Confronted with the heinous gridlock, traffic robbery and environmental nuisance just after he assumed office, Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode went back to the drawing board and worked out creative initiatives that produced the Jubilee Bridges, among others. Gboyega Akinsanmi writes
Few weeks after he assumed office in 2015, Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode came under fire. He never bargained for such public outrage, which he said, almost got him confused. But he took up the gauntlet because he said he was left with two unpalatable options: combating social realities headlong and walking the path of failure by giving excuses.
He, however, chose to combat three social realities, which challenged his creativity and tenacity five months into his administration. Of these realities, intractable gridlock, which held down the stateâ€™ economy, was the evil. From Ikorodu to Lagos Island, then, commuting in Lagos was a huge burden. From Oshodi to Abule-Egba, residents accessing homes was a nightmare. From Ibeju-Ajah axis, going to offices was indeed dreadful.
Across the state, evidently, gridlock came with associated challenges. Unconsciously, the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello said, gridlock provided an environment for traffic robbers to operate. For Ambode, according to Bello, the situation was not acceptable, thereby compelling him to work out multi-pronged initiatives to effectively establish an order.
Aside traffic robbery, managing wastes was equally an issue, which Bello said, confronted the Ambode administration. Then, streets were littered with garbage here and there; medians filled with uncollected solid wastes and highways almost relapsed to the old state. Like those bad days, Lagos regained unsavoury headlines in the national dailies almost every day.
Under two years, nevertheless, the stories about Lagos are no longer what they used to be when Ambode assumed office. Traffic theft has, largely, disappeared. Gridlock is now better managed with the creation of lay-bys in strategic locations. Also, managing wastes has been redefined with the enactment of the Lagos State Environmental Management and ProtectionÂ Law, 2017.
But Ambode unveiled three strategic projects last week, which stakeholders said, were a mark of people-centric governance. First is the three-in-one transformation project at Ojodu-Berger, which has changed the narratives about the state from the Lagos-Ibadan wing. Second is the Abule-Egba flyover, which x-rays the monument of a megacity. The last is the Ajah flyover, signalling an end to the nightmare commuters often went through along Lekki-Epe axis.Â Newly built foot bridges with lay-bys, slip road and segregated bus park Ambode unveiled at Ojodu-Berger along Lagos-Ibadan expresswayâ€¦recentlyNewly built foot bridges with lay-bys, slip road and segregated bus park Ambode unveiled at Ojodu-Berger along Lagos-Ibadan expresswayâ€¦recently
Miracle of the decade
Amid fanfare, last week, the governor unveiled the three-in-one project at Ojodu Berger. It was the first of its kind in the state, even perhaps in the country. The project comprises foot bridges, lay-bys and slip roads, which Ambode said, were a response to the yearnings of the people for an improved life. For stakeholders, it was a miracle of the decade.
At least, specifically, two major reasons spurred the Ambode administration to embark on the transformation of Ojodu Berger. First was the incessant loss of lives at the Ojodu-Berger section of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, which the Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Mr. Ade Akinsanya said, was avoidable and preventable.
Second was the real challenge of gridlock, which gave birth to two associated issues: traffic robbery and environmental nuisance. For a long time, according to him, crossing the Lagos-Ibadan expressway at the Ojodu-Berger section had been a nightmare for pedestrians due to lack of a foot bridge. The situation was compounded by picking and dropping of passengers.
He explained that the practice worsened the traffic congestion at Ojodu Berger, which he said, sometimes sprawled several kilometres. So, he said, the need to preserve Lagos residents, whose lives were endangered whenever they wanted â€œto cross the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. The project equally decongested traffic at the axis with laybys and slip roads.â€
At Berger, two foot bridges were constructed. Each was designed to enable pedestrians cross the Lagos-Ibadan highway with ease. Aside, lay-bys, about 150 metres long, were constructed on both sides of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. So, obviously, the lay-bys ended an improper practice, which spurred bus operators to pick and drop passengers anywhere at Berger Bus Stop.
Retaining walls, about 500 metres long on both sides with varying heights, were constructed to prevent commuters and pedestrians from crossing the expressway haphazardly. Even with the multi-bay bus parks and bus lay-bys constructed at Ojodu-Berger, the infrastructure was designed in a way that pedestrians would not be able to disrupt vehicular traffic.
By implication, the roads are fenced off; walkways barricaded with barb wires and the medians cordoned to avoid loss of lives. Coming from Ojota, also, about 650-metre slip road was constructed. Different roads that link Ojodu-Berger were upgraded; streets and parks were lit; all roads signalised and all junctions aesthetically improved for easy traffic flow and navigation.
In all, the benefits of the projects are huge. Akinsanya said the projects are designed â€œto enhance the socio-economic development of both Lagos and other neighbouring states.â€ Aside, he said, the projects will reduce travel time on the road; decrease loss of man hours and ensure safety of lives, mainly that of pedestrians with the construction of the foot bridges.
