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Row over Sanwo-Olu’s stance on multiple potholes, failed roads

By Wole Oyebade and Benjamin Alade
04 October 2019   |   2:32 am
A variety of reasons can explain why Lagos State currently has as many potholes – enough to go round its 20 million residents. But when the State governor picks the most convenient theory.....

A failed portion at NNPC junction, Mushin-Ikotun road, yesterday PHOTO: WOLE OYEBADE

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State recently explained why statewide roads continue to worsen under his watch. But his ‘rainy season’ alibi has touched a raw nerve of long-suffering residents. WOLE OYEBADE and BENJAMIN ALADE write.
A variety of reasons can explain why Lagos State currently has as many potholes – enough to go round its 20 million residents. But when the State governor picks the most convenient theory, as if to turn logic on its head, then it will raise more questions than answers.

For 13 minutes last Tuesday at The Platform Nigeria forum in Lagos, Sanwo-Olu spoke on the subject-matter of multiple potholes. The roar of applause at the end suggested that the audience were impressed with the speaker.But from the gate of Iganmu venue of the yearly discourse, to streets and many homes that watched the show on television, the theory was a no brainer and the most convenient if not insensitive to the plight of Lagosians.

To many residents that spoke with The Guardian, the performance was a veiled attempt to hinge multiple potholes and bad roads on rainy season, and not on the State Government’s serial failure to manage the road network.Some more concerned residents raised new questions for the governor. Given the torrential rainfall that has persisted in four months, does the downpour also prohibit basic palliative measures that could ease the daily hellish traffic across the state?

Is it of policy or poverty that the State has no programme to cover potholes before they escalate to craters and canals? Why are the revenue-savvy Local Governments and Council Development Areas not responsible for even roads inward their secretariats? Where the Lagos State Public Works Corporation (LSPWC) had repaired the roads, why are they returning to status quo in less than a month?

There are obviously more questions than answers in the State. And it is not by accident that Lagos has earned the reputation of one of the most chaotic and stressful cities in the world – a trade mark that may not change anytime soon.

But Sanwo-Olu has some points
Lagos is indeed alluring. As the nation’s commercial capital and Africa’s fifth largest economy, the ‘wealth’ is a ready-made attraction for rural-urban migration.An estimate has it that no fewer than 100,000 persons funnel into the Lagos density on daily basis. Most recently, a trailer load of persons and motorcycles were emptied into the State in daytime!

While Lagos is already a home to 10 per cent of Nigeria’s population, Sanwo-Olu lamented that its landmass was less than one per cent. So, while it is an average of 12 vehicles to a kilometer of road nationwide, it is 240 per kilometre in Lagos. With the staggering congestion comes the attendant pressure on both overstretched and non-existent infrastructure.

“With these two strong indices, there is bound to be constriction; as we need more space to move the population from one part to the other. But what are the causes of traffic gridlocks, potholes, and we have a whole lot of them?

“I was sworn-in at the beginning of rainy season. I have being in government for four months but rain has not stopped. Two things don’t work together; bitumen doesn’t like rain. And if you see any contractor taking a contract during the rain, half of your money will go down the drain. He is not going to do anything. That is why we are where we are today. The issue of traffic is because of the potholes, which we are working day and night to remedy by the various palliatives we are bringing on board. Second is the landmass, which is mishmash.

“We are fully aware that there is problem now and we are solving it. Once we finish the rainy season, extensive road rehabilitation will start to fix the roads as they were. Not that we will fix all the 6,000 roads in Lagos in one day. Because everybody takes a snap chat or picture and send to me that I should fix their roads,” Sanwo-olu said, in part.

Residents disagree
But two things, among others, stood out for residents in the governor’s narrative: the rain and palliative measures. A resident of NNPC Ejigbo, Abiodun Bakare, said though he sympathised with the administration for the period, but “it should not go the route of making excuses.”

“At some point, he (Sanwo-Olu) blamed the rain. At another, he said they were doing palliatives. But where are the palliatives? I live in NNPC and work in Surulere. I have not seen anywhere they have touched in the last two-months. Take a look at this our NNPC junction, it has been like that for more than four months and getting worse by the day. Go to Ikotun, Ijegun, Cele-Express, Ilasa, Mushin, and Yaba. Where did they fix? There is no point telling lies,” Bakare said.

Another respondent at the Mile 2 area of the State, Anthony Odeh, reckoned with the governor on the geographical constraints of the State, though would not agree with the ‘rainy season’ argument. Odeh said: “It is not the first time we are seeing heavy rain, and it would not be the last. Rain doesn’t stop anyone from filling the potholes and make the roads better, if they know what they are doing.

“The issue is that we don’t plan for anything around here. The approach is for government people to wait till the roads get very bad, and another contract is awarded for repairs. These roads didn’t go bad in one day. For me, let them stop all these talking and get down to work. People are suffering and dying slowly and waiting for the rains to stop is not the solution,” Odeh said.

In Ejigbo, bitumen and rain did mix at the Oba’s palace
An entrepreneur at the Ejigbo area, Akeem, was enraged at the tacit excuse made over bitumen and rainwater. Akeem, and many residents, had in the last one week seen the quick transformation of a portion on the Iyana-Ejigbo/Ile-Iwe road. It was actually the front-side of the Oba of Ejigbo’s palace – that often hosts the palace parties and weekend revelries.

