Following moves by the Lagos State Government to rehabilitate major link roads in the state, Ikenna Ekwerike went to the popular Ladipo market to assess the state of its roads
People always evaluate a government that is truly for the people by the amount of quality critical infrastructures it is able to provide for them with the limited resources at its disposal. Among these key infrastructures, good road networks top the list and play overarching roles in the realisation of all other social amenities. This is why the first indicator of a progressive and prosperous city or town or village is the availability of good road networks.
Consequently, the Aguiyi Ironsi International Trade Centre otherwise known as Ladipo Auto-spare parts market, Lagos, has begun a transformative journey that will eventually usher it into the league of progressive and prosperous business districts in Nigeria. A major milestone in this direction is the on-going rehabilitation and upgrading of the long neglected Alhaji Akinwumi Street, the hub of business activities at the market, by the Lagos State Government.
Traders recalled that prior to the on-going intervention by the state government, Alhaji Akinwumi Street was a nightmare and fortune killer rather than a fortune driver. Indeed, Alhaji Akinwumi Street was the thorn encircling the economic roses of traders in Ladipo Market.
The innocent old street would never be blamed for the mindless decay that suddenly invaded and completely overran it. It had not anticipated that it would at some point become a strategic economic haven that would play host to heavy human and vehicular activities.
Marauding cargo trucks bearing containers loaded with tonnes of vehicle engines and other auto spare parts march endlessly in and out of the street dealing deadly blows on the fragile street tars. The tars fail, giving way for pot-holes, water and mud which are the equal opposite reactions to the effects of booming socio-economic activities witnessed along that corridor.
Little wonder traders in the area could not hide their joyful feelings as their lips were filled with praises for the government over the rehabilitation project which they cried was long overdue. Although the road construction led to the demolition of market complex fences and affected some shops, the traders were still in high spirits and have long found their way around the matter.
The wide drainage systems being put in place on both sides of the road have forced many of the shop owners to take to street trading since customers can no longer access their shops. Oluchi Ogbaje, one of the street traders said they do not disrupt work by their trading activities.
He noted: “You can see that these iron cages for the gutters will not allow customers cross to meet us in the shops. So, what we do is display some of our goods by the roadsides so that they can at least, locate us. When the people come with their machines to work on any portion, you see people happily pack their things and give way for them to do their job.”
While admitting that things had become increasingly tough since the construction began three months ago, the traders, however, agreed that it was a temporary discomfort they had to suffer in order to enjoy the long term benefits that will follow.
Chuka Obi, another shop owner in the market but who now engages in street trading too, appreciated the efforts of the current government. “Sincerely, we like the road they are building. It is for our good and we have been cooperating with them. When this road is completed, it is going to change our lives for good,” Obi said excitedly.
Consequently, Anayo Okoye, who is also a trader in the market, regretted that the on-going construction was depriving them of the usual Christmas sales boom. He cried: “If not for this road they are building, Christmas season is the time we sell more. Now if a customer calls, before he will locate you, someone else who is selling along the road would have convinced him to buy from them.”
The traders say they were witnessing an era of government with human face. “The best part of it is that the government did not close the road completely; business is going on side by side with the construction work. At least those of us inside the market can come out like this to look for what to eat and take back home for the children since customers still find their way into the market through the road,” Obi noted.
Making an assessment of the speed of the job being done, most of the traders shared the view that the eighth month completion target may not be realistic as the pace of work was very slow. They expressed confidence in the quality of work done so far.
Meanwhile, a major concern for some of the traders especially those who do not own shops is rumour making the rounds that street trading might be banned at the completion of work on that road. Although no official pronouncements have been made in that regard according to sources, yet, street traders are worried that there are no alternative provisions for them since the plazas have been filled up.
Customers who spoke with the reporter said the thought of going to the market alone gave a psychological torture. Many said they now come to Ladipo only when they could not get what they wanted elsewhere.
The reporter observed that the market pressure has automatically shifted to Ladipo Road, which is equally in a terrible situation, especially the junction where Akinwumi Street and Ladipo Road intersects; adjacent the newly constructed market complex where motorists, motorcyclists and heavy engine barrow pushers lock horns for hours. This has further destroyed the road making it nearly impassable.
But, remedy is on the way as the Lagos State Government has declared a state of emergency on dilapidated major link roads across the state including roads in and around Ladipo Market in continuation of its drive to ensure smooth flow of traffic and by extension, wealth to ordinary Lagosians.
Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Lagos State, Mr. Sina Thorpe made this known to journalists recently when he revealed that government in realising the economic value of Ladipo Street which is a 2.87km road that connects Agege Motor Road to Apapa-Oshodi Expressway service lane at Toyota Bus Stop, has decided to rehabilitate and upgrade the road to a dual carriage way.
Thorpe announced that, besides the already on-going rehabilitation and upgrading of Alhaji Akinwumi Street, which he said was a strategic road that connects Ladipo Street to Apapa-Oshodi Expressway at Five Star Bus Stop, the Obagun Road, which links Badejo Kalejaiye Street with Fatai Atere Way, which in turn connects Ladipo Street with Agege Motor Road would equally receive a facelift.
He added: “To further ensure interconnectivity to these networks of roads and ease traffic in the corridor, part of the ongoing expansion and upgrading of the Oshodi-International Airport Road would see the provision of a U-Turn ramped bridge to serve motorists in the area.
“The State Government, therefore, urges road users and commuters along the corridor to cooperate with the contractor in order to speedily deliver the road projects as scheduled, while being mindful of the present, albeit, temporary discomforts.”
However, it was observed that work is yet to commence on other link roads except on the Alhaji Akinwumi Street which is already being transformed.
Consequently, it is no coincidence that the development-conscious and vibrant governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode shares same first name with the economically powerful Akinwunmi Street, Ladipo Market.
Hence, stakeholders and lovers of the state are highly hopeful that the contractor and the construction company handling that road would deliver an enduring legacy that will become a point of reference for years to come.