Worry over bus stops, others on reconstructed Lagos-Ibadan road
All Will Be Provided, FG Assures Motorists
Some years ago when the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan road started, what was anticipated, as a federal project that would gulp huge funds, was an expressway with all the basic components to ensure free flow of traffic to and from Lagos that is considered to be the economic hub of the nation.
The reconstruction of the Apapa road in Lagos is to end at the former tollgate, along Berger road, where it will link the reconstructed Lagos-Ibadan road. It is generally believed that the Federal Government embarked on the two projects to boost quick access to and exit from the Lagos ports that constitute a major source of revenue for the country.
Most times, before work started on the Lagos-Ibadan road, often described as the busiest in West Africa, driving into and out of Lagos was like going to hell and coming back for motorists and passengers because of the deplorable condition of the expressway. And since the work started, it has also been hell travelling through the road because of seemingly unending gridlock caused majorly by diversion of heavy traffic to narrow lanes at different points by the contractor, Julius Berger Plc, to prevent disruption of its work by motorists. The suffering of the road users is heightened by frequent breakdown of vehicles, particularly articulated vehicles and fuel tankers, on the narrow lanes, and the habit of picking passengers on the main carriageways by commercial drivers because there are no bus stops, service lanes and lay-bys anywhere around the fast-developing towns along the road.
Though it is expected that when the project is completed, some of the causes of gridlock will disappear, the hope of free flow of traffic on the expressway may be dashed because, as substantial part of the job is being covered, there is still no sign that bus stops, service lanes, lay-bys and other necessary facilities will be built.
One incontrovertible fact about the road now is that it is right at the centre of an emerging city known as Mowe/Ibafo, no longer just passing through a stretch of uninhabited area between Lagos and Ibadan. The communities along the road, including Warewa, Arepo, Magboro, Ibafo, Asese, Loto and Mowe that have been greatly intertwined with boundaries almost non-existent, are recording rapid growth in population, with emergence of new buildings, companies, markets, motor parks as well as other business centres. Consequently, the number of commercial vehicles plying the road to and from Lagos has increased tremendously, with expectation that it will multiply when the project is completed. This is apart from the increasing number of vehicles entering Lagos through the same road from other parts of the country.
One of the worries of the road users, host communities and other stakeholders is the possibility of traffic remaining encumbered by lack of bus stops, lay-bys and service lanes when the job is completed. Some residents of Ibafo, Warewa and Asese called for construction of link bridges that will make it possible for vehicle owners to drive from one side of the highway across to the other side without obstructing traffic on the carriageways.
Onibafo of Ibafo, Oba Quasim Alayande Alabi, who said it was necessary for bus stops and other components to be built, told The Guardian the effort he made towards ensuring that some necessary things are put in place as the work progresses.
“When I noticed that some things were not happening the way we expected, I met the ‘white man’ who was supervising the job by Julius Berger and complained bitterly. There is an underground channel built in 1977, when the road was first constructed, through which water from the communities and rainwater that would have caused flooding flows across to the other side of the road and into a canal. Through the canal, the water flows far away into the ocean. When I noticed that the channel was blocked, I met the Julius Berger engineer and complained because the blockage was already causing flooding. The water had even covered my palace frontage. It was when my complain almost became a confrontation with Julius Berger that they agreed to construct a gutter behind the main one constructed for the expressway, through which waste water and rainwater flows away. But they told me it was not part of the work the Federal Government gave them.
“I also told them of the need to make alternative roads available as they work on the main road. When they divert traffic to narrow lanes because of the work they are doing, there will be gridlock and motorists and passengers will suffer greatly. Sometimes, by 4 am the road is already blocked. In 1977, the road had bus stops and ‘parking rest’, but now some of these things are no longer there. It is the same story with the part of the road being handled by RCC from the Sagamu interchange to Ibadan. I learnt at the Ministry of Physical Planning in Abeokuta that immediately after the main road being reconstructed now, there would be service lanes from the long bridge to Sagamu interchange. I don’t know whether that is the reason bus stops are not emerging now. Maybe bus stops will come after the serve lanes are constructed, but it is necessary for the road to have them so that there can be free flow of traffic. Also, there should be spaces where if your vehicle develops a fault while travelling, you can pack, repair it and continue your journey. All these things are very necessary on this road,” the monarch said.
