Roads Sanwo-Olu Inherited

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The scene of container accident at Ojota due deplorable road condition resulting to heavy traffic grid lock... Friday. PHOTO: KOLAWOLE ALLI

 SPECIAL REPORT

From Mosalalashi roundabout in Ipaja to Ogba road in Agege, Lugard Avenue in Ikoyi to Ahmadu Bello Way in Victoria Island, Aguda in Surulere to Oba Akran Road in Ikeja, NNPC intercession in Ejigbo to inner roads in Isolo and Mafoluku, and from Oduduwa Crescent in Ikeja GRA to Anthony Village and Mende, the streets of Lagos are filled with potholes and craters in virtually all local government areas. Following a statewide inspection spanning days, Demola Ojo writes that Lagos inner-city roads have received little attention from the state government in recent months, as motorists lament the burden and cost of commuting

The tell-tale signs are obvious: the depressed section of the Ikorodu Road at Ojota inward Ketu leaves motorists and passengers gasping in chokehold gridlock. Its left side is washed off revealing the underbelly that motorists often try to avoid, narrowing the passage. The middle lane of the road that stretches a little bit beyond the two Ojota pedestrian bridges are even worse.

The potholes are morphing into craters; the small potholes that litter the road from right under the Ketu-Ojota ‘Tsunami’ bridge are bad enough to wring tyres out of their joints. Ahead, the road looks ravaged as vehicles crawl through it. The attendant hours-long gridlock is not difficult to imagine each morning and during evening drives.
But there is more.

Some people think it is too early to hold Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu responsible for the mess Lagos roads have become, believing the immediate past administration of Akinwunmi Ambode should share in the blame, “because after Ambode was denied a second term ticket, he practically stopped working. Why are the roads suddenly collapsing just months after he left office?”.

Assuming this assertion has any merit, it is safe to say the man who took over from Ambode has not come to terms with the situation. The state government seems to be in a daze as roads degenerate at an alarming rate, with the attendant gridlock and insecurity.

Banjo who does not want his second name in print accused the former governor of neglecting most of the roads that have now failed, during his time in office, saying, “If these roads we are now complaining about were fixed by Ambode, we won’t be facing this massive collapse so soon after his exit”.

But Salami Adeyemi disagreed, arguing, “Look, Governor Ambode performed excellently, he met broken roads everywhere when he took over. He didn’t complain, he faced the task at hand squarely and tackled the challenge.

“He met huge debts, even (APC chieftain Asiwaju Bola) Tinubu said he was worried if Ambode would be able to achieve much because of the debt he met on ground. Don’t forget the same Tinubu had praised the former Governor for his achievements, just one year in office. Blaming Ambode who left office five months ago is no solution. Did Ambode not meet rot?”

Groans and Grief
Olakiitan Badmus lives in Shomolu. He works with one of the two brewing giants in Ogba. He’s happy with his commute to the office because he drives ‘against traffic’, the same when it’s time to return home. But that was until the portion of the Oba Akran Road between Dunlop roundabout and Mobil junction became almost impassable.
From Keystone Bank to GT Bank, motorists must move at a snail’s pace to avoid damage to their vehicles.
The advantage of driving against traffic is always lost by half an hour or more because of these bad portions at Oba Akran, Badmus told THISDAY.

“It has been frustrating since that portion became bad,” Badmus said. “You just have to slow down. And when you have about three to five vehicles slowing down, there is no way it won’t affect the flow of traffic. This happens when you are driving against traffic you can imagine what will happen during rush hour when traffic is at its peak.”

But Badmus has to deal with a lot more in the name of traffic on his commute back home. After making a U-turn at Jibowu, he usually enters into Shomolu via Palmgroove bus stop and has to go through Ladylak, another headache he had to deal with until the authorities decided to do something about the road.
However, because the quality of the job done was nothing to write home about, the road has deteriorated again. This adds another 20 minutes to his journey.

But Badmus is one of those who have it good, relatively speaking. Agboola Folasade works with one of the new generation banks on the Island but she lives with her family in Sango-Otta.

“It is the family house. I consider the distance but what can I do? I would have loved to take a mini flat close to my place of work or even any location on the mainland. But after I made inquiries, I realized I can’t afford it. I have no choice but to commute from Sango and the Island every day,” Agboola told THISDAY.

She is lucky though as she uses the staff bus. Yet, that does not change the fact that she spends commuting.
“This traffic is caused more by bad roads than anything else. It is not the normal traffic congestion associated with megacities,” she lamented.

