Alexander Chiejina writes that the roads in Lagos are in a deplorable in need of urgent attention from all the tiers of government to ensure that recent gains towards economic growth are not reversed
Since the onset of rains in Lagos State, commuters and passengers have been experiencing terrible times following the deplorable state of the
roads. “I don’t understand what is happening in Lagos state. Everywhere you go, you see potholes. The way potholes appear on this road is alarming. The absence of gutters on both sides of the road has caused large pools of water to eat into the road and increase the number and sizes of the potholes. The other day it rained, the bus I was driving ran into a ditch and could not move again. I was forced to come down and assist the driver push it out,” Chigozie Udoka, a commercial bus driver whose route is the busy Oshodi-Wharf Road in Lagos disclosed.
For Akpoja Clement, the increasing number of potholes on the roads has affected the tyres of his vehicle on several occasions. He noted that it is not possible to avoid potholes along the airport road which links Murtala Mohammed International airport as they have formed vicious rings on that spot.
For anyone who has recently plied several roads in the industrial areas and business districts in Lagos, what greets your attention is the deplorable state of the roads in the former federal capital. A vivid example is the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway that connects the Lagos Ports complex to the rest of the country. This road, which is one of the busiest roads in Lagos, is dotted with potholes and gullies which had worsened since the onset of rains.
The same can be said of major township roads running through such busy bus stops like Ikeja, Mile Two, Berger Cement, Otto-Wharf, Coconut, Abule-Ado bus-stops, Oshodi, Iyana Ipaja as well as the Cele-Ejigbo Road which links Jakande Estate. The situation has also become distressing for motorists as they don’t get optimal use from their vehicles.
As it is on major roads in the state, so it is on roads within the metropolis. Peter Idu who drives to his office in Victoria Island daily told Business Day that it has become practically “impossible to avoid all of them, as quite often one preventive manoeuvre leads into yet another pothole.” A constant visit to the mechanic is the price drivers are forced to pay for navigating the dangerous ditches which are usually disguised by flood. As a result of the worsening state of the roads which hampers movements around the city, businesses have also continued to count their losses. The enormity of the situation is underscored by the reality of Lagos as the pre-eminent commercial and industrial hub in West Africa. For Goddy Chima, a dealer in electronics along Ago- Okota road, said that “whenever it rains, the level of flood emanating from the road spreads to his shop. Passing the road is another kettle of fish as the drains are blocked and the flood on the road forces everyone who has a shop to close in a bid to safeguard his/her goods from the flood. This has led to low patronage by customers,” Chima concluded.
This current situation has also affected state and Federal roads in Lagos. More often than not, the Federal Government through the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) intervenes to fix the bad portions. A chief executive of a communications company who pleaded anonymity said: “Sadly it appears the timing is always wrong as the roads are not repaired until they degenerate to a sorry state. Even when they step in to address the situation, it ends up as mere palliatives as the jobs are shoddily executed with thin coats of tar and no gutters which cannot stand the test of the seasons.”
Lending his view, Arthur Donnett, Managing Director/CEO, Goldmond Ltd, an indigenous construction firm said that due to selfish reasons, Nigerians who construct roads do not meet the stipulated standard that is required in a bid to get some portion of money meant for the construction of the road.
Donnett revealed that “for a good road to be done, there are specifications for highway construction. When you are doing a road, the final paving should be at least 5cm. This can be seen along the Lekki-Epe expressway way. The final paving should be about 10-20cm. Don’t forget that if you don’t stabilise a road with such thickness of at least 5 to 10cm, the road is bound to give way within a short period of time. Don’t forget that huge volume of vehicles ply Lagos roads on a daily basis.”
It will be recalled that The United Nations Habitat report of 2008 named Lagos as the most populous city in Africa, the second fastest growing on the continent and the seventh fastest growing city in the world. The city was said to have the largest and most extensive road networks in West Africa. In addition, The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) states that the city accounts for over 60 percent of the nation’s industrial production outside oil and gas while Lagos ports are the most important in West Africa.
Given the potentials the state has economically for not only Nigeria but the entire West Africa sub region, there is no gain saying that the deplorable state of roads in Lagos State deserves urgent attention by all tiers of government.
For many Lagosians, the constant flood on several roads and widening of potholes has exposed the engineering incompetence that has become the bane of roads works in the state and the country at large. Furthermore, the poor drainage system does not only engender flooding of roads but also sets the tune for erosion. Everybody in Lagos believes that the present administration of Governor Raji Fashola has done well in the area of infrastructure especially with roads rehabilitation. But there is a general feeling that some of the jobs are being poorly executed by contractors.
A senior staff at the ministry of Works Lagos state, who pleaded anonymity, told Business day that the government should not be blamed because it is saddled with so much work. He opined that many of the bad roads fall under local government care, adding that the councils should do more in playing the complimentary role for which it was set up.
“The state government should begin a co-ordinated programme that will see the Local Governments play an important role in road construction and maintenance in the state. The state government’s desire to make Lagos a mega city cannot materialize if the roads remain in their present state. Fashola has brought seriousness to governance since his inauguration in 2007 and this needs to be urgently rekindled in the area of road construction and rehabilitation,” he concluded.
Apart from fixing potholes and constructing new roads that would further help to decongest major roads, the culture of prompt response to maintenance calls and use of solid materials should become the focus of all tiers of government, according to construction experts.
It will be recalled that diplomats from the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), Russia, and major Asian high commissions to Nigeria at a recent forum organized to mark the 1100 days of the administration of Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola complained about the bad state of the road along Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), warning that it could serve as disincentive and deterrent to the flow of foreign direct investments (FDIs). In a swift reaction, Fashola explained that the Federal Government had embarked on some palliative works in the airport and that the road would soon be fixed as he acknowledged the fact that total rebuilding and reconstruction would create a better atmosphere for visitors and tourists visiting the country.
In the words of the State Governor “The image that it gives not only to our state, but also our country is one that we find presently unacceptable. The condition of the road is one that gives us regular concern. As for the road, I am aware the federal government has commenced palliative work, but it needs not just be the palliative work, but a total rebuilding and expansion. Our government has concluded a design for the road and in liaison with the federal ministry of works. We will execute the project expeditiously.”
At this stage of the Lagos megacity dream, it is believed that the state may have done well in traffic control, beautification, and street lighting. But there should be fresh targets in the area of road maintenance and periodic repairs to ensure that they do not deteriorate to the point of needing major rehabilitation with the attendant road closures and disruption of traffic flow.