• Friday, April 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Lagos in aggressive push ahead traffic from Dangote Refinery, Lekki Port

Lekki-Epe Expressway: Lagos, contractor commit to palliative action as suffering intensifies

…as contractors intensify work on Lekki-Epe Expressway, Ibeju–Eleko Junction Road

… Expressway to be completed January 2024

As the 650,000 barrel-per-day (BPD) Dangote Refinery concludes plans to kick off production in the next few months, the Lagos State government is also getting prepared with the reconstruction of the 6-lane Lekki-Epe Expressway to deal with the expected heavy traffic flow from the refinery.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the ongoing reconstruction work on the Expressway, which is the main artery in and out of both the Refinery and the new Lekki Deep Seaport, will be completed by the next three months, according to the contractor.

The seaport started commercial operation, bringing import and taking out export cargo a few months ago, and the expressway has seen significant improvement and recorded milestones.

The reconstruction work is divided into two phases, with phase one starting seven kilometres before the Lekki Port and ending at Eleko Junction while phase two starts from Eleko Junction and ends at Ajah along the Expressway.

From Lekki Port to Eleko Junction is being handled by Hitech Construction while Eleko Junction to Ajah is being handled by Craneburg Construction Company.

BusinessDay reporters who were on tour of the construction sites from Ajah up to the gates of Dangote Refinery and Lekki Port recently found both contractors on site doing the things they know best.

The reporters discovered that the surfacing of the Expressway was being changed from asphalt to concrete pavement to withstand the future pressure coming from both the refinery and the port.

“The scope of our work started from Eleko Junction and will terminate at Ajah bus stop. We are doing concrete pavement with a thickness of 28cm which is almost one foot. Both sides of the road from Eleko Junction to Green Springs School/UBA at Awoyaya have been completed and opened up for road users,” said one of the site supervisors for Craneburg Construction, who did not want his name in the print because, according to him, he did not have the authority to speak on behalf of the company.

He said the casting of concrete pavement would get to Shoprite at Sangotedo before the end of October. He disclosed that funding had not been an issue for the construction as the Lagos State Government has people that would lend helping hand to ensure there was no delay of the project.

“We as contractors are working; we have almost all our materials ready; the state government is also ready and they have people who are ready to lend helping hand if for any reason the government is handicapped financially. In short, there is nothing to worry about,” the site supervisor assured.

While pleading with road users to be patient with Craneburg Construction, even though the company knows that the daily traffic congestion between Awoyaya and Sangotedo has not been easy for road users, he said the estimated delivery timeline for that phase of the project was January 2024.

Read also: Relief on the way for motorists as Lekki-Epe Expressway completion nears

Traffic experience on the Expressway

A major challenge for the construction workers which, obviously, is impacting on the pace of work, is gridlock which is an understatement to describe the slow traffic occasioned by the reconstruction work and poor state of the expressway.

Even when the two lanes were open, the expressway was notorious for its terrible traffic congestion. Now that all vehicles, moving like slow flood, have been confined to a narrow, dilapidated single service lane, the expressway has become a highway to hell.

For four whole hours on Wednesday last week when our reporters went on the tour, motorists were held in traffic between Awoyaya and Sangotedo. No one lane, inbound or outbound, was better than the other, making driving experience a horrifying nightmare.

The present congestion is due to the on-going construction work on both the inbound to Ibeju and outbound to Ajah lanes. All vehicles at some point are funneled to a single lane to enable the contractor to continue work without delay. The result is a standstill movement for motorists.

One other major reason for the congestion, which our reporters observed, was poor traffic management on the part of the contractor. There is no deliberate effort to control or direct motorists in a way that traffic moves smoothly. Another reason is the absence of security officers to control traffic as it is done at most construction sites across the state.

“I spend a minimum of seven hours daily on this road from my house at one of the estates in Sangotedo to my office in Ajah,” said Ifeoma Okonkwo, a businesswoman and a resident of the area. She added that the situation was now unbearable as many residents wasted costly petrol in traffic every day.

In the same vein, Francis Edidiong, a computer engineer, told our reporters that he leaves his house at Bogije by 4 am every morning to be able to meet resumption time in his workplace in Victoria Island.

He said the gridlock has inflated transportation costs on that axis as motorcycles popularly known as ‘Okada’ takes as much as N2,000 per drop to take passengers from Sangotedo to Ajah.

“I paid N800 from Aja to Awoyaya and N1,500 from Green Springs School in Awoyaya to Obalende last Saturday for a seat in a public bus due to the gridlock, which was even lighter on that day because it was a weekend,” said Bayo Idris, who visited Awoyaya from the mainland.

Read also: Dangote Refinery to start crude refining October – S&P Global

Ejiofor Ugwueze, a business man whose building materials shop is just a few meters away from the construction site at Ogidan Sangotedo, spoke to our reporters in tears, saying that in the last six months when the construction work came to meet them, he has not recorded any major sales.

“It has been tough; no sales and yet we pay rent and levies to the government; bills are piling and there are school fees to pay, yet we are not making sales,” he said mournfully.

Reminded that the reconstruction of the expressway was in everybody’s interest with its long-term benefit for all including businesses, Ejiofor agreed that the work was good, but pleaded that government should talk to the contractors to increase their speed of work to end the suffering on the expressway.

All these are terrible experiences on the expressway. However, the completion of the road project, especially from Eleko Junction to Ajah is expected to bring relief for motorists and businesses on that axis and the relief would last longer due to the quality of the road.

Cargo movement

Information on the movement of cargo from the Deep Seaport and petroleum products from Dangote Refinery is still sketchy, but according to Ude Amobi, safety personnel at the Hitech construction site, plans were on to see how trucks would get out of the port and the refinery without going through the island.

One option for now, he guessed, was for the trucks to leave the ports and make a detour at Eleko Junction and head towards Ikorodu to the Mainland. “But that is not a viable option because not all cargo is billed for the mainland,” he said.

The reconstruction work from Ibeju end to Eleko Junction has passed the Lekki Deep Seaport as well as the Dangote Refinery and has reached the Lekki Free Zone.

Amobi told our reporters that the reconstruction work started from 7km before the Lekki Port and Dangote Refinery, disclosing that the concrete pavement was about 20cm in thickness and that the construction of the 6-lane road started in 2022. But he did not know exactly when it would end.

“We started this work last year and I think it will be completed next year. I cannot say exactly when because I was not there when they signed the papers. I am just a site worker here,” he said jokingly.