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Apapa-Oshodi Expressway… commuters groan as new design compounds traffic situation

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The contractor, Hitech Construction, on site at Apakun, on Mutalaa Muhammed Airport Road, Lagos<br />PHOTO: DANIEL ANAZIA

When the Federal Government entered into partnership with Dangote to commence the second phase of the reconstruction of the ever-busy Apapa-Mile 2-Oshodi Expressway from Cele Bus Stop, motorists and commuters heaved a sigh of relief. And because the reconstruction work commenced almost immediately, the road users were expectant of happy days ahead.

The expressway is very important to the Federal Government and Lagos State as it connects the nation’s busiest seaports (Apapa Wharf and TinCan) and the ever-busy Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

Despite the remarkable progress being made in the road reconstruction, one question that is begging for answer is: who is supervising the handler of the project, Hitech Construction Company Limited?

In recent time, commuting along the highway has become a nightmare. The seeming alteration of the old design of the road such that motorists on the service lane could no longer easily exit and rejoin the main carriage way is causing untold hardship. The road users are also lamenting the slow pace of work and poor arrangement made by the contractors.

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Most of the motorists plying the road both in the daytime and at night complained that they suffered unpleasant experience due to what they described as uncoordinated construction works by Hitech Construction Company Limited, the company executing the contract.

They lamented that from Cele to Iyana-Isolo, there is only one exit from the main carriageway to the service lane, unlike before the reconstruction when there were many exits. Consequently, if you miss the exit at Cele, the next place there is an exit point is between Ilasa and Iyana-Isolo.

From the busy Iyana-Isolo, where the popular Daleko Rice Market is located, to Toyota Bus Stop, where the well-known Ladipo International Auto Spare Parts Market is situated, there is no point through which motorists can exit the carriageway to the service lane.

This, however, was corrected recently following the intervention of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing (FMWH) through the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Lagos office.

Despite this intervention, with the current design and since the closure of the airport road bridge at Toyota Bus Stop for repairs, airport road-bound motorists have been daily condemned to tortuous journey, as they either join the service lane from Cele or shortly after Ilasa, and if they miss it at Cele or after Ilasa, they head to Charity Bus Stop, by BOC Gas, just after the Nigerian Armed Forces Resettlement Centre (NAFRC), or move on to the old NAFDAC office, a few meters away from the Oshodi Interchange, before they can exit the main carriageway to the service lane.

If at Oshodi they also missed exiting the main carriageway, the motorists are forced to drive to Anthony Bridge/interchange to connect Ikorodu-Ojota road, making a turn to the right shortly after driving past (underneath) Anthony flyover to connect Gbagada-Oshodi expressway. And if there is traffic on Ikorodu-Ojota road, motorists may go to Gbagada to make U-Turn to return to Oshodi and head to the airport. Many motorists described this as a tortuous journey.

To many of them, failure of Hitech to fix road signs and clues to assist motorists navigate the road, especially with the closure of the airport link road, is worsening the situation.

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The Guardian had reported that the continuous closure of the bridge connecting Apapa-Oshodi Expressway with the airport, had led to many motorists flagrantly violating traffic rules.

The Lagos State government in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing had on January 10, 2021, announced indefinite closure of the airport link bridge from the Toyota Bus Stop end, following damage to one of the supporting pillars by fire from a diesel-laden tanker that had an accident on the bridge on January 7, 2021.

Since the closure of the bridge, more than 10 months ago, motorists and commuters have been grappling with the challenge of commuting along the alternative routes.

Many residents of Ajao Estate, Mafoluku and environs who have their businesses and offices around the Toyota, Five Star, Daleko, and Mushin, are finding it difficult to connect the areas because there are no buses to convey them to their destinations.

For those who sometimes dare the challenge and drive their vehicles to their business places or offices, particularly staff of The Guardian and OK Foods (now Olam), connecting the airport road onward to their destinations has remained a herculean task.

Driving in and out of the service lane that connects the Rutam House, The Guardian’s corporate headquarters, is now a great challenge, as staff of the newspaper from Gbagada, Oshodi, Ajao Estate, Isolo, Ejigbo, Ikotun, Ijegun, Mafoluku, Ikeja and other environs are daily forced to drive to Cele, kilometres away, before they could turn to join the service lane on the other side of the road to return to their offices close to Oshodi.

To go home after the day’s work, they are forced to go back to Iyana-Isolo or drive through Five Star to connect Bello and Ojekunle streets in Papa Ajao areas of Mushin to link the Isolo flyover and connect Osolo Way through Aiye Bus Stop and move on to link the airport road onward to their destinations.

Another alternative is driving through the traffic-prone Ladipo International Auto Spare Market road at Toyota Bus Stop to connect Fatai Atere Way and link Cappa Bus Stop onward to Oshodi.

Aside the man-hours lost to gridlock, valuables are being lost to hoodlums, who often waylay the road users at dark and bad spots on their way home.

