Enam Obiosio and Sade Ayodele
If the country must maintain its prestige in the comity of nations, now is the time for the relevant agencies to put Oshodi-Apapa Expressway in good shape
The road that links the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) with the Oshodi-Apapa expressway (also called the Airport Road) in Lagos is in a deplorable state as government is foot-dragging on the rehabilitation of the road which leads visitors to the country in and out of the major gateway.
A few seconds after driving out of the terminal area of the airport, you are forced to wind up, or you would need to wash yourself from hair to underwear because the eight-kilometre road from the airport is in a horrible dusty condition. No thanks to the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) which has left it in a mess.
Recently, FERMA workers were seen on the road moving earth, clearing weed and doing skeletal work, but they also have to remove structures like destroyed police shelters, abandoned cars, shanties and even the fuel tankers that are indiscriminately parked on the roadside, with the attendant obstruction to free flow of traffic.
The road is almost in a permanent traffic snarl occasioned by its many potholes. It is also very narrow and has only two lanes, though there is enough space for it to be expanded up to six lanes. The problem of the road is compounded at night because it is in complete darkness, and commuters have to risk their lives while meandering through the many potholes.
Whenever there is rainfall at night, hoodlums who hide in nearby bushes really have a field day; posing serious security threats to the commuters, more so whenever there is a vehicle breakdown. They are always there robbing the people. Apart from the security problem, there is no more clear drainage on either side of the road, and this has caused large pools of water to eat into it and increase the number and size of the potholes.
All over the world, roads linking the city to the airports are beautified and decorated with flowers and other monumental structures, unlike this airport road which has all sorts of shanties lined up to the airport itself. The road in question is categorised as a Trunk A road; that is, it is to be maintained by the Federal Government through the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). The deplorable state of the road had, in May this year, attracted the attention of the international community in Nigeria, represented by various diplomats from embassies and high commissions, at the anniversary of the 1,100th day in office of Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola.
At the event, they requested Fashola to give the road a facelift. According to them, the state of the Airport Road and other roads accessing it can deny the country the expected direct foreign investments. Although Fashola expressed his disappointment about the state of the roads, he immediately told the diplomats that it was the responsibility of the Federal Government to see to the maintenance of the roads. He said, however, that Lagos State would assist the government.
Since its construction in 1979, no major maintenance work has been carried out on the Airport Road, unlike the road leading to Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, for example, which has undergone series of expansions since its construction. The roads linking airports like Heathrow in London and Bole in Addis Ababa, for example, are beautified and expanded to several lanes with colourful artifacts.
“Accessing the airport easily is part of passenger facilitation. The airport road needs total re-designing and by the design of the airport, there should not have been motor parks and other buildings by the roadside. There should not have been distracting businesses on the roadside. The fuel tankers on the road pose a great security threat, and there is urgent need for them to relocate, because it is the same reason that made the Lagos State government to relocate them from Apapa,” a concerned airport user said.
He said such a bad access road has a negative impact on Nigeria’s image, considering the strategic importance of the airports as the major international gateway to the country. According to him, “the absence of a smooth and common access to and from the airport constitutes a security risk to passengers and other users.’’
Still on the state of the road, Akin Olukunle, FAAN’s spokesman, said it (the authority) is in partnership with the Lagos State government on the maintenance of the road. He said there are plans to expand the road to four lanes, adding that the work is being delayed by logistics.
“The problem is that the Lagos airport was designed years ago when traffic was less, but we have plans in conjunction with the Lagos State Government to expand it to four lanes to accommodate the current traffic. FERMA has also started taking interest in it,” Olukunle remarked.