Traffic from Hell 

0

Chiemelie Ezeobi who spent over four grueling hours on the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, writes on the pains and suffering of commuters who ply that axis, brought on by the ongoing construction by Julius Berger and the very bad roads  
 
Imagine having a stressful day and at the end of which you intend to go home and soak in a warm bath to relax your muscles. Hold that thought. Again, imagine a smooth road, devoid of traffic and potholes as you drive home. Well that imagination might work for another person but not for persons plying the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. Rather, the reverse is the case for them.
 
For motorists and road users plying that axis, there is nothing like a smooth sail, as they constantly battle with the bad roads and the perennial traffic, so much so that it has been dubbed the traffic from hell. Welcome to Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, where traffic reigns supreme and bad roads cause untold pains and hardship to road users. 
 
Safely cocooned in Lagos, this reporter had absolutely zero idea of the pains and sufferings of motorists and residents of the border towns between Lagos and Ogun States face on a daily basis, especially those who have no choice but to ply the Lagos/ Ibadan Expressway.
 
That was all to change recently following a chat with Mr. Peter Iwegbu, one of THISDAY’s Divisional Directors and this reporter. It had all began with Iwegbu lamenting the pains they have to go through when plying the said road. According to him, they sometimes spend more than six hours on that stretch of road due to the ongoing construction and the bad portions of the roads.
 
The story was supposed to have been done from the safety of our office in Lagos after interviewing him and other persons of interest whom this reporter contacted, but with the picture painted by all of them, it necessitated a visit to the said road to understand what they were all lamenting about. 
 
So, penultimate Friday, this reporter had waited till about 5pm, which was rush hour to bravely head for the said road. Upon leaving Lagos, there were the usual pockets of traffic, but nothing out of the ordinary, thus lulling this reporter into a false sense of security. That was so until the commercial vehicle started approaching Redeemed Camp. 
 
It had begun with a moving traffic until the bus got to a spot, as from the Redeemed Camp to Mowe it became blocked. Due to the road repairs, the construction caused serious traffic from Redeemed Christian Church of God towards the interchange and from the testimonies of fellow passengers, it was discovered that sometimes, the traffic starts from Shagamu interchange and spills to the expressway. 
 
From THISDAY’s observations, three factors were responsible for the traffic from hell- the terrible state of the roads, the ongoing reconstruction and the impatience of the motorists. 
 
The reconstruction of the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway was flagged off on July 2013 by the former President Goodluck Jonathan, to help reduce the travel time of the thousands of commuters that ply that axis, an aim which has been seemingly defeated now, going by the stress people pass through to access those routes.
 
From Mowe through to Ibafo and Kara, Wawa, Arepo, Asese, Magboro and Opic Plaza, the stories are all the same. It is a story of sheer pain and grueling traffic that renders one particularly speechless and weak. So, you can imagine the state of those who ply that route to and fro from work on a daily basis. 
 
Already, the bad roads and the dredging by the construction company have reduced the road from four lanes to two lanes, thus making it difficult for motorists to drive seamlessly. Again, welcome to the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, where it all began with a few potholes, which when it was left unattended to at the developing stage, metamorphosed into the craters that now impede the smooth flow of traffic.
 
The Ikorodu Alternative
THISDAY checks reveal that on occasions when there is every likelihood that the route will be on a lockdown, especially when the churches along that axis are holding their programmes, the reaffirm agencies usually direct road users to ply other alternative routes in and out of Lagos. 

Although some of these alternative routes are not in their best shape either, they are far better than what is obtainable at the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. The routes includes the Ikorodu to Odogunyan to Sagamu then Ibadan route, the Lagos to Abeokuta Expressway through Sango Otta to Owode  and then Sagamu Interchange and also the Lekki to Epe to Ijebu Ode to link up to Sagamu or Ibadan. 
For some private vehicles, these alternative routes might have been viable but for the fact that they don’t know the routes. Again, for those that live far away from those alternative routes, it might take a journey of two or three hours to get there before they even proceed on their journey.
 
