Lagos roads in need of urgent repairs before another rainy season
• Local Council Chairmen Doing Little To Fix Inner-city Roads Despite Receiving Allocations Directly
• We Are Working Daily, No Part Of The State Will Be Left Behind, Says LSPWC Official
Lagos residents, last Monday morning, woke up to an unwelcome surprise. It was the second week into the New Year, and Lagosians were already being greeted with cloudy skies and light showers. That it rained that early in the year to wet the scorched and dusty grounds was not the shock, but that another rainy season is lurking round the corner to catch Lagos State government and its citizens unaware.
Here is why: Back in October 2019, the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, barely five months in office then, had been under a barrage of scathing attacks over the terrible state of Lagos roads. It was not that the governor was unaware of the problem. Indeed, he had identified it early, when within a few hours after his inauguration, his first official assignment was signing his first Executive Order on indiscriminate refuse dumping, traffic management, and public works, which was to effectively fix the roads.
After five months of waiting in vain, however, exasperated Lagosians could no longer endure the agony of travelling on the terrible roads, with its accompanying stressful traffic gridlocks. So, Sanwo-Olu was called to task on his campaign promises, including ending the Apapa Port menace in 100 days.
Reacting to Lagosians’ anger, the governor appealed for patience, saying the continuous rainfall since he assumed office was slowing down rehabilitation of the roads. “As soon as the rains stop, work on the bad roads will kick off in earnest,” he promised.
After a short respite from the rains, the Lagos State Public Works Corporation (LSPWC) rolled up its sleeves and began putting in place some palliative measures. The agency disclosed it was working day and night to patch potholes and clear/de-silt blocked drains. And though the much-needed intervention brought temporary relief to parts of the state, it has created a tale of two cities in Lagos.
For most visitors arriving the state through Murtala Mohammed International Airport, two main destinations are uppermost: Ikoyi/Victoria Island/Lekki or Ikotun.
While the allure of affluent neighbourhood, opulent homes, and luxurious hotels drive most foreigners to the Island, the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Ikotun, shepherded by Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, truly lives to its billing as a church for all nationalities, weekly attracting visitors from outside the country in their hundreds.
Indeed, the Nigeria Immigration Service has said of every 10 international visitors entering Nigeria, six are heading to SCOAN in Ikotun-Egbe, where the church is located for religious tourism.
The remaining four, chauffeur-driven, cruise on the newly reconstructed Airport Road to Oshodi, Third Mainland Bridge and the Island. The nightmarish experience of those going to Ikotun begins from Airport Junction in Ajao Estate, where the beautiful scenery ends. From Ajao Estate right to their destination in Ikotun, it is endless bumpy ride, as the route is riddled with potholes, craters, and gullies.
It doesn’t end there. The network of bad spots continues across Alimosho region to other parts of the state in Mushin, Isolo, Ire-Akari, Itire, Lawanson, Ikorodu, Oshodi, Amuwo Odofin, Badagry, and Ikorodu, among others.
Accompanying every bad spot is the attendant gridlock, wasted man-hours, the toll on vehicles and even avoidable accidents that sometimes lead to death. For instance, last weekend, an articulated truck fell at a particularly bad spot in Ikotun, while trying to dodge a pothole. Luckily, no life was lost in the accident, though motorists were trapped for hours until the truck was evacuated.
A passenger riding on a motorcycle was not so lucky late last year at the ditch beside Iyana Isolo Bridge, when a truck went into the gully, got stuck and while trying to force its way out, rolled back and hit an Okada rider coming behind. Though the rider was severely injured, the passenger died on the spot.
That particular spot, according to a road user, Poopola Ayobami, has been abandoned for more than a year. “Immediately after that incident, the road was cordoned off and motorists were diverted to use the other lane facing oncoming vehicles. But after experiencing terrible congestion, especially during peak periods, motorists found a way to maneuver around the ditch. That, too, is another disaster waiting to happen.”
