•Residents, commuters beg Ambode, FG to intervene
By Job Osazuwa
A reporter with The Leadership, Mr. Babalola Yusuf looked shattered. He had earnestly looked forward to beginning the first working day of the week without much hassles, but an early morning auto-crash caused by a pothole dented his enthusiasm and punctured his to-do list.
The accident happened on September 18, 2017 at Kola Bus Stop on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, where he hit a vehicle in front of him. The driver of the vehicle had applied his brake to manoeuvre through a pothole at the bus stop at about 5am that busy Monday morning, unknown to him that Yusuf had closed up with him. Although both drivers escaped unhurt, the collision delayed them for about an hour, which was consumed in negotiating how to repair the damaged cars.
“I woke up very early and prepared to go to Lagos Island. I left early, in order to beat the crazy Monday morning traffic congestion. But everything became a disappointment simply because of one pothole. The experience was so bad because I ended up spending much to repair the second party’s vehicle and mine,” he told Daily Sun.
Yusuf told the reporter that the amount of money he spent to repair both cars was enough for government to fix the failed portion that caused the problem.
Yusuf said: “My experience is simply one out of many other similar regular occurrences at different bad spots in the state. You cannot drive on a 10-kilometre stretch within Lagos without halting for a pothole, except in some roads in Victoria Island, Lagos Island and Lekki. I don’t know for how long we shall continue to lament over bad roads in a supposed mega city that Lagos claims to be.”
It is, indeed, a season of lamentations in Lagos. Everywhere you go, you see potholes of different lengths and circumferences defacing the roads. Many of the major and inner roads are visibly weary and begging for urgent attention from the state and federal governments. Driving on most of the roads is akin to receiving punishment for an offence the motorists never committed.
Normal activities in Lagos are daily frustrated by the slow movements, thereby leading to a huge loss in productive hours. Motorists, particularly the commercial drivers who spoke with the reporter, complained that their vehicles were not efficiently utilised, thereby plunging them into hardship. They described the financial losses as unquantifiable. Many of the residents’ livelihoods are shrunk because they directly or indirectly depend on the roads for survival.
Anywhere you go in Lagos at the moment, except a few areas, the roads are in bad shapes. The situation is daily compounded by the rainy season, which usually leads to flooding in many parts of the state. The aggrieved commuters as well as residents curse under their breath whenever they ply many roads, asking why the failed portions are not quickly fixed before they totally collapse.
Visits by the reporter to popular roads and streets like Ikorodu, Lagos-Badagry, Lagos-Abeokuta, Agege Motor Road, Ajah-Epe, Capitol, Apapa (towards Iganmu Bridge) Roads, Herbert Macaulay, Ahmadu Bello Ways and Falomo Roundabout revealed many sections of the roads to be in sorry state.
In the Ikorodu axis, Ogolonto-Ebute-Ipakodo Road is an eyesore. Several craters sit majestically in the middle of the road. Sagamu Road is one that brings tears to the eyes of most motorists. Between Odogunyan and Ikorodu Garage, scores of vehicle-damaging potholes and craters sit on the road.
Right now, Ijede Road can best be described as a death trap. The most sickening is Eleshin Bus Stop, by G&M Place. The road has cut into two, unleashing hell on motorists and commuters alike. The spots are shamefully decorated with craters, posing danger to users. It is an exceptional site for unpalatable tales even as help appears not in sight.
A resident of Ikorodu lamented: “You will pity those of us who live in Ikorodu simply because of the bad roads that dot many sections of the road. At Eleshin, commuters and motorists could spend more than one hour at a spot that is less than a 20-metre stretch. The loss on the road everyday is incalculable. On a very bad day, you exert more energy journeying on the road to work than the activities you would be engaged in at the workplace.”
On Lagos-Badagry international route, the story is no better. Motorists driving from Mile Two normally kiss goodbye to the smooth ride at Trade Fair area. From Barracks, it is a bumpy ride where the bodies and souls of passengers dance to needless vibrations generated from the potholes. From Volks, Iyana-Isashi, Iyana-Ira, Agbara, Magbon, Oko-Afor Bus Stops to Badagry Roundabouts are nothing but an international show of shame. The road is the gateway leading to many West African countries.
The route is renowned for gridlocks, especially during the rush hours in the mornings and evenings. On many occasions, a less-than-30-minutes journey would extend to four or more hours. In such situations, passengers who need to resume on time at their duty posts are left at the mercy of motorcycle riders to continue their journey. The riders never fail to cash in on the opportunity, and they take delight in charging exorbitant fees. They ply their trade on the road, treading on the thin line between life and death. Caution is a strange word in their dictionary as they recklessly face oncoming vehicles and manoeuvre their way between stuck trailers and tankers.
