All over Lagos – from the expressways to the inner streets – it is a tale of neglect and abandonment as people are frustrated by the crater-sized potholes and gullies that dot Nigeria’s most cosmopolitan city, writes Davidson Iriekpen
From the mainland to the Island, particularly, the densely populated areas of Ikeja including the GRA, Mafoluku, Ijesha, Isolo to the upscale Victoria Island, Lekki and Ikoyi, the embarrassing sight of the decrepit roads confronts you in a dare-devil fashion.
State-owned roads are just as horrible as the stretches of roads controlled by the federal government. From the expressways to the inner streets, it is a tale of neglect and abandonment, promises delayed or unfulfilled and sometimes, forgotten outrightly.
Everyday, Lagosians groan under dilapidated roads littered with crater-sized potholes and gullies. Anybody who is just coming to the state for the first time would think that it just came out from a civil war. But this is not the case. For many, it is simply a case of bad governance or poor leadership or both. It does not matter how big and expensive your car or vehicle is, it can’t stand the road challenge.
All over the world, one of the most visible indices of development is the state of roads, but in Lagos and other parts of the country, not only are the roads bad, they are annoying and frustrating.
Deluge of Bad Roads
Important roads in Anthony, Yaba, Mafoluku, Oshodi, Ogba, Ojudu, Ketu, Agege, Mushin, Ijegu, Ilupeju, Surulere, Shomolu, Bariga, Oke-Odo, Ikotun, Iyana Ipaja, Abule-Egba, Ojo, Idimu, Kirikiri, Satellite Town, Mafoluku, Ago, Ikeja, Okota and other parts of the state are all in a terrible state. The depth of gullies at the Agege Motor Road by Mushin Bus-Stop is simply unbelievable.
The ever-busy Ikorodu Road is not spared. Failed portions dot most bus stops hindering free flow of traffic, ditto for Herbert Macaulay and other areas. Agege Motor Road particularly from Moshalishi, Idi-Oro to Olosa and Lagos-Badadry Expressway is a nightmare and frightening to vehicles and their owners.
The Isolo-Ikotun Road, which now serves as an alternative to the Lagos-Badadry road has totally collapsed. Come day or night, weekday or weekend, the road is perpetually on lockdown due to its bad state.
Residents of Apapa, Ojo, Alaba, Iba to Badadry have totally been cut off from other parts the state due to long years of neglect by both the federal and state governments.
Added to the bad roads is the embarrassing flood seen on bridges on Eko, Osborne, Ikoyi and others each time it rains, making movement difficult for motorists. This is usually due to the blockage of channels that make easy flow of water possible.
From time to time, people have questioned the whereabouts of the state government and even the local governments. The last time Lagosians could remember that they enjoyed a semblance of good roads was when Babatunde Fashola was in charge of the state.
So bad were the roads under Akinwumi Ambode that when he did not get a second-term, many Lagosians were jubilating. Six months after he has left office, they have not forgiven him for his poor performance.
The new administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, which many had thought was a ray of hope, is beginning to look like a mirage. Though many feel that it is too early to criticise him, others feel otherwise.
In his first 100 days, while some state governors had one or two projects to showcase, same was not the case for Sanwo-Olu, who is daily being distracted by courtesy visits and attending events instead of focusing on how to tackle the multifaceted challenges confronting the state.
In the past, while the state government concentrated on major roads, local governments were given the task of fixing some inner roads. Today, these two tiers of government have gone to sleep, leaving the people to suffer.
Lagosians now spend more on constantly repairing their vehicles due to the effect of the bad roads. And because of the state of roads in the city, people now prefer driving Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), which are not even exempted from constant break down.
So bad are the roads in Lagos that The Economist Intelligence Unit and World Bank in their 2018 Global Liveability Index, ranked the state as the third worst city for humans to live in the world.
The state was ranked 138 out of the 140 cities considered for the ranking. This, however, was a slight improvement from the 2017 ranking, where the country was ranked 139th out of 140 cities on the index.
According to the ranking, Lagos only outperformed Dhaka in Bangladesh and Damascus in war-torn Syria. Out of an overall score of 100, Lagos was rated 38.5 points.
Initial Blame Game
Knowing that the state government gets far over N50billion monthly from internally generated revenue and the Federation Account, yet the roads are bad is most annoying to residents.
To bring development closer to the people, the state government in 2004 carved out 37 development council areas from the existing 20 local government areas seems more politically expedient than administrative. Today, to many Lagosians, not only is development still far from the state, the importance of the development council areas and local government areas is still hardly felt.
Before 2015, to divert attention and exonerate itself from the accusation of incompetence levelled against it, one of the dummies the state government sold to residents was to designate some roads as federal roads and regularly blame the federal government for neglecting the state.
This narrative has since been defeated with the All Progressives Congress (APC) controlling the federal and state governments and a former governor, Fashola, leading the Federal Ministry of Works since 2015. Today, the impression most Lagosians have of the government is that it is incompetent to deal with the problems of the state.
Though many Lagosians still hold former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode responsible for the bad state of roads in Lagos, evidence from the 100 days of his successor does not show that they are ready to rejoice soon.
Ironically, when Ambode assumed power in 2015, his first task was to complete the road projects, which his predecessor failed to complete before leaving office, and he immediately started winning the hearts of Lagosians. Such road projects were Ago-Palace road up to Cele Bus Stop and others. Soon after, he embarked on flyovers in Ajah, Abule-Egba, Pen Cinema. In no time, the governor was hailed as a messiah.
