HIGHWAY TO HELL
Bad portions of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway
For motorists and commuters plying the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, it's an endless tales of pain and trauma. The hard times they are compelled to face as a result of deep and deadly potholes that dot the road like landmines have continued to raise pertinent questions that have remained unanswered.
For years now, the long hours spent on the disintegrating road have inflicted both physical and emotional torture on motorists. No part of this main artery is spared the onslaught of deadly potholes that have inflicted untold agony on Lagosians plying the route daily. The situation degenerates by the day with more dangerous potholes emerging, aided by the rains and failed drainages. Avoiding them is quite risky and could be quite catastrophic. For drivers unfamiliar with the death traps spewed on the road and driving at breakneck speed, the result can be better imagined.
From early hours of the morning till late at night, motorists are compelled to drive slowly to avoid plunging into craters on the road. This bumper-to-bumper ride results in unending, neck-breaking traffic jams.
From Sango Ota in Ogun State to Ikeja in Lagos, stories of traumatic hours in traffic jam remain the same. Describing the road as a huge slaughter slab is like stating the obvious.
Many people have either lost their lives, inflicted with permanent disability or are lucky to have escaped unscathed from mangled vehicles due to these potholes. According to a Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) report, 18 road crashes involving mostly lorries were recorded between January and July 2010, on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
Recently, a journalist with one of the nation's major media houses riding with his entire family, escaped death by the whiskers at Mangoro Bus-Stop. The car, a Toyota Camry was hit from behind and compressed by an LT Bus belonging to a church. The journalist was avoiding one of the numerous ditches on the road. They narrowly missed being plunged into a major canal some feet away. The impact of the crash made it quite difficult for those who witnessed the fatal crash to believe that occupants of the car would survive.
On Sunday, January 25, 2009, one person was killed while several others were injured in two separate accidents involving two Molue buses and a Nissan Primera car, at the Cement Bus-Stop area.
One of the buses hung precariously across the culvert that separated a major canal from the road, while the second one that killed a seven-year-old boy was damaged beyond recognition. According to eyewitnesses, the two accidents occurred less than two hours apart.
Still at Cement Bus-Stop, about 20 persons were injured when two commercial buses veered off the highway and rammed into a school compound on January 4, 2008.
These accidents took place because the vehicles tried to avoid failed portions on the road. Calls made to relevant authorities to repair the roads have gone unanswered going by the number of unattended potholes that have metamorphosed into craters.
Nothing could be more frustrating than spending uneventful hours either on the roadside waiting to catch one of the buses trapped in the traffic snarl, or driving through the gridlock itself. But that is what people have endured for months now on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway with no respite in sight.
Motorists start tasting the bitter pill dosed out by the deplorable road from the Sango Ota axis, just by the newly commissioned bridge. Riding through the bridge and its link roads is a tortuous ride. Places like Dalemo, Gate Way Hotel and Tollgate poses more danger to road users, as potholes there continue to widen by the day, aided by water spilled to the road from a blocked drainage. The stress and man-hour loss experienced due to failed portions which stretch from Ajegunle, Abule-Egba, Ile-Epo, Iyana-Ipaja, Cement, Mangoro to Ile-Zik is unquantifiable.
The Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway has been rehabilitated several times yet the problem of pot holes still persists. In 2003, rehabilitation of the road was undertaken by construction giant, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. The work which dragged from months into years caused untold hardship to motorists plying the axis. But barely a year after the rehabilitation, fast expanding potholes resurfaced in areas where the construction firm had concentrated their efforts.
Ordinarily, the expressway which was constructed by the federal government should be maintained by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA). But the agency seems to have gone to sleep at a time it should step up repair works.
In August 2009, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, during the inauguration of additional Bus Rapid Transit routes for Iyana-Ipaja, Ikeja and Maryland, promised to reconstruct the failed portions of the road, especially from the Ile-Zik Bus Stop to Iyana-Ipaja. He said fixing of the failed portions of the road had become imperative to ease traffic congestion, and promised that work would commence as soon as that year's rainy season was over.
A year has passed since the promise was made and the state government's promise has not transmitted into action.
According to an exasperated motorist who was trapped in the gridlock experienced daily on the road, no words can adequately describe the anger they feel each time they get to failed portions of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
'We are tired of this type of suffering. No matter how early I leave my house for the office, I still end up getting to work late. I once left my house at about 8:30am one day and got to my office by 1: 30 pm. It is disheartening,' he said.
'We are supposed to have a federal controller of works in this state. What does he do,' asked an angry driver who was drenched in sweat. Continuing, he said: 'We make things quite difficult for ourselves in this country.
We envy Ghana and other Western world but we are not committed to making it work. I believe somebody is feeding fat from the bad situation of this road.' Reacting to the terrible state of the road, a senior Federal Road Maintenance Agency official in charge of the Ikorodu-Epe axis, Mr. Ige Babatunde, an engineer, said remedial works on the road would soon commence. He noted that the federal government is not insensitive to the plight of its citizens, and so would respond to their plight.
'We want to avoid duplication of work. Due to public outcry, the suffering of Lagosians on the road would soon be a thing of the past,' he offered.
However, while speaking on phone with Mr. Akinbade, an engineer and the officer under whose jurisdiction the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway falls, Daily Sun met a brick wall. He declined to speak on the issue and said all questions should be referred to the Federal Controller of Works, Ejike Mgbemena. A message sent to the controller's mobile line was not replied, however.