…Call On FG To Fix It
Business owners along the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Expressway and motorists are lamenting over the deplorable state of the road.
The 81-kilometre-long expressway, which connects the Ogun State capital, Abeokuta, and Ikeja, the capital of Lagos, is one of the major federal roads in southwest Nigeria.
It is also one of the busiest inter-state roads in the country and handles about 250,000 Passenger Car Unit (PCU) daily.
However, a significant stretch of the road is in deplorable state, causing loss of patronage for business owners, driving up vehicle maintenance cost for motorists and putting the lives of people in danger.
For instance, from Abule-Egba portion of the road down to Toll-Gate is in bad shape, causing stress for commuters as well as motorists who ply the road.
The heavy vehicular movement on the Sango-Ota inward lane from 6:00 p.m and sometimes up to 1:00 a.m, particularly on Fridays, is agonizing and usually overwhelms policemen and traffic control officers on duty.
A report by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in November 2021 said out of 1,254 persons involved in a total of 140 accidents, about 33 people lost their lives at the Toll-Gate portion of the road. This year, there have been at least two fatal accidents at Toll Gate. A number of people are said to have been killed while crossing the road as motorists now take one-way.
A motorist, Gbolahan Sholoye, complained that he has body aches each day after using the road.
Sholoye told NewsNGR that motorists, particularly commercial bus drivers, have devised a strategy of manoeuvring the bad portion of the road by taking one-way. But he regretted that taskforce officials frequently get them arrested, even though they know how terrible the lane inward Ota is.
“When you get home at night, you find your whole body aching you. We’re just managing it (the road),” he told NewsNGR.
“We’re just begging the Federal Government to assist us by fixing the road.”
Another motorist who identified himself as Dele, called on President Bola Tinubu to do something about the expressway, adding that the road has several dilapidated sections up to Abeokuta.
“The road is not good at all. Our vehicles often break down on the road. Some vehicles get involved in accidents on the road,” Dele said.
“From Abule-Egba to Abeokuta is very bad.”
“If you take the reconstructed part, the task force will arrest you. If you’re arrested, you’ll pay between N110,000 and N130,000.”
He noted that because of the condition of the road, accident with fatalities is common.
It spoils vehicles, thereby increasing the cost of maintenance, said Lukmon Ademuyiwa, a motorist.
According to Ademuyiwa, the state of the road is affecting the number of trips commercial bus drivers now make in a day.
He said: “I make four trips in a day. But for the way the road is I should be making five trips.”
For Taofeek, another motorist, the Federal Government should fix the road as quickly as possible to save road users the stress they currently go through.
“It’s a big problem driving from Sango-Ota to Agege, and returning is also a problem,” Taofeek said.
A car dealer at the Meiran area who identified himself as Ola, told NewsNGR that the bad state of the road is giving business owners on the axis serious concern.
He lamented that customers hardly come by these days because of the condition of the road.
Ola revealed that some business owners are now taking their business to inner city of Lagos.
“The road affects our business so much,” Ola lamented. “Customers are no longer passing through this place, because the road is very bad.”
“It’s affecting our business and then, you’re still going to pay for dealer licencing every year without making sales. Everybody Is now moving their business to the town,” he said.
“We’re just here sitting down, because nobody is passing through this road again. That’s what’s happening in this place presently.”
Another business owner, Lawrence Okonkwo, who sells used items, also lamented how the state of the road is affecting his business.
“It’s affecting us in a negative and positive way. The positive way is that if the road is not good (like it’s now) and there’s traffic, a lot of people will see our goods,” Okonkwo said.
He, however, noted: “A lot of people don’t pass here again. They pass through the back. So them passing through the back affects us.”
A resident of Ahmaddiya area, Adesina Bakinson, explained that because most drivers now take one-way, several people have lost their lives on the expressway.
“From Meiran to Kola, a lot of people have died,” Bakinson said. “I don’t blame them (drivers) for taking one-way. A lot of trailers have fallen there,” he said, pointing at a portion around Fine Coat area.
Bakinson stated that this year alone, a lot of people have died on the road. While acknowledging that the expressway is a federal road, he blamed Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for not intervening in fixing the road.
According to him, he was almost knocked down by a moving vehicle on Tuesday while crossing the road.
Bakinson cited examples of people that he knows who were knocked down by moving vehicles and died on the road.
“It’s confusing. On Tuesday, God saved me. People are thinking a lot about how to survive,” he said.
“Let the government give us road and light. The remaining one, God will provide it for us. Let them (government) not just punish us for nothing,”
Deployment Of Sukuk
Although reconstruction work has been done on the lane inward Lagos from Toll-Gate, the lane inward Toll-Gate and Ota from Lagos has remained in terrible state.