The rehabilitation was awarded by Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and executed by Conswealth Nigeria Ltd. It resurfaced about 100 metres of the deplorable road with asphalt. But beyond the palace corridor, and about 100 metres away is the Iyana-Ejigbo junction that has gone completely bad.

Akeem said: “What happened in Ejigbo is unbelievable. Of all the bad portions on the Ikotun-Mushin road, including the Iyana-Ejigbo and NNPC junction, our government has nowhere else to fix but the Oojon of Ejigbo’s Palace. How can anyone explain that? Who is deceiving who? Only God will save the masses in this country. Those in power don’t just care about anyone but themselves. It is a shame.”

Another resident, Gbenga Ayodele, noted that Lagos is richer than 20 of Nigeria’s 36 states put together, and should have no excuses for parlous infrastructure. “There’s no month it doesn’t rain in Lagos, and rain will continue to fall every month by God’s grace in Lagos. He (Sanwo-Olu) collects taxes come rain or shine. Therefore, he should deliver the dividends of democracy, which include good roads. 
“The easiest way to fix the roads is to create department of Ministry of Works (MOW) in every LCDA and engage boys within the localities, train them and engage them in direct labour under the MOW. “But, if he wants to use the usual method of awarding road contracts, failure is inevitable because so doing, the magnitude of work must overwhelm him like it is already doing,” Ayodele said. 

Hellish traffic snarls statewide
A 2017 study by UK-based company, Zipjet, ranked the mega city as the third most stressful city in the world. According to a rating of 150 cities, Lagos only did better, from the rear, than war-torn Baghdad in Iraq, and Kabul in Afghanistan.

The difference between the most stressful city like Lagos and the least stressful – Stuttgart, Luxembourg, Hanover and so on – are factors including finance, transport, percentage of green spaces and citizens’ well-being. On transport alone in Lagos, it is a nightmare.

Indeed, travelling across the state could well-up tears from the eyes of many commuters that depend on mobility and the well-heeled. A journey of about 10 or 15 minutes can now take as much as four to six hours – day or night, weekday or weekend.

An estimate has it that Lagosians spend an average of 30 hours in traffic each week – or 1,560 yearly. Drivers in Los Angeles and Moscow traffic spent only 128 and 210 hours respectively in the whole of 2018. And stifled along are private and public businesses. The Lagos business community alone loses N10.98 billion ($30.5 million) monthly, and Sanwo-Olu knows this too, and its implication for collective wellbeing.

Almost all the major roads are in a deplorable condition, though not exclusive to Lagos, as inter-state roads nationwide are not better. For instance, while the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is still under reconstruction and partially closed at the Berger end, its alternatives at Ikorodu inwards Epe are terrible. Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway has been under reconstruction since the last administration, while that of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway remains unattended and on a lockdown.

A handful of state-owned roads are in a state of abandonment despite recent efforts by the LSPWC to resurface major bad portions. Peculiar to most of the repairs were their poor quality. For instance, the entrance into Magodo Phase I, Aye Bus stop on Mushin-Ikotun road, Iyana-Isolo (beside the bridge), Oke-Afa, Isheri-Roundabout, Oko-Filling on LASU-Ojo road, and Answani corridor that were recently fixed by the LSPWC, had washed off in less than two months.

Emmanuel, a resident of Raji-Oba in Alimoso, explained that road engineering technology had gone beyond making bitumen look like mere laterite. “Roads should be built to last at least a generation, and if bitumen won’t do, which I don’t believe, cements would.

“But when you see how roads are repaired in Lagos, you will have a sense of the waste. The repairs last Sunday at Moshalashi roundabout on Ipaja Road is an example. Today, those potholes are back in a matter of days,” he said.

Apparently, the nadir is the lack of sound and quality environmental and road maintenance programme that routinely, among others, desilt drainages, prohibit careless dumping of refuse, prevent ‘gully erosions’ of roads, and fix potholes at the onset.

Chief Executive Officer of West Atlantic Cold-Chain and Commodities Limited, Henrii Nwanguma, subscribed to a popular maxim that says “you either find a way or you find an excuse.”“What we need to ask ourselves is, if London, with all its rains can manage to have decent roads, what’s our excuse? The elephants in the room are poor planning, inferior materials and methods, poor execution, poor drainage, and poor maintenance.

“Would you believe that the yet-to-be inaugurated road between Orile and Mile 2 has started to fail on both sides, especially near Eleganza axis? he added.The Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi, said it is a scientific fact that road construction is more problematic in the rainy season, especially if the overlay is bitumen.

Compaction is not effective as in the dry season and the grip of equipment is not as firm on the wet terrain as the operators would have wanted.Odewumi, was however, of the view that Lagos had been “all over the place” doing palliative work, using mostly stone-base for sealing the pot holes.

“My take, therefore, is that the State should continue with its ongoing palliatives full steam. The more of such relieves they can deliver the less the agonies for the commuters. I will suggest the government should double the palliative gang for greater impact. It should make the major corridor like Badagry Expressway motorable at least, especially Agboju to Okoko,” he said. 

An engineer, Akeem Soliu, said truly,  bitumen don’t have enough porosity to allow water flow through them,  thus,  the flood water create cracks on the surface of the bitumen based roads and this leads to damages. His remedies include the imperative of having free flowing drains and other alternatives to bitumen in road construction.

Soliu added that the government should enforce a law that will prevent throwing of refuse into the drainages.In reality, the challenges of leading a complex State like Lagos can be humongous. But besides a grandiose plan for a 360 turnaround, the task of governance can be a lot easier, if the efforts are daily, more visible and consistent.

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