THE present governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode is someone I greatly admire. Like I have always said, he is a governor in a hurry- in a hurry to change the landscape of Lagos with commendable development. When he first came in and embarked on the light up Lagos initiative, many thought it was a fluke that the darkness would soon return on the streets. But critics have been proved wrong. Lagos is still lit. I have driven on the road on few occasions without remembering to put on my headlamp. That is just one of the many achievements of Governor Ambode.
Most people who come into Lagos from the Lagos-Ibadan expressway would hardly recognize the new Berger bus stop with its anger-inducing traffic gridlock which could stretch as far as the beginning of Kara bridge on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. He had been able to find a permanent solution to the problem.
The same can be said of the Oworonsoki end of the Third Mainland Bridge. A permanent solution had been found to the traffic that keeps motorists on the Third mainland bridge for hours.
One thing is quite clear; Governor Ambode has upped the ante in governance with his developmental strides. If Lagosians says Governor Ambode’s predecessor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, present Minister of Works, Power and Housing did well, his achievements pale into insignificance with what Ambode has done in less than three years as governor.
But critical issues have come up with some of the ongoing works especially in areas of road construction. Most importantly, the governor needs to rein in the construction companies who have become extremely arrogant and unfeeling with the way they have gone about their work. I have made certain observations to a few friends in the present administration in the state, on this. There are many road constructions presently going on on the mainland, linking different areas and putting less pressure on the major highways, which is quite commendable. Some of such roads are around the Agbado-Oke Odo Local Council Development Area (LCDA). The long stretch of the AIT road is now becoming a dual carriage of four lanes. This is linked to Amikanle axis towards Old Otta road and ultimately linking up with Command, towards Ipaja-Ajobo LCDA axis. When completed, it would provide alternatives for commuters and motorists going to Ipaja, Ikotun axis even as far as Cele, Okota areas, without going through Iyana Ipaja. Unfortunately, the arrogance of the construction companies is alienating a lot of people to the good work of the Lagos government. Apart from blocking some of the roads and not providing alternatives, the dust haze due to the construction is causing havoc in the areas where construction works are ongoing. When we were growing up and roads were being constructed, the construction companies ensured that the roads were always wet. Their water sprinklers were regularly used to ensure that the dust haze did not disturb residents in those areas where the construction was being done. The exception is the rule today, it’s like the construction companies are telling the people to shut up and cease complaining since the work being done is for their good. Yes, when completed, the new roads would serve the people well. But must they all die in the process or left with legacies of disease before the construction ends? Most of the houses in the axis are covered in dust.
A similar scenario is playing out around Oshodi where major constructions are ongoing with the construction of drainages, building of BRT lanes and the expansion of the International airport road. Access roads have been blocked without commensurate alternatives. Where there are access roads, they are in poor state, leading to unending logjam; ultimately, a whole lot of man-hour is lost. Examples of such are the access roads from Oshodi local government through Oshodi road and the Post Office which has been blocked. The alternative through Ewenla and Seinde Callisto roads leading to Charity bus stop and ultimately, the Apapa-Oshodi expressway which had been accessible to motorists has also been blocked. If you are around that axis, the only way to go is through Mafoluku community, to link up with the airport road with its own traffic congestion, due to the airport road construction. There is Agege, where a major fly over bridge is being constructed. Though it has its own problem, good alternatives have been provided, unlike the others. From Anthony bus stop, it takes about two hours to get to Oshodi-Oke, a distance of less than three kilometers. It is a crazy scenario, all rounds.
Speaking with a Lagos-based, UK- trained engineer recently, he was of the opinion that things could have been done differently if the state had adopted what he described as Value Engineering. He explained the concept thus; “a process where all the relevant professionals come together, usually at the end of the design stage to ascertain a few issues but mainly deliberate on construction methods and processes. Things like diversionary routes, public notifications, time of travel would be delved into in details and an efficient system to streamline construction with minimum interference with the travelling public would be the end product”. But should the governor be blamed for the loss of man-hours occasioned by the construction? Not at all. The governor only sees the super structure. The little, finer details should be the responsibilities of the Ministries of Works and Infrastructure, Transportation, Physical planning and lastly, Urban Planning and Development. It is the combined inadequacies of these ministries that have led to the suffering that Lagosians go through in traffic gridlock on daily basis. My friend suggested that the aggregation of all the roads being constructed in the same axis is poor practice. The state should have picked unconnected roads to work on instead of embarking on road construction in the same axis. Work on the roads should have been a 24-hour exercise and this should include Saturdays and Sundays. Thus a project that would have been done in 18 months would be completed within nine months. Would this not have been a desirable alternative considering what Lagosians are going through now? My friend explained the loss thus; ‘let’s assume Lagos population is about 20 million and half of the population are children, the old and infirm and we assume the rest of about 10 million are workers. If we conservatively estimate that Lagosians spend two hours daily in traffic-one hour in the morning and another hour in the evening. Taken with N18, 000 minimum wages, two hours in traffic would amount to N140 loss. With a working population of 10 million, we can thus assume a loss of N1.4 billion daily. Imagine what this would amount to if the construction work continues for about a year. The government should look into this. As a palliative, alternative roads should be patched up and made better. LASTMA officials should also be deployed along some of these problematic areas to move traffic.
To readers of NIGERIA ON MY MIND
Today’s opinion will be the last of NIGERIA ON MY MIND. I want to thank the many readers and those that have followed my concerns for our country on this page.
Their support and encouragement, through telephone calls and text messages, have helped also in shaping some of the views expressed here. We do not have to share the same views all the time, but the ultimate is to have a better country. But now other assignments call, also in the service of Nigerians.