A resident of Ibafo, Oluseyi Makanjuola, said: “Honestly, I commend the government for what is being done now, but let us not complete this project and it looks as if nothing has happened to the road. Free traffic flow is the target. We can’t execute this type of project and the vision will not be realised because of little things like bus stops, lay-bys and others. The road is no longer passing through uninhabited area, it is now at the centre of about six or seven rapidly growing communities. Many of the residents work in Lagos. They troop out every morning to go to work, boarding commercial buses and even private cars that will take them to Lagos. You know that the Danfo drivers are never patient as they compete among themselves to get passengers. Because there are no bus stops or designated motor parks, they block the highway and cause gridlock. They drop passengers at wrong points, hindering free traffic flow. It is not too different from the nasty traffic situation in Lagos.”
Another resident of Ibafo, Ismaila Olojede, an architect, responded mostly with questions: “Where is the road design? Why is it not displayed as it is done with other projects? Do we need to tell anybody that bus stops are necessary? The question you asked me would probably not have been necessary if the road design had been displayed and everybody can see what is in there and what to expect.
“In Ibafo here, people have been talking and getting worried about how residents can cross from one side of the town to the other with vehicles and okada. You can see that the road splits Ibafo and other towns into two sides. How do we cross with cars, okada from one side to the other side? It is actually possible that government has made provision for this, but we cannot know now because people are not seeing the design. When HITECH was about to start reconstruction of the Oshodi-Airport road in Lagos, they displayed the design. It was even on display for a long time after the project started. We all saw what is manifesting now in the design that was displayed then. What is happening here?”
A resident of Mowe, Mrs. Rebeca Wabara, said if bus stops were not included in the design, the Federal Government should take a second look at the contract and accommodate them.
“I still don’t want to believe that there won’t be bus stops on this road. With the way the population is growing, it is very important. What is the different between this place now and Lagos? Mowe-Ibafo is becoming a city. Everybody can easily see that. We commend the government for the job, but they should not disfigure it with a thing like this. Has Julius Berger said there won’t be bus stops? They need to put them so that we can enjoy the road when completed. We have suffered a lot for the job to be done in terms of gridlock in which we are caught almost daily for Julius Berger to be able to do the work. We deserve free traffic at the end. That is how this whole thing will make meaning to Nigerians, and this administration will be praised for it.”
Another architect and resident of Ibafo, Mr. Kenny Rauf said: “Truly these components are necessary but they are usually provided in service lanes. At the stage that the Lagos-Ibadan road project is now, there cannot be bus stops until service lanes are constructed. Even the gutters on the two sides of the road are not the ones through which rainwater and wastewater from the communities will be carried off. There should be a special gutter for that in the service lane. Usually, water from the communities is not channel ed into the gutters on expressways.”
When contacted, the Federal Controller of Works for Lagos and Ogun states, Kayode Popoola, said what Nigerians were hoping to see in the project are already in the design.
“There will be service lanes that will extend to where we have the toll gate. There will be toll plaza. So, there won’t be requests like I am going to Wawa, drop me there, or I am going to Loto, drop me there. Those ones will happen in the service lanes that will come up with other things like lay-bys and rest rooms. That is where we will have the bus stops and others, not in the main carriageways, so that there can be free traffic.
“The Lagos-Ibadan road is an expressway, meaning that the lanes are going to be restricted. It was planned or designed such that if you take off from Lagos, you can programme the time that you will get to Ibadan, except there are other things that can cause delay, like punctured tyre.
“After the current stage of the project, service lane will come with the toll plaza. The service lane will cover everywhere. It is part of the road. What we have now is three lanes from Lagos to Sagamu. There will be an outer shoulder,” Popoola told The Guardian.
On how vehicles will cross from one side of the expressway to the other when the work is completed, Popoola revealed: “There will be one interchange, two flyovers and pedestrian crossings. The interchange is the one we have at Loto while the flyovers are the ones at MFM and after the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).”
On funding, the controller said: “The project is being funded by the National Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and the agency will recoup its money through tolling. NSIA is also sponsoring the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria road and some railway projects.
“Motorists and other users of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway who observe that bus stops, lay-bys and others are not part of the project now have a right to ask questions. We have a responsibility to explain things to the public. It is a public project, it does not belong to a private organisation,” he said.