The reconstruction of the road is being funded by Sukuk.
Speaking on the project around April, the former Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola had said: “Work is going on there (Lagos-Otta-Abeokuta project), if people are patient, we will finish it. Just be patient.”
Our correspondent who visited the long stretch of the road from Abule-Egba to Toll-Gate, observed that no work is currently ongoing there, and the lane inward Toll-Gate and Ota has continued to deteriorate.
The term Sukuk means financial certificates, also commonly referred to as “sharia-compliant” bonds in Arabic.
The issuance of Sukuk bond by the Debt Management Office (DMO) started in September 2017 as a strategy by the Federal Government to support the development of infrastructure, promote financial inclusion and deepen the domestic securities market in the country.
In December 2022, DMO announced the conclusion of the issuance of N100 billion Sovereign Al ‘Ijarah Sukuk bond for the construction and rehabilitation of key road projects in the country.
The debut Sovereign Sukuk, which was issued in 2017, brought in N100 billion to finance the rehabilitation and construction of 25 road projects across the six geopolitical zones. The DMO also issued a Sukuk for N100 billion in 2018 and another for N162.55 billion in 2020 as well as about N250 billion in 2021.
In 2017, the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari identified and marked out 63 roads across the country, including 44 federal highways.
These roads which include the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Expressway, were classified under critical economic routes and agricultural routes and accorded budgetary priority.
However, despite the government identifying it as an important road, the expressway has remained in bad shape and the deployment of Sukuk funding has not made any significant change.
FG, Ogun To Finance Reconstruction Of The Road
The Federal Government on August 31, proposed to jointly rehabilitate the Ogun section of the road with the state government.
The Minister of Works, Dave Umahi, made the proposal during a courtesy call on Governor Dapo Abiodun in his office at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.
The minister who was on a tour of federal roads in the state, while replying to Abiodun on the frustration experienced by Ogun and Lagos during the Buhari administration to get the road done, disclosed that the period of bureaucracy in road construction in the country was over.
Umahi noted that if the Federal Government is looking for corporate organisations to get involved in road construction and management, state governments should not be denied the same opportunity.
He said: “Let me say something about the frustration you had while you and the Lagos State government wrote to take over the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta road. Let me announce to you that it falls under our new program, HDMI, which is the High Way Development Management Initiative. It is a public-private partnership programme.
“People should begin to look at a state as a corporate entity. If you are looking for investors to come and invest on our roads; to construct, to own, to maintain and toll, why shouldn’t a state do that?
“So, on this Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta road, I want us to work together, we’ve done 30% of the work. You can own 60%, we own 40% and you can do your portion of the 60%. You can give it to a contractor of your choice.
“I don’t believe in bureaucracy; we cannot reset the economy with the type of bureaucracy we have.
“If I get your request on this by WhatsApp, I will respond to you immediately. We will handle it under our HDMI.”
Umahi noted that the Federal Government is open to any state willing to have a Public Private Partnership programme (PPP) with them, adding that the government is also planning to bring new security initiatives on the highways.
“In Ogun State, nobody is saying this is federal roads, this is state roads. When people are suffering, they don’t understand which one is which. Fix the roads and we can talk about who owns it. Anyone that is shouting and complaining is playing politics,” he said.
Addressing the minister and his entourage, Abiodun recalled what he and his colleague, Sanwo-Olu went through to get the Federal Government’s permission to take over the reconstruction of the road.
He regretted that despite meeting some of the requirements by the Federal Government, the two states were frustrated, leading to further deterioration of the expressway.
He said: “I would like to highlight the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta road, Ota is a city that has earned us the prestigious title of being the industrial capital of Nigeria. It is a city where we share boundaries with Lagos State and you can hardly tell the difference between Ota and Lagos State.
“That road, I think the contract must have been awarded maybe in 2012 or 2010 under the administration of President Obasanjo. Since then, the contract has been subjected to so many reviews.
“When I assumed office, Governor Sanwo-Olu and I went to see President Buhari and we wrote one letter on a joint letterhead requesting for that road to be transferred to us.
“We brought a letter from our bankers. At that point in time, it was probably about N70 billion, saying that this N70 billion that we want to put into the reconstruction of the road.
“Then, there was no Minister. We were told that because the road is under contract, what they would like to do is to partner with the states and we said okay, let us sit down, and discuss on the basis of the partnership.
“That road is about 77 kilometres, let us discuss the basis of that partnership, Your Excellency, we made no progress.”