock on the route has forced drivers to increase their fares, especially during peak hours.

Another commuter, Ruth Samuel told The Guardian that the situation has forced her to always trek long distances.

Meanwhile, the route has become a hotspot for robbers, who take advantage of the constant lockjam to rob motorists, and beat anyone not willing to part with their phones or money.

Speaking with The Guardian, Federal Controller of Works, Lagos Popoola Olukayode said: “We are all working together and I am happy about all the observations you’ve laid out. If you noticed, before the lockdown, you saw the pace and rate at which the contractors were working. When COVID-19 came which nobody in this world planned for, everybody had to run, including yourself. I know you went to hide. When the president ordered a lockdown, we could not come out to risk our lives. Not withstanding, the lockdown was relaxed and a few contractors were asked to move back to site, including Dangote, HITECH, Julius Berger Nigeria, RCC and Dantata & Sawoe Construction Company. They were all instructed not to work with full capacity of staff, just a few were selected and that’s to maintain social distancing…”

On why the contractors resume at 10a.m and close at 4p.m, he said: “The workers are not staying in the same. They have to be given time to get to their destinations and come back the next day. Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is doing well now because the government is funding it through the NSIA and that’s what is helping the project to move so, the government is not relaxing. We are interested in completing these two roads and other roads so that the economy would pick up. Over 85 percent of goods are transported by road, so there is no way government will not fix all the roads. They work on Saturdays but not on Sundays. If you go there this Saturday (today) and do not meet them there, draw my attention to it.”

On why the minister has not returned to monitor the progress of the work, he said: “I am the Federal Controller representing the minister here so I’m the one to appear there often and I was there last Thursday. We are monitoring the road and once I’ve visited any project, it is the Minister that has also paid a visit. The November date we gave, if by the grace of God we are able to work at full capacity where they can increase the number of workers, it’s still sacrosanct.”

The controller, who promised that the potholes on the service lane would be fixed as soon as possible said: “I want to appeal to motorists and road users to be patient with us as we cannot fix the whole road in a day. We are using the road as well and we see what motorists go through daily. COVID-19 slowed us down, but we are committed to finishing the road on time,” he said.