This is Lagos today, where residents and road users – drivers, pedestrians, and commuters – suffer from pains associated with the near-collapse of roads.

Back to the Suffering
Joel Akinwunmi, a manager in an oil multinational situated in Victoria Island, had just returned from his annual vacation. He resumed work penultimate Wednesday. Excited and refreshed, he woke up earlier than normal, planning to get to the office before 8 am.

From his residence off Liasu Road, he drove through Chrisland College in Idimu with his colleagues to link the Oshodi-Oworosonki expressway via the Ajao-Ejigbo link bridge.

But at the NNPC satellite depot in Ejigbo, Akinwunmi ran into gridlock as early as 6 am. At first, he thought it was a bottleneck at the intersection that connects the Ajao-Ejigbo link bridge and NNPC Road. After about 20 minutes around the axis, it was glaring that the congestion was abnormal, compelling most drivers to flout traffic rules.

Slowly, he drove across the link bridge into Ajao Estate. Yet, the flow of traffic was not encouraging. Rather it became worse, subjecting thousands to undue pressure and stress. At that point, it became obvious that failed sections at Chivita Avenue and its adjoining streets were the cause of the congestion.
He claimed to have lost an hour at least, to the gridlock at Ajao Estate alone, which he said, has been the bane of most commuters in the axis for a while.

Failed Roads, Slumbering Authority
Like Akinwunmi, millions of commuters in different parts are facing the same challenge on a daily basis, lamenting needless damage to their vehicles, undue delay on their way to work and the traumatic experience of plying Lagos roads. For many, Sanwo-Olu has not come to terms with the responsibilities of his office.

In Ajao Estate, nearly all roads hardly motorable. Ashafa Afariogun Street, Lateef Salami Street, Baale Shekoni Street and many more have suffered varying degrees of damage and outright collapse.

From Afariogun to Osolo Way, Aswani Market and inward Isolo, every resident, who spoke with THISDAY, decried poor government presence in these areas.

Ajegunle is certainly one of the worst cases. Orege Mba Road is completely out of shape. On this road are sited critical public facilities such as Sikiru Adigun Court House, Ajeromi General Hospital and L.A. Primary School. Besides this, it is the most important road that connects residents of Ajegunle with Berger Yard and Mile II.
Despite its significance, the road has not received Governor Sanwo-Olu’s attention since he assumed office almost five months ago.

The entire stretch of Ikotun-Ejigbo-Isolo road has failed at different points including the NNPC intersections opposite Ejigbo LCDA Headquarters, Hostel-Ile-Iwe portion, Jakande roundabout, Oke-Afa intersection, and Ejigbo junction.
Along this route, the road is not just hardly motorable, its streetlights, which were functioning during Ambode’s administration have now packed up.
The case of Okota road is not different. At Gideon Bus Stop, there are deplorable sections here and there. At Chemist Bus Stop, commuters are lamenting as vehicles break down, creating even more traffic that combined officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and traffic wardens battle hard to unlock, especially between 6 am and 11 am, as well as between 5 pm and 10:30 pm.

The Mess is Everywhere
With the deplorable sections across the road connecting Cele Express and Oke Afa, a resident, Mrs. Veronica Okenwa, claimed that Ire Akari Estate should offer alternative routes for commuters. But navigating through Ire Akari Estate, an expansive residential area that borders Ilasamaja Industrial Estate, now comes at a cost.

All the interior roads around St. Mary Catholic Church and Apata Memorial High School have become distressed, forcing commuters to resort to Okota-Oke-Afa road and Mushin-Isolo road, with the attendant loss in productive man-hours.

In Ipaja, Mosalalashi roundabout has failed completely and Iyana Ipaja roundabout does not offer any relief. From NYSC Camp to Agege/Capitol intersection, craters are common features on the entire stretch of the road at regular intervals. Within seconds, a driver has to jam on the breaks after accelerating.

Located along this route is the headquarters of Orile-Agege LCDA. Yet, the presence of the council does not give any respite.

Bush Street in Maryland links Anthony Village. It is a long stretch of road but that is the only positive attribute it has. The road has not witnessed any renovation in many years. It is not only deplorable, but it also typifies the lackadaisical attitude of successive administrations in the state to infrastructure, especially roads.
Ironically, one of the national leaders and founding fathers of the ruling APC lives on the street but that has not galvanized authorities to do anything about the road.