Two bridges, one story
Aside Bergerâ€™s transformation, Ambode unveiled two strategic flyovers at Abule Egba and Ajah. The narrative of the two bridges stemmed from traffic challenges, which almost crippled the stateâ€™s economy few weeks after Ambode took up the mantle of leadership in 2015. Rather than succumbing to these challenges, Ambode came up with creative initiatives, which Akinsanya said, were answers to what proved impossible over the last decade.
This, perhaps, explained when Ambode inaugurated the flyovers to mark the stateâ€™s 50th anniversary. It, equally, explained when Ambode christened the two flyovers â€˜Jubilee Bridges,â€™ which at the moment occupies a strategic space in the recent history of the state.â€™ It, also, informed Ambodeâ€™s commitment to honouring every promise he made before his election.
On this ground, Ambode explained his excitement about the flyovers, which he said, was not primarily about providing them, but really about answers they provided to gnawing challenges commuters have been facing along the routes over the years. As Akinsanya puts it, the Ajah Bridge is a 160-metre long dual carriage way. The bridge itself has a total length of 620 metres.
But the Abule-Egba Bridge is twice the length of the Ajah Bridge. It also has a water fountain, which adds beauty and colour to the state. But Akinsanya said the flyovers were built with other road infrastructure with the sole purpose of reducing the rate of accidents; guaranteeing the safety of pedestrians and ensuring the protection of public installations.Â
The rationales justified why the flyovers were designed with comprehensive traffic signalisation, street lighting, walkways, service ducts and drainage among others. In the case of the Ajah Bridge, Akinsanya said Freedom Road with 2.7 kilometres and Admiralty Way with 2.2 kilometres were constructed to ease traffic flow along the Lekki-Epe Road.
So, at Abule-Egba, Ambode emphasised the significance of the flyover, which he said, would open other areas of the state; improve the lives of residents and boost economic activities. He, also, said the project was as a result of the governmentâ€™s engagements with the people of the axis and his administrationâ€™s strong desire â€œto make life easier and better for the people.â€
Apparently, Ambode said the area was a strategic route for commercial and social activities, which he said, was prone to gridlock, thus compelling his administrationâ€™s decision â€to redesign the traffic flow chart of the axis to ensure better connectivity between Lagos and Ogun States. We all have cause to rejoice as the Jubilee Bridge, Abule-Egba is delivered.
â€œThis bridge is one of the interventions we embarked upon to ensure traffic flow; stimulate commercial activities and create opportunities for our people. Lagos means business and today, Abule-Egba is open for business. This bridge signposts the beginning of a new era of development that will enhance the standard of living of the people in this axis.â€
At Ajah, too, Ambode reflected on the gnawing gridlock that clogged the Lekki-Epe expressway immediately after he assumed office. He admitted that the traffic situation was then crippling business activities, causing loss of valuable man hours and costing huge revenues. With the bridge, he said it â€œwill eliminate traffic jam usually experienced on the route.
â€œWe had to give this project priority because of its strategic importance to the economic growth of the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) and the Ibeju-Lekki-Epe axis. This axis will play a key role in the future prosperity of Lagos State as the home to many multi-billion naira private investments in the Lekki Free Trade Zone as well as the upcoming seaport and airport,â€ he said.
For town planners, specifically, transformation of Ojodu-Berger is long overdue. Also, civil and structural engineers acknowledged that the flyovers Ambode inaugurated last week met required standards anywhere in the world, though sought robust plan for sustained maintenance if the infrastructure would really serve the purpose for which the state built them.
For instance, former President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Alhaji Waheed Kadiri said the Berger projects â€œhave redefined the outlook of Lagos apart from unlocking gridlock along the axis. In the case of Abule-Egba, the bridge is a strategic infrastructure,â€ which he said, â€œwill not only solve traffic problems, but equally add aesthetic value to the state.â€
He, thus, said he was pleased with the projects on three different grounds. First, he said, the projects are a mark of excellent performance. Second, according to him, it shows the Ambode administration is committed to urban renewal programmes. Lastly, the projects simply x-ray Ambodeâ€™s resolve to tackle the stateâ€™s challenges through infrastructure development.
Likewise, former President of Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers(NIStructE), Dr. Victor Oyenuga approved various projects, which he said the Ambode administration unveiled to mark the stateâ€™s 50th anniversary. For him, the quality of works on the various projects meets standard globally. Apart from high standard, the projects will stand the test of time.
As a structural engineer, Oyenuga attested that the projects â€œwill last as far as their engineering lifespan is concerned. Critically viewed, the projects, especially the Abule-Egba and Ajah flyovers, meet all necessary engineering requirements both in concept and execution.â€ However, he said, meeting the engineering requirements is enough without maintenance plan.
Specifically, Oyenuga challenged Ambode to come up with maintenance template, which he argued, was critical to ensuring the sustainability of the projects. Without strong maintenance plan, he said, the projects will not definitely stand the test of time. On the same ground, Kadiri said the state government should evolve a long-term maintenance plan â€œto ensure that the structural integrity of these strategic projects are maintained and preserved.â€