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For instance, the News Editor, Guardian on Saturday, Onyedika Agbedo, recently suffered a robbery attack with his valuables, including an Infinix smartphone, collected from him at gunpoint by hoodlums.

Agbedo, who had earlier escaped attack by the thieves, was later chased on a motorcycle from Five Star Bus Stop to a point, some meters away from The Guardian office, where they dispossessed him of his valuables.

Recounting his experience, the journalist said: “I couldn’t come to the office in my car on that day due to the ongoing road reconstruction, so I joined one of the tricycles (Keke Marwa) plying Iyana Isolo – Ilasa – Itire garage. The tricycle operator had picked me with one other passenger from the front of our office and ferried us to Five Star, where he hoped to pick the remaining two passengers.

“A few minutes after parking the tricycle and was beckoning on potential passengers, two boys came, demanding our bags and phones, but I quickly escaped as I was sitting on one edge of the tricycle. I ran away, and when I felt I had successfully escaped, I began to walk back towards the office, not knowing that they were coming after me,” he added.

Some motorists, who spoke to The Guardian, bemoaned the lack of exit points into and from the carriageway in the reconstruction of the road. They lamented that traffic law enforcers (LASTMA and Taskforce Unit) would wait inside commercial buses, expecting car owners to ply “one-way and half-way up the bridge” so they can arrest them.

A motorist, Livingstone Obasi, had, in a report, told The Guardian how he had to pay extra charge for missing his flight to Port Harcourt.

“I was billed for a 4p.m flight, but due to the closure of the airport bridge and the merry-go-round, coupled with the bad road network and traffic, I missed my flight and had to pay extra charge,” he said.

Another motorist and staff of one of the companies beside The Guardian, who identified himself as Sola, pleaded with the contractor to provide exit points on the service lane that will usher motorists into the expressway.

“I had on two occasions missed the exit point and had to go to Anthony, make a detour back to Cele before I could connect my office. Apart from the stress, it is time- wasting. If it were before the reconstruction started, it wouldn’t have happened because there were many exits,” he said.

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When The Guardian contacted the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing to know why the change in the original design of the road and to know if the new design was deliberate or the contractor had used its discretion, our reporter was informed that the new design was deliberate, as it was the initial master plan, which was jettisoned.

One of the resident engineers, Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Lagos office, Oluwatofunmi Akinwande, explained: “The current design of the road now was the original master plan, which was aimed to reduce traffic on the main carriage.

“Yes, in the old design there were about five exits, but that was not the initial master plan of the road. The Ministry of Works and Housing, after careful evaluation of the traffic situation on the road, decided to return to the actual master plan, which is what you are seeing today.

“If you noticed, before now, there used to be an exit shortly after the canal and before the airport road link bridge ramp at Toyota Bus Stop. If you recollect, there use to be traffic jam caused by vehicles coming to Ladipo-Matori and the service lane from Five Star through The Guardian frontage, trying to negotiate into the main carriageway or link the airport road via the Toyota bridge.

“With the reconstruction, the exit has been moved backward to the front of The Guardian. It is deliberate. It will ensure free flow of vehicles for those heading towards Oshodi or airport road on the expressway.”

On the delay in the repair of the link bridge, he said it was due to bureaucracy.

“As you know, there is a limit to the amount the ministry can expend, and once a project exceeds that figure, approval must be sought from the Federal Executive Council (FEC). Approval for the funds to repair the bridge was granted in July, and the contract was awarded about two weeks ago.

“The contractor has promised to deliver the project in three months. So all things being equal, we are hoping that by the end of October the bridge would be ready. As you can see, there is a total overhaul of the road. I believe that at the end of the project, Nigerians would commend the Federal Government because it is not just repair of the bridge, there will be a beautification around it. Beyond the repairs, a green zone is also being created,” Akinwande stated.

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Meanwhile, despite the ban on motorcycles, popularly known as Okada, from plying the highways by the Lagos State government, the riders and operators of tricycles, better known as Keke Marwa, have turned both sides of the expressway into parks, ferrying passengers from the popular Ladipo Auto Spare Parts Market to and from Mile 2, Ikotun-Egbe, Isolo, Ejigbo and other destinations.

Operatives of the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences Unit had on April 16, 2021 stormed the Toyota Bus Stop to impound commercial motorcycles plying the highway following a series of complaints sent to the agency on activities of the motorcycle operators, which had become alarming.

When The Guardian contacted the agency to know why the Okada riders and Keke Marwa operators brazenly disobey the government directives, the Public Relations Officer, Femi Moliki said the chairman, Shola Jejeloye, had continued to issue warnings to the motorcycle riders to desist from operating on restricted routes, particularly the highways and bridges across the state, to no avail.

“Daily, we go out to carry out enforcement of the ban but as you know these people are deviants. Nevertheless, we will not relent, we will continue to maintain the enforcement and ensure compliance,” he stated.

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