Motorists, pedestrians, and other road users plying the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Expressway, are worried by the protracted delay in completing work on the road, even as the road has gone from bad to worse in the last few months.
They are worried that 18 months after the Federal Government re-awarded contract for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the road, there are still no signs of abatement in their sufferings since it was awarded 19 years ago.
The project, which started in 1999, has suffered several setbacks since the first contract was awarded to Julius Berger Plc, in 2000. The first section for rehabilitation was the Ota-Abeokuta section, which contract was awarded to the same contractor in 2009.
All through the 19 years, the project has been abandoned severally, no thanks to failure by government to release funds. Within this period, the contractor kept vacating and returning to site usually after the little gains had been eroded due to abandonment.
However, many affected users of the road thought their prayers had been answered when the contractor returned to site last year after N3.5b was reportedly paid, only days after then Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing officially inaugurated the rehabilitation works valued at N22. 387b, on May 14, 2018.
But little did they know that the rehabilitation work, expected to start from Ile Zik Bus Stop, Ikeja, Lagos State, and Brewery Bus Stop in Ogun State, was more of political gimmick ahead of the last general elections, as the contractor again left the site last June blaming it on negligence on the part of the Federal Government.
The Director, Federal Highways, South West, Olalekan Busari, who flagged-off the rehabilitation project, told journalists then: “The project was divided into two sections, the first section, which starts from Ile Zik, in Lagos State, spans about 20 km, while the second section, which falls within Ogun State is 60km.
“It is a complete rehabilitation of the entire road this time around, and it is awarded at the cost of N22.387b, and for a contract period of two and half years, which we hope the contractor will deliver,” he said.
Between the period that the road rehabilitation was flagged-off and when Julius Berger left the site, not much was achieved as the firm practically remained on the same spot at Owode-Iyana/Ilogbo axis, while scant attention was paid to other parts, which are now in a deplorable state. Even the palliatives applied in the section last year got washed away by heavy downpours at the peak of the rainy season.
Currently, the gridlock on different sections of the road has defied solutions, and this impacts road users heavily. Consequently, from Oshodi to Ifo, a journey, which should be about one hour, now takes between four to five hours. At whatever time of the day, road users are always subjected to painful and frustrating experiences.
Also of no positive effect on the road, is the routine intervention by the Ogun State government, in the form of stones, which is now barely noticeable and has practically been washed away, leaving the affected parts in very bad shape.
With construction work ongoing on the expressway, the Lagos-Abeokuta highway is I not fit as an alternative for those who want to escape the Lagos-Ibadan gridlock.
Precious Akintobi, a student shares her experience. “A few weekends ago, precisely on a Saturday, I left the Abule-Egba area of Lagos State for Ifo, in Ogun State quite early in the day, but I did not get there until around 5 pm. For most of the journey, the traffic gridlock was at a standstill on the route,” she lamented.
Currently, the most terrible spots along the expressway are Joju Junction; Conoil Junction; Ijako-Tipper; Owode; Iyana-Ilogbo; Ilepa; Iyana-Shebik; Papalanto; Ewekoro; Iyana-Egbado; Itori Bridge, and Obada-Oko, among others. By far, the worst stretch of the road now is from Ewekoro to Itori.
Traffic in and around these bad spots is always at a standstill. Once this happens, policemen and traffic control officers are always helpless.
Once there is a downpour, the state of the road is worsened, and areas like Joju Junction, Ijako, Owode, and Itori become waterlogged.