WORKS and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola undertook an inspection of the perennially gridlocked Lagos-Ibadan expressway last weekend to give pep to the construction work that has been ongoing – almost for ever – on that major national access route. He urged contractors engaged for the construction to speed up work and make the artery free and safe for travelers ahead of the Yuletide.
With the extreme nightmare the highway has become for motorists, it was reassuring hearing the minister affirm commitment by the Muhammadu Buhari presidency to seeing through the construction. “The rehabilitation, construction, and expansion of the Lagos-Ibadan dual carriageway, construction of 2nd Niger bridge and the rehabilitation, construction, and expansion of Abuja-Kaduna-Kano dual carriageway are strategic infrastructure development projects of Mr. President. These projects are financed with the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) funded from the Sovereign Wealth Fund and they are national priority highway projects,” he said. Fashola explained the Lagos-Ibadan expressway project as comprising section 1, which involves rehabilitation, reconstruction, and expansion of the dual carriageway of about 43.6km commencing from the old toll gate at Oregun/Ikosi-Ketu in Lagos and terminating at Shagamu interchange in Ogun State, being handled by Julius Berger contractors; and section 2 spanning 84km beginning from Sagamu interchange on to Ibadan, contracted to RCC. He urged the firms to finish the work on time, so to ease travelers’ discomfort, adding: “You contractors should remember that you do this work for the people, and that you must be passionate in doing it by easing the trauma people go through while on the road.”
During a town hall meeting with stakeholders at Ogere, Ogun State, the minister directed trailers that park indiscriminately at that section of the expressway to immediately vacate the area and give way for ongoing construction work.
By all means, the ministerial intervention was long overdue. Anyone who travels on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway knows it is the most hazardous of Nigeria’s major arteries as of today: it takes an average of five hours to travel between Lagos and Ibadan – a journey that ordinarily should be under one hour – with apocalyptic gridlocks at Ibafo and Ogere axes of the highway. And those gridlocks are literally life-endangering, because many fuel tankers have been known to catch fire and incinerate other vehicles while trapped in traffic.
The contractors, in their presentations, cited high traffic volume and new settlements on the highway as impediments to construction, saying 400,000 vehicles plied the road daily and 3,000 of them per hour. But truth also is: they have been overly insensitive in managing disruptions to traffic occasioned by construction work and thereby made life a hell for motorists. The minister would do well to hold them very strictly to the work order just given.