Though the Badagry road is undergoing reconstruction and expansion to a ten-lane dual carriageway, residents of the area and other users of the road have repeatedly cried to the federal and state governments to make it passable for them. But their prayers are yet to get the desired attention.
Mr. Hilary Ogini said: “Recently, an SUV ran into one of the bad sections and tumbled. The driver sustained major injuries all over his body. If not for the Good Samaritans who rushed to the scene to rescue the man who was the lone occupant, he would have died because he was bleeding profusely as at the time help came his way.
“I have lost a lot to the road. I live at Oko-Afor, which ordinarily would not have taken me more than one hour to get to where l work at Mile Two. Unfortunately, I spend an average of three hours going and another three hours returning home all through five days in a week. It is frustrating and making life miserable for us. The government has failed in this area. Good road is one of the basic necessities that make life pleasurable for people anywhere in the world, but our case on the Lagos-Badagry axis is sour.”
Ambode’s orders ignored?
Perturbed by the dilapidated state of the roads, and in order to ameliorate users’ plight, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in August ordered the Lagos State Public Works Corporation to patch all the affected areas. But as at the time of filing this report, less than 30 per cent of the failed portions had been fixed by the agency.
On Lagos-Abeokuta Road, some of the fixed portions were immediately damaged by vehicles. Though the workers put some skeletal barricades warning drivers to stay off the filled potholes, only a few managed to comply.
How bad roads inspire criminal activities
Armed robbers are a constant threat to innocent souls, particularly at night in some of the affected areas. It is common for thieves and other miscreants to hide around bad portions of the roads where all vehicles expectedly come to a halt.
One prominent spot for incessant robbery operations on the Lagos-Badagary Road is the Car Wash Bus Stop. According to residents of the area, it is one night, one robbery. Commuters, as gathered, always get themselves prepared for a probable ambush by the criminals. In most instances where there is a gridlock on the spot, men of the underworld appear from their hiding to strike, robbing passengers of their belonging.
At Capitol junction and its environs in Agege, pickpockets hover around stuck vehicles looking for whom to waylay. Like the speed of lightening, they smash cars’ windows and grab passengers’ belongings before disappearing.
Kola Bus Stop on the Lagos Abeokuta Expressway is another area that is notorious for theft at night. The failed portions between Kola and Moshalashi create fertile grounds for the thieves to make life miserable for commuters and motorists. They carry out their operations at will without being challenged by anyone.
Driving in tears
In Lagos, all the main arteries are afflicted with dangerous potholes. It is practically impossible to avoid all of them as quite often one preventive manoeuvre often leads the driver into yet another pothole. There have been accidents and in some cases loss of lives and property. It is driving in pain and tears.
Trailers and tankers are quite vulnerable. The trailer drivers, as observed, often do not firmly secure the containers they carry, relying on their weight for stability, thereby endangering the lives of other road users. Many of them wobble and tumble on smaller vehicles, leaving a trail of tears and blood.
Commuters are in so much trouble that it is impossible for them to plan a journey or predict an arrival time. In many parts of Lagos, a journey of 20 minutes could be completed in three hours, depending on the time of the day.
According to Mr. Balogun Bamidele, driving on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway is a huge task, far from mere driving. He maintained that anyone who could drive on that route regularly would have no difficulty driving in every other part of the country
Said he: “Recently, l drove to Badagry to see my relative. It was hell for me. The entire road is bad. At almost every bus stop, I had to be swerving and dodging potholes and nearly ramming to other vehicles. At a point, I began to regret why I drove down there because I spent over N7, 000 to fix my shock absorber and other faults when I took the vehicle to my mechanic the following day.
“It was so terrible that my seven-year-old daughter asked me why I was sweating and murmuring. Though such pathetic situations are not peculiar to the Badagry route, the situation there is worse. There are many portions that are also bad on Iyana Ipaja to Agege, but those ones are manageable when compared to some other areas.”
A driver with a private car rental company in Lekki, Mr. Opeyemi Mustapha, told the reporter that the fear of potholes and ability to dodge them is another matter entirely, especially on Ajah-Epe Road.
“The road is good from Ajah Roundabout till Abraham Ogunsanya. Inwards into Ibeju-Lekki, it is a complete failure. The road is busy, narrow and full of potholes. When you are driving there, there is a constant feeling that you will soon get to another bad spot. I’m used to the route because it is where I ply everyday. But first timers always run into the potholes and sometimes cause accidents. Another sad thing is that most of the drivers on the route are reckless. Because the road has no median, they make a U-turns now and then without considering how close other vehicles are to their own vehicles,” he said.
Motorists count losses
An editor with The Sun, who doesn’t want his name in print, still gets upset whenever he remembers how he lost a tyre at Charity Bus Stop in Oshodi in August. He was driving to work when he ran into a deep pothole, and his new tyre that he bought a few weeks earlier, was immediately condemned.