But all the praises showered on him vanished as Lagosians found it difficult to drive through even less busy roads. It got to a stage when many were wondering if there was still any semblance of government in the state house due to the slow pace of response to road repairs. This, to many observers, is the same feeling now.
Any time issues concerning the state of roads are raised with the officials of the state government they are always quick to dismiss them, sometimes blaming it on the rains.
Less than a week after his inauguration in office, Sanwo-Olu toured the Lagos-Badagry Expressway to see for himself the level of dilapidation and what the people were suffering in that part of the state.
There and then, he promised the residents that work would soon commence at the Maza Maza-Iba junction up to Okokomaiko end of the road. He even added that the state government would work with the federal government on the Okokomaiko, Agbara to Seme Border section of the road.
For an axis that was completely abandoned in the four years of Ambode, people in the area went wild in jubilation thinking that the real messiah had come to solve their problem. But three months after, the situation is worse with no hope in sight.
Also, speaking with Muslim faithfuls at Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, to mark 2019 Eid-el-Fitri, Sanwo-Olu informed the gathering that his government would soon release emergency hotlines to the public to call the state public works for immediate fixing of potholes and roads that need urgent repairs.
Knowing how Lagosians crave good roads, the governor, a day after his inauguration, signed an executive order, directing the state Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) to run at least two shifts and work till 11p.m and the state Public Works Corporation to commence patching and rehabilitation of bad roads to address the perennial problem of traffic in the state. Till date, Lagosians are still waiting in some areas.
Hard Hit on Businesses
Above all this, businesses in the state have seriously been hard hit by the poor condition of roads in many parts of the state, leaving stakeholders such as the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry worried.
Some times, petrol tankers and container trucks have fallen at bad portions of the roads, causing havoc to people. Stakeholders, who spoke with THISDAY in separate interviews, lamented that many roads had worsened in the state despite the high internal revenue generated by the government.
The National President, Association of Small Business Owners, Dr. Femi Egbesola, said the bad roads in the state had negative impacts on business activities.
He said, “Lagos roads these days have become so deplorable that where you usually spend 30 minutes, you can spend one and a half hours now. That is a massive waste of time and human capacity.
“The government needs to put more than usual attention to infrastructure. Some people are very reluctant to pay tax because they believe that the government is not doing anything that is worthy of paying taxes. We have a lot of abandoned road projects in Lagos and other states in the country.”
According to him, the Mainland, especially the interiors, has a lot of deplorable roads.
“Apart from the IGR, the state has got a lot of loans for roads and other infrastructures. Lagos needs to remember that it is already a metropolitan state and must set the pace for others,” Egbesola added.
Lamenting the bad state of roads in the state to THISDAY, a public affairs analyst, Samuel Olayinka, advised Sanwo-Olu to concentrate on governance and leave the glamour associated with his office in order to reduce the suffering of Lagosians.
“What is just annoying me about Sanwo-Olu is that everyday you see him on the pages of the newspapers posing. It is either he is receiving plaques or shaking hands with the visitors, who came to pay him courtesy visits instead of being on the roads and streets inspecting and directing his officials to fix them.
“It is as if he came to office to showcase his suits and agbada. When will he start to work? Let him work and ease the suffering of Lagosians, please. Does he think that is all to governance? I feel he just came to government to have fun. In 100 days, he has nothing to show at all than glamour. People are suffering.”
A banker, Abimbola Lekan, said as far as he was concerned, there was no government in the state. He warned that if Sanwo-Olu does not redeem himself soon, he would add to the growing list of worst governors in the state.
“As far as I am concerned, there is no government in Lagos. The man does not know what he is doing. It is ironic that a government that focuses on vehicles that are road worthy has forgotten that most roads are not even car worthy. Every year, they collect billions of naira from motorists and vehicle owners for road worthy certificates, yet the roads are bad,” he said.
Another respondent, Ikechukwu Nwosu, questioned the quality of materials and work done, saying most of the projects were not built to last. Nwosu, a civil engineer, observed that the major problem of road construction exercise in Lagos is the lack of proper coordination among the relevant ministries.
He said: “The Ministry of Works awards or deploys contractors to fix the road, but to what extent is the Ministry of Environment ensuring that the drainages are not blocked? That is a problem of coordination. What I have seen with them is that they build or repair the roads, most times with questionable materials.
A resident of Mafoluku, Funmilayo Ganiyu, said: “We are not surprised that Ambode did not come back, he has done poorly in the three and a half years. We have never had this bad in Lagos in terms of roads. We are suffering. Move round the state and see things for yourself. It is very embarrassing.”
For Ikenna Amadi, the suffering Lagosians go through moving from one part of the state to the other is too much.
“What we go through moving from one part of the state to the other is too much. We have state and local government authorities. Our sufferings are too much and it is a shame. The travel time of about 30 minutes is now taking us two hours or more. Please, help us to beg them to ease our suffering in these areas,” he said.
But a civil servant, Dapo Adeyemi, advised Lagosians to be patient with Sanwo-Olu to deliver his mandate.
“I will advise that we exercise patience. I am very confident that the governor will not fail Lagosians. He just came in. Don’t forget that he met the problems on ground. I am very sure that he will tackle them,” he said.