Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway: 19-year-old road contract stirs angst, frustration
Motorists, pedestrians, and other road users plying the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Expressway, are worried by the protracted delay in completing work on the road, even as the road has gone from bad to worse in the last few months.
They are worried that 18 months after the Federal Government re-awarded contract for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the road, there are still no signs of abatement in their sufferings since it was awarded 19 years ago.
The project, which started in 1999, has suffered several setbacks since the first contract was awarded to Julius Berger Plc, in 2000. The first section for rehabilitation was the Ota-Abeokuta section, which contract was awarded to the same contractor in 2009.
All through the 19 years, the project has been abandoned severally, no thanks to failure by government to release funds. Within this period, the contractor kept vacating and returning to site usually after the little gains had been eroded due to abandonment.
However, many affected users of the road thought their prayers had been answered when the contractor returned to site last year after N3.5b was reportedly paid, only days after then Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing officially inaugurated the rehabilitation works valued at N22. 387b, on May 14, 2018.
But little did they know that the rehabilitation work, expected to start from Ile Zik Bus Stop, Ikeja, Lagos State, and Brewery Bus Stop in Ogun State, was more of political gimmick ahead of the last general elections, as the contractor again left the site last June blaming it on negligence on the part of the Federal Government.
The Director, Federal Highways, South West, Olalekan Busari, who flagged-off the rehabilitation project, told journalists then: “The project was divided into two sections, the first section, which starts from Ile Zik, in Lagos State, spans about 20 km, while the second section, which falls within Ogun State is 60km.
“It is a complete rehabilitation of the entire road this time around, and it is awarded at the cost of N22.387b, and for a contract period of two and half years, which we hope the contractor will deliver,” he said.
The Guardian reliably gathered that the said N3.5b released by government was used to settle part of the old debt.
Between the period that the road rehabilitation was flagged-off and when Julius Berger left the site, not much was achieved as the firm practically remained on the same spot at Owode-Iyana/Ilogbo axis, while scant attention was paid to other parts, which are now in a deplorable state. Even the palliatives applied in the section last year got washed away by heavy downpours at the peak of the rainy season.
Currently, the gridlock on different sections of the road has defied solutions, and this impacts road users heavily. Consequently, from Oshodi to Ifo, a journey, which should be about one hour, now takes between four to five hours. At whatever time of the day, road users are always subjected to painful and frustrating experiences.
Also of no positive effect on the road, is the routine intervention by the Ogun State government, in the form of stones, which is now barely noticeable and has practically been washed away, leaving the affected parts in very bad shape.
With construction work ongoing on the expressway, the Lagos-Abeokuta highway is I not fit as an alternative for those who want to escape the Lagos-Ibadan gridlock.
Precious Akintobi, a student shares her experience. “A few weekends ago, precisely on a Saturday, I left the Abule-Egba area of Lagos State for Ifo, in Ogun State quite early in the day, but I did not get there until around 5 pm. For most of the journey, the traffic gridlock was at a standstill on the route,” she lamented.
Currently, the most terrible spots along the expressway are Joju Junction; Conoil Junction; Ijako-Tipper; Owode; Iyana-Ilogbo; Ilepa; Iyana-Shebik; Papalanto; Ewekoro; Iyana-Egbado; Itori Bridge, and Obada-Oko, among others. By far, the worst stretch of the road now is from Ewekoro to Itori.
Traffic in and around these bad spots is always at a standstill. Once this happens, policemen and traffic control officers are always helpless.
Once there is a downpour, the state of the road is worsened, and areas like Joju Junction, Ijako, Owode, and Itori become waterlogged.
Consequently, passengers are often stranded in those areas for hours, especially at peak periods.
On one of such occasions recently, vehicular traffic stretched from Sango Motor Park, went over the bridge up to Joju, thereby forcing impatient motorists to drive against traffic, a decision that worsened the situation.
A commuter bus driver, Adeniyi Kuye, told The Guardian that it appears the Federal Government is playing politics with the road, adding that since the road was awarded 19 years ago, the contract has been dragging on very slowly and constituting a nuisance to the people.
“In the last four years, we have experienced serious accidents, which have claimed several lives due to the nature of the road. Why would a federal road of this nature be so neglected and left to rot away? The situation of the road has added to the cost of transportation because of what we spend weekly on repair and maintenance of our vehicles.
“This is the time for the government to re-mobilise the contractor back to the site since the rainy season will be over soon,” he said.
In the view of Mrs. Janet Olukotun, a teacher, who works in Lagos State, but resides in Ilepa area, Ogun State, the state of the road remains a shame and an embarrassment to the Federal Government.
She noted that no matter how early she leaves her home, she’ll always get to the school late because vehicles are constantly breaking down along the road.
“The road has become worse in the last few months, no thanks to the rainy season, which is winding down. The more the rain, the more the pain. We appeal to the Federal Government to assist people on this route by repairing the road once and for all. Enough of the pain, enough of the agony, we are tired of the distress caused by this road,” she said.
The Deputy Director, Federal Ministry of Works in Ogun State, Olukayode Popoola, refused to comment on what the ministry was doing to put the road in good condition.
He told The Guardian: “Honestly, I cannot say what is on the ground regarding this road, other than the news that governors of Ogun and Lagos states have written to the Minister of Works to take over the rehabilitation of the road. So, we are waiting for the outcome and we have not heard anything. That is the only thing I know, and I am sure everyone has read it too in the newspapers.”
The Engineer in charge of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Ogun State, Olisa Emeter disclosed that since the road is under contract, FERMA has no power to do anything on the road.
“I think you’ll need to get facts from the Federal Ministry of Works if you want to get further insight on the road and why it is in the condition that it is. The road rehabilitation contract was awarded to Julius Berger and supervised by the Ministry of Works. The reason for the sorry state of the road may be that the contractor has not been mobilised fully to commence work,” Emeter stated.