“It was a very painful experience that got me really angry. The particular spot has been fixed by the state government, but there are others there that are yet to be fixed,” he said.
Mr. Monday, a commercial bus driver plying the Oshodi-Egbeda route, said he would not easily forget the day his gasket got burnt between Ladipo and PWD on the axis. He recalled that it rained heavily on that day and the area, including the main road was overrun by flood.
Hear him: “The traffic that day was beyond the usual. I charged passengers N400 from Oshodi to Egbeda instead of the normal N100 or N150, but I ended up regretting why I embarked on the journey. I should have parked my bus as most of my colleagues did, to allow the flood to subside.
“We spent over four hours between Oshodi and Ikeja, and in the process my bus started overheating. I didn’t notice it on time. By the time my passengers at the back seat drew my attention to it, it was too late. The worst part was that the passengers collected their complete money from my conductor and left us in the pool of water. It took us more than one hour to push the bus out of the flood. If those in charge had evacuated the blocked drainage, drivers and passengers wouldn’t have undergone such an ordeal.
“It is unfortunate that most times, we are not able to use our vehicles to make more money. We could be on a spot, particularly now that the government is constructing a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lane on Abule Egba-Oshodi Road. The heavy-duty equipment the contractors use causes us more sorrow. They occupy a large chunk of the road and use the bulldozers to dig potholes on the single lane that is left for us.”
At the mercy of mechanics
The very many potholes on the road keep the vehicles at the mechanics’ workshops. After plying the death traps, the vehicles perpetually retire to mechanics workshops at the end of the day. The ugly scenario has given rise to emergency mechanics who assist stranded commuters, but sometimes with grievous consequences.
Chief Uche Maduka, who lives at Oko-Afor, said he now replaces his vehicle’s hub virtually every week due to the bad spots that dot the axis.
“On so many occasions, I would leave my vehicles at home to board commercial buses. I do this to stop incurring needless expenses each time I drive through the road and many other streets in Lagos.
“I was taught that one of the fundamental roles of the local government is to ensure regular maintenance of roads. I don’t think that is being practised in Lagos and other states in Nigeria,” Maduka said.
Also, Francis Odiaka who drives from Abesan Estate at Ipaja in Alimosho Local Government Area to where he works at the local airport in Ikeja said he services his car every three weeks instead of every two months that was recommended to him.
“At the end of every week, l hear a strange sound from my vehicle that will warrant me taking it to the mechanic. It is not easy spending extra money to fix one’s car all the time when you have other pressing issues to deal with.”
Call for action
It is worth re-emphasising that Nigerians are routinely being put at risk everyday as a result of the failure of the state to provide smooth and durable roads for its citizens. On this note, the government at all levels are being called upon to wake up from their slumber and swing into action in order to avert cheap deaths on the roads.
Failure to embrace and nurture maintenance culture on Lagos roads has become a public issue. Keen observers blame the problem on leadership failure, arguing that good roads are a basic component of good governance.
Pastor Muyiwa Adebayo of Biblical Truth Evangelical Ministries, Lagos, charged all the authorities involved in road construction and maintenance to up their games and change the ugly narratives. He believes that provision of good roads is one of the panaceas needed for economic growth in any area.
“The advanced countries don’t joke with provision of good roads. Every good plan of any place begins with a good road network. No matter the huge investment in a place, if the road is not good, the investment becomes a failure. It is only in this part of the world that politicians campaign with construction and maintenance of roads and yet fail to deliver on the promises. But in civilised countries, good roads are not negotiable and had been fixed to last for decades,” he said.
An economics teacher and a scholar, Sonibare Michael told the reporter that the benefits of good roads in any society could not be overemphasised. He said it was economically wise to build and maintain roads, stressing that it opens ways to many business and employment opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has disclosed that it had embarked on emergency repair projects in the state, even as it explained that due to the paucity of funds, it would not be able to fix all the bad roads.
The roads earmarked for a quick fix are Ijora Causaway, Ijora Flyover (East link), Funsho Williams Avenue, Costain Roundabout to Eko Bridg Ramp, Funsho Williams Bridge to Alaka, Carter Bridge Roundabout, Jibowu Junction to Adekunle junction, Apongbon Bridge to Bonny Camp, Kingsway Road to Osbourne Road, Apapa Road to Western Avenue, Onikan Junction through Apongbon Bridge, Ijora Olopa to Ijora 7UP (beside Oloye Nursery and Primary School, Alaka to Apongbon through Eko Bridge (both carriageways).
The rest are Lagos Island General Hospital to Apogbon; Onikan/Lagos Island to Apongbon through Apongbon Bridge/CMS (CMS bound); Eko Bridge to Ijora; Ijora to Apapa Road through underneath Iganmu flyover (Costain bound) and National Theatre train station to Costain.