Just as the embarrassing sight of the decrepit federal and state roads confronts and affects everyone, the awful condition of the inner-city roads leaves residents depressed, as the access roads tell a tale of abandonment and unfulfilled promises by the local councils.
Each resident has been turned into a mini local government, forced to provide his own amenities like electricity, security, water, education, and roads. At the lowest level, local government administration’s touch, expected to be the closest to the grassroots, is near absent. Where they are most visible is when aggressively collecting levies and revenue from artisans, business owners, and traders.
The old refrain that local governments were starved of funds by the state governments is no longer tenable, especially after the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) began implementation of direct disbursement of revenue allocation to local governments last year.
The Guardian investigation revealed that the 774 local government areas in the country were allocated a whopping N1.333trn from January to November 2019. In the 11 months, the 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Lagos State collectively got the highest amount of N87.32bn. They were followed by Kano State’s 44 LGAs, which got N86.62bn.
Ayobami wondered why council chairmen don’t swing into action immediately a road starts getting bad.
“The Isolo LCDA chairman is an example of how disconnected council chairmen are to the councils they superintend,” he said. “Almost all the roads from Ajao Estate, Isolo, Ire-akari, and Okota are in very bad shape. The man nicknamed Shammeh seems to me like someone on Sabbatical leave. The man has practically no idea what governance is about, or maybe it is greed that is preventing him from doing the right thing.”
Another road user, Solomon Ogbechie, noted that moving around the city is sheer torture.
He said: “Whether going out in the morning or afternoon and returning in the evening or at night, you have to be mentally prepared for the horror and torture on the road. In fact, we residents in Alimosho area are begging the governor to come to our rescue, on account of the number of bad roads.
“I know the governor has a lot in his hand, but the people of Alimosho need help. The roads from Akowonjo Roundabout to Egbeda, Shasha and its environs, Iyana Ipaja to Moshalashi and inside Baruwa are all in terrible shape.”
To prevent re-occurrence of a yearly flood, with its accompanying hardship during the coming rainy season, due to dilapidated roads, calls have gone out to the state government to urgently fix the major artery roads requiring serious attention.
The Ikeja branch chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Dele Oloke, has urged Sanwo-Olu “to put politics aside and fix Lagos State.”
Oloke recently told newsmen that Sanwo-Olu should think of how to move Lagos forward, by delivering dividends of democracy to Lagosians. Specifically, Oloke stressed the need for the Sanwo-Olu administration to prioritise maintenance of roads, to ease the stress on commuters.
He said: “Sanwo-Olu needs to set his priority right in the area of roads. He may not construct new roads, but he should aggressively maintain Lagos roads and ensure they use quality materials. They must be patching roads every day and resolve to achieve a lot with what is available to them. Also, all the adjoining roads should be repaired, to reduce the burden on the major roads, so that people can take alternative routes. The consequences of deplorable roads tell on people’s health.
An LSPWC official, who pleaded anonymity, in a chat with The Guardian while working on Bush Street, Maryland area, urged Lagosians to exercise patience, as nearly all the roads requiring critical attention would be covered before the rains.
He said: “Lagosians should not exercise any fear about the coming rains. We are getting ready for it to ensure the roads and drains are in good shape, and we are working day and night to make this happen.
“While work is going non-stop with road repairs, we are doing it alongside de-silting and clearing of drainages. We also plead with Lagosians to not turn drainage channels into dumpsites, as this will not only lead to flooding when the rain starts, but also damage the roads we are fixing. The mixture of asphalt and water is bad business. Also, motorists should be patient with our men, who are working on the roads. We understand there may be some traffic snarl, but it is all for the good of everybody.
“Also, no part of the state is left behind. We are covering everywhere. You can confirm this from our roadwork schedule, which we usually publish daily on our social media pages, as well as radio and television. This is to alert residents of those areas and those who may use the road to be prepared for our team and plan their journey ahead. On Thursday, January 16, our men will be working on roads in Epe, Ikeja, Shomolu, Kosofe, Eti-Osa, Agege, Alimosho, Lagos Mainland and Apapa.”