For instance, someone who wants to take the Lekki-Epe route and lives on the Mainland, would have to drive all the way to Lekki, face the island traffic before even heading to Epe, a distance of about an hour from Lekki. Those factors have been a source of discouragement for those who would have resorted to taking the alternative routes. 
 
A Prime Spot for Robbers 
Expectedly, the traffic proved a fodder for robberies. Taking advantage of the traffic situation, the traffic robbers are said to have taken over the expressway especially early in the morning and late in the evening. 
Often acting under the guise of controlling traffic, these traffic robbers usually end up robbing motorists of their money, phones and other valuables. A clearer picture has begun to emerge on the recent influx of such traffic robbers to that axis, who hold the motorists hostage and then rob them blind.
The most common these days especially with the terrible traffic snarl, are those miscreants who take advantage of such traffic snarls and attack motorists by breaking their car windows glasses . There are yet other criminals who perpetuate their acts of criminality by disguising themselves as beggars to rob their victims. 
 
Expectedly, this challenge is a bitter pill to swallow for road users who also have the traffic situation to contend with. However to curb that trend, the motorbikes of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) are often deployed there by the commander, ACP Olatunji Disu. 
 
The Road Users Lament
When it became obvious that the vehicles weren’t going anywhere soon because of the traffic snarl, this reporter had gotten down to interview some of the motorists stuck there. 
 
Speaking with THISDAY, Mr. Iwegbu said, “Areas like 
Wawa Area have potholes and craters. Once it rains, splash floods settle in the potholes and craters. With that, vehicles have no choice but to slow down to navigate the potholes and causes traffic gridlock. 
 
“Last two weeks Tuesday and Wednesday was hell from inward Lagos, from 6am to midnight to inwards MFM from 12pm to 12 midnight. The cause is that Julius Berger mounted a median dividing the bridge inwards Lagos from MFM as they resurface the bridge. 
 
“This has been on for over two months and reduced vehicular movements. Inwards MFM there are potholes and craters on the main road. When it rains water accumulates on the potholes at Warewa and MFM and Ibafor areas which slow vehicular movements from long bridge to MFM and at Arepo on the express bridge, especially after the long bridge. 
 
“But the cause of the traffic is after MFM inward Mowe. There is a pothole or crater on the main road. The pothole is littered along the road from Warewa to Redemption camp. Whenever it rains, water accumulates in the potholes and slows down vehicular movements. It’s has now become a nightmare for all road travelers.
 
“Last year in July, the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, specially supervised the road repairs at Warewa following which relief came to road users. But the road is now bad again. Julius Berger has commenced work on the long bridge which further worsened the traffic situation because half the road is now blocked inward Lagos for the reconstruction works. Virtually all the time, the road construction and bad roads create terrible traffic for us. On Friday, I left office by 5pm and I got home by 2am on Saturday. Some other residents got home by 4am and 6am. We need help on that axis.”
 
One Mr. Kunle Oyebade, a civil servant with one of the ministries in Lagos, who resides at the Awawa area told THISDAY bitterly, “There are days I spend more than three hours from Redemption camp to Ibafo. To say vehicles move at a snail speed is putting it mildly.”
 
When asked about the repairs on the road, which some blamed for the hellish traffic snarl he said, “It’s not about repairing the roads. It’s ironic that they are trying to repair the roads to make movement easier but at the same time, they are contributing hugely to the demonic traffic snarl, thus making life hellish for road users.
 
“Only God knows what Julius Berger is doing to reduce this hardship on the expressway. This is what we face everyday to and fro from work. Nobody cares about the stress we are passing through. No palliative measures to ease movement for us. 
 
“I have gotten older than my age and I am sure this road contributed to it. We are all being stressed out. There was this Friday that we spent about six hours. I got home about 1am. Imagine if the next day was a work day, I will sleep for only three hours before setting out again by 5am.”
 
Mr. Ifeanyi Ikechukwu, a commuter who plies that axis has this to say, “The traffic from Mowe to the long bridge stretch at Wawa is usually on lockdown and motorists are stuck on that axis. There was a time the traffic got us on one Friday evening like that. We had just left Berger when the traffic began.
 