From all indications, the street is bad news for motorists. Ironically, it is a shortcut from the GT Bank junction in Anthony Village to Maryland linking Harbour Works to Maryland Bus Stop on Ikorodu road. The road bears tell-tale signs.

A resident, Jide Opeyemi, said, “Bush Street has never been like this. I have lived here for 25 years. This street has never ever been in this state of disrepair. The trouble with our leaders is that they always fail to take pro-active measures to fix small potholes before they develop into big craters. They will wait and wait and standby watch while the groan in pain and suffering.”

“Where are our representatives? Where are the Lagos Assembly members? They are all quiet. This is just a big shame. Sanwo-Olu should wake up and do something urgently, everywhere is in a mess.”

In the Agege local government area, most roads are an eyesore. From Agege Market to Pero Pharmacy, Ogba Central Mosque and the node where Akilo and Ogba roads interconnect, commuters and residents are at the mercy of the state government, seeking prompt intervention in critical areas.

Thomas Salako Street linking Yaya Abatan towards College Road is not just a disaster waiting to happen to motorists but a threat to pedestrians any time it rains. The road seems okay if you enter from Yaya Abatan but when you approach Akinwale Street by a Celestial Church of Christ building, you are in trouble.

Potholes adorn the road but the greater problem is the drainage system which has also failed. Recently, a young woman fell straight into the gutter. But for the timely intervention of bystanders (who also took cover from the rain), she would have been swept away. Unfortunately, an occurrence like this has replicated itself a few times across Lagos.

A result of the failure of these roads is the stacking up of heaps of garbage, which emit a putrid stench hazardous to health.

In Ikeja, Oba Akran is a case of outright neglect. Acme Road is a disappointment. Not even the fact that the APC secretariat is located on this street has brought residents of the area relief.

Still in Ikeja, a section of Isaac John has become a trap for car owners. Like, Oduduwa Crescent, where Sanwo-Olu’s campaign office was located, it is begging for attention. In Mende, Bush Street’s road is completely failed. Specifically, the residents are wondering if the state government is still functioning or not.
Meanwhile, the famed Victoria Island-Ikoyi axis is not immune to the government’s dereliction of duty. Commuters go through a harrowing experience daily on Ahmadu Bello Way. In Ikoyi, Thompson Avenue, Cameroon Road, and Lugard Avenue are not worthy of being streets in such a highbrow area.

To worsen the situation and further put Nigeria in a bad light, the British Council office is located on Thompson Avenue. This road was so bad, it was unbelievable that it is one of Nigeria’s prime real estate locations.
Recently, palliative repairs were carried out on the portion of the road around the British Council to alleviate the suffering of access to the council. But the remaining part of Thompson is a disgrace to the prestige of the highbrow suburb.

Linking Olawale Dawodu to connect Rumens, you are confronted with the unthinkable. Not a few wonder if the area is a part of Ikoyi or some distant rural neighbourhood? The road is bad enough but it’s even more shameful that there are open drainage filled with waste. The stench is overpowering.

One wonders: Where is governance? How can this be in Ikoyi where 1000 square metres go for millions of dollars? Where are the roads? And the drainage to channel rainwater into the lagoon?

On a particularly rainy Saturday afternoon, everywhere was waterlogged. A resident of the area who gave his name as Bayo blamed successive governments in the state for their refusal to lift Ikoyi to the status befitting it despite the huge taxes they collect from residents.

“We pay so much in taxes, ground rent, premium charges, development charges and more, yet look at Ikoyi. A total mess. How much will it cost the state to fix these roads with proper drainages?” he asked.
“Foreigners laugh at us when they come to Ikoyi. They can’t believe the hype and the huge cost of getting an apartment here.”

In Idimu, another resident, Mr. Marcus Kotila, said both state and local governments are not responsive. He decried the state of Ademoye road, a by-pass road that connects Ikotun-Idimu and Liasu roads. The road, according to him, is in a bad shape despite its significance to commuters going to Governors Road, Diamond Estate and Igando.
In Akowonjo, Dopemu, and Egbeda, the situation depicts the case of three forgotten communities with all inner roads deplorable, drainages dysfunctional and streetlights no more working.

Everywhere You Go
Whether in Ikorodu or in Ibeju Lekki, inner-city roads are all in sorry shape. Drainage channels are no longer functioning, resulting in the flooding of communities and homes, even with the lightest of showers.
Streets are filled with waste, a situation that can cause an epidemic across the state.
Streetlights, which the Ambode administration restored, have stopped working in most parts of the metropolis and darkness is gradually returning to many streets.

Skeletal Interventions
Arising from public disapproval statewide, Sanwo-Olu directed the states’ road maintenance agency, Lagos State Public Works Corporation (LSPWC), to rehabilitate all inner-city roads across the state.

THISDAY checks showed that the agency under the leadership of Mr. Olufemi Daramola has carried out some repair work. From the findings, the agency’s intervention barely scratches the surface.

Bad sections of some roads in Alimosho, Agege, Isolo and Ikeja, among others have been repaired, but from all indications, the agency’s intervention was limited to major roads, leaving thousands of inner roads unattended to and creating an environment for traffic robbers to operate almost unhindered.

In other parts, the agency has started filling sections of some roads with granite stones, perhaps to ensure easy passage and reduce congestion. While this response has, to some extent, eased vehicular movement, an Oshodi resident, Olamide Tijani, said it has not ended damage to vehicles or reduced congestion.

“It has not stopped the trauma commuters go through every day,” he said. From Alimosho to Ikeja and Mainland to Island, Tijani lamented the state of Lagos roads.

“It appears the governor did not appreciate the volume of work he had to do before he contested the election. He is not prepared for this job. In Oshodi, Church Street is good. Brown Street is decent. Ambode worked on these roads when he assumed office. Apart from these roads, all inner roads in Oshodi and its environs are in terrible shape.”
The state of Ikorodu road is simply unexplainable. The crater-like potholes in the Ojota portion of the road can drive one crazy. How this can be allowed on such a crucial entry point into Lagos baffles one.

The snarling is such that many Lagosians living or doing business in that axis no longer drive. Manage to get out of the traffic and at Maryland bridge you are immediately confronted by another deep depression and series of potholes, resulting in another traffic jam.

“It’s impossible to understand the mentality of our leaders,” Wasiu, a driver who had been in traffic for about 30 mins lamented.

The Idiroko bus stop part of the road is another bad spot that requires urgent attention. It’s a bumpy ride right up to the Maryland Mall. Old Harbour Works road that straddles Saint Agnes Catholic Church and Maryland Mall is also in terrible shape.

Government’s Defence
On October 1, Sanwo-Olu acknowledged that his administration had not performed satisfactorily at the Covenant Christian Centre, Orile-Iganmu. At the forum, he claimed he was aware of thousands of potholes and craters on Lagos roads. He blamed the conditions of the roads on three main reasons.

First, he cited the state’s environment, which he claimed, was below the sea level. He, likewise, cited the challenges that came with the rainy season, which according to him, had made road rehabilitation more complex and difficult.

He assured residents that extensive road rehabilitation will start once the rains subside. However, he is not promising to fix all 6,000 roads in Lagos in one day.

He said, “We are going to repair all the roads, but it will not be everything at once.”
He explained how the failed roads often compound the traffic situation in the city.
Sanwo-Olu added, “There are a lot of potholes. I was sworn in at the beginning of the rainy season. I have been in government for four months and rain has not stopped.

“Two things do not work together. Bitumen does not like rain. Bitumen does not do very well with rain.”
He further explained: “Any contractor who takes a job during the rainy season, half of the clients’ money is going to go down the drain because the contractor is not going to do anything.

“While I am not going to stand and give reasons we have potholes, it is also about putting all of this in perspective and explain why we are where we are today. We are working day and night to remedy the situation by the palliatives we are bringing on board.”

He, equally, cited the state’s debt which he said, has been a major challenge for his administration. Specifically, the governor claimed the state had a budget of about $2 billion with a local debt ratio of about 20 to 25 percent. He said nobody could know the real finances of any state until when he becomes a chief executive officer.
According to Sanwo-Olu, nobody told him about the debt and he had no right to see.

“It was when I got in that I realized how we are in terms of liabilities, in terms of our commitment to local banks, in terms of our commitment to the federal government bonds that we were issued. These are real issues that have constricted us in terms of our finances,” he stated.

The Untold Story of Profiteers
For Alfred Affe, an Egbeda resident, there is no justification for the state government to collect taxes.
“They are collecting land use charge from virtually all house owners in the state. The essence of such a collection is to develop and maintain road infrastructure. But even the roads that are tarred are not well maintained.”