“After sitting inside the bus for hours, I, alongside several others were forced to trek to Arepo, some even farther than that, when it became obvious that the cars won’t move that night. It was an experience that needs no repeating. The traffic stretched to the next morning. Even the motorcycles that were brave enough to meander the traffic had difficulties navigating. 
 
“The slow pace of the construction work coupled with bad roads has stretched a journey of 20 minutes to hours. Some of the blame should be passed on to the contractors. They are so slow. They only use a handful of men for such a huge project. The Federal Government should call them to order. We are not just talking about the approach to work but their insensitivity in demarcating the road, thus reducing it from four to two lanes for all vehicles. Sometimes, vehicles break down and this exacerbates the already horrible situation.”
Another road user who did not want his name on print said, “With the pains we go through everyday, one would have expected the contractor to work day and night to fast track the process, but in this case, they only work during the day. One would have expected them to have a human face and carry out palliative work on the bad sections. When you get to that flooded path, all cars struggle to squeeze through one lane in order to avoid the deep end.”
However, for those blaming the churches on that axis of contributing to the traffic, they were yet others who think there should be a partnership between the churches, where they can get people to leave their cars at an agreed and secured spot and then arrange for bus shuttles that will then take them to their respective churches, to ease traffic. 
 
Julius Berger, Ogun Government React
As earlier reported by THISDAY in August this year, Julius Berger, the construction company handling the rehabilitation of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, had stated that the traffic gridlock on the expressway will not ease up till November.
The construction firm’s manager, West Division, Mr. Wolfgang Loesser, spoke to the press when he led his team on a courtesy visit to the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun. The manager had said the rehabilitation of the highway, particularly the 5km long bridge where major work was being executed, would not be completed at least until November ending. He also said work on the bridge was complex due to the several stages of construction and the required diligence.
According to him, “But I also want to point out that there are many bottlenecks on the road; for example, the Ogun River base. So we are likely to experience the same problem there, where we will have several stages of traffic management. We can only do it if everybody is disciplined and takes care to drive safely within the construction area.”
THISDAY had also reported that on their part, the state Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Lekan Adegbite, had said that the state government would open up a parallel earth road to serve as an alternative route to ease traffic at the long bridge section of the expressway.
He explained that government has resolved to increase law and traffic enforcement personnel, including the police, officials of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and TRACE officers to the area, while the contractor is also expected to speed up work to meet the targeted completion period.
 
About the Lagos/Ibadan Road Project
After a long hiatus, the two construction giants responsible for fixing the expressway, Julius Berger, Nigeria PLC and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC), had resumed work on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway project in June 2016. Recall that the reconstruction and rehabilitation works on the highway were suspended due to some issues with the Federal Government which include funding.
Although that stretch of road is undergoing construction, the section one, which is from Lagos to Sagamu interchange, being handled by Julius Berger, is exactly the part where commuters suffer the most. 
The rehabilitation of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was awarded in 2013 at a total cost of N167 billion by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to Wikipedia, the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway is a 127.6-kilometre-long (79.3 mi) expressway connecting Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State and Lagos State, the commercial centre of Nigeria. It is also the major route to the northern, southern and eastern parts of Nigeria. 
The expressway is the oldest in Nigeria, inaugurated in August 1978 during the Military era, under the administration of Major-General Olusegun Obasanjo. Also, the expressway is the busiest inter-state route in Nigeria and handles more than 250,000 PCUs daily and constitutes one of the largest road networks in Africa.
The contract was awarded to Julius Berger Nigeria and Reynolds Construction Company Limited at a sum of 167 billion Naira, equivalent to $838.986290. Two sections of the expressway will be reconstructed and this includes Section I (Lagos to Sagamu Interchange) and section II (Sagamu Interchange to Ibadan).
However no matter how one looks at it, the government either at the federal or state level (in this case, Lagos and Ogun States) needs to step into this issue and look for ways to ameliorate the situation. The construction companies on the other hand, must as a matter of urgency carry out palliative works on those bad portions of the road, to ease the perennial traffic snarl.