Affe’s concern is not really about whether Sanwo-Olu has the capacity to lead the state. Rather his burden is about the state’s political godfathers, who according to him, have over the years devised the means of profiting from the state at the expense of about 24 million residents. He claimed that much should not be expected from Sanwo-Olu’s administration because the godfather would not allow him to perform.

“What does it take to rehabilitate roads irrespective of geographical constraints?” Affe asked, faulting the failure of the state government to intervene effectively. He noted that road mending is not rocket science.
“It is what the local and state governments should carry out effortlessly. It should be an everyday activity to keep the country’s largest sub-national economy moving. But honestly, I do not know why it is the most difficult task for them.”

While this is said in hushed tones, many believe the major issue about Lagos State is nothing but insincerity in leadership and mismanagement of resources. And how does this happen? Inflation of contracts which often leads to funds meant for ten things being spent on one.
An observer, who did not want to be named told THISDAY that Lagos’ political setup is not meant for the masses to benefit from the government. According to him, it is set up to benefit party leaders and political appointees.
“We can deceive ourselves and pretend as if these things are not there or the media is looking the other way,” he stated.

“Go and check those who are party leaders in Lagos and even former and serving commissioners and see their worth then you will understand what we are talking about. These people have properties in highbrow areas and send their kids to the best schools abroad.

“These are things known on the streets even if you media people will not beam the spotlight on it. Since money does not fall from the skies, you can add two and two together to know where they are funding their flamboyant lifestyle.”
He added that if anyone wants to know what is happening in Lagos, “go and talk to contractors handling jobs for the state”.

Belated Emergency
Last Sunday, the government declared a state of emergency on various dilapidated highways and carriages within the state.

Governor Sanwo-Olu, at the Lagos House Marina, ordered massive construction work on critical roads and highways across the state, beginning on October 14.

The governor’s directive according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile, followed the conclusion of a series of meetings with eight multi-national engineering firms, which began a few weeks back.
After his final meeting with the contractors, Sanwo-Olu declared the commencement of major construction work on the identified highways considered critical to the reduction of traffic congestion in Lagos.

The governor said all the eight engineering firms given the mandate to immediately mobilize their equipment to the sites and begin work on the identified roads.

He said: “This afternoon, we have just concluded the meeting with various reputable construction companies and all of them have been given the brief to immediately commence major construction work in various parts of the state. The exercise will begin tomorrow with palliative work on the selected roads, which are both on the Island and mainland divisions of the State.

“The contractors have been given the mandate to start mobilizing their equipment to their respective sites without further delay. Their activities must first give our people immediate relief on the affected roads so that there can be a free flow of traffic even during the rehabilitation work.”

To complement the major construction work on the highway, Sanwo-Olu further said that the LSPWC would be carrying out repairs of 116 inner roads across the state. This, he said, would be in addition to over 200 roads already rehabilitated by the corporation in the last three months.

The governor said he was not unaware of the pain experienced by road users in the past few days, which was compounded by the persistent downpour. He appealed to residents to bear with the government while efforts were being made to assuage their pains and bring permanent relief to them.

He said: “We expect the rains will begin to subside in this month of October and this is why we are mobilizing our contractors to immediately start the major construction work on the identified highways and bring permanent relief to residents.

“I am giving all Lagosians the assurance that the contractors will start the construction in earnest and will deliver on the terms of agreements reached with them.”

Sanwo-Olu further said officials of LASTMA will be working round the clock to control traffic on the areas where the construction would take place.

Special Adviser on Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Aramide Adeyoye, listed some of the critical highways and roads to be constructed to include the Ojota stretch of the Ikorodu Road, Motorways-Kudirat Abiola Way, Apogbon Highway, Babs Animashaun Road, Agric/Ishawo Road and Ijede Road in Ikorodu, and Lekki-Epe Expressway from Abraham Adesanya to Eleko Junction.

She added that there would be massive re-construction work on a network of roads in Ikoyi, Ikeja GRA, and Victoria Island.

The contractor deployed by the government included Julius Berger, Hitech, Arab Contractors, Metropolitan Construction, Slavabogu Construction, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), Rajaf Foundation Construction, and RCF Nigeria Limited.

Resident s of Lagos will receive this news with mixed feelings; relief that work is about to be done on the roads, but trepidation at the increased gridlock construction work will cause. Citizens should brace themselves, as it will get worse before it gets better.