The handing over of the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Expressway to the Ogun State Government by the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led Federal Government was long in coming. The entire stretch of the 77kilometer road has collapsed, with few good portions still wearing semblance of a tarred road. The handover, as announced by the new Minister of Works, Engr. Dave Umahi in Abuja on Monday, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting means that the long drawn battle by Governor Dapo Abiodun to take over the road has finally paid off.
The road has been in deplorable condition for more than 10 years. In September 2021, then Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, announced the intention of the Federal Government to review the contract for the reconstruction of the road. Fashola said that the road project, which was inherited from the previous administration, was initially awarded in 2000 at the contract sum of N6 billion. At the time of Fashola’s announcement, N56 billion was required to complete the project.
But the road was never completed, despite the Federal Government insisting that it was under contract. The failure to complete the road means hardship for motorists who ply the road daily. Due to its complete failure and total collapse, motorists go through harrowing experiences manoeuvring gullies and craters deep enough to swallow trailers. One-way driving is common on the road, with the attendant risk of head-on collision.
The highway is one of the most important federal roads in Ogun State. It is a link to the Agbara/Ota industry hub, which harbours the highest number of industries in the country. It is the fastest route to Abeokuta from Lagos, the nation’s economic capital. It also serves as a link to Ibadan in Oyo State and other states in the South West and the North and the South East/South South through Sagamu Interchange in case of any gridlock on the ever busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
The poor dilapidated condition of the road has been a source of concern to the administration of Prince Dapo Abiodun since 2019. Despite it being a federal road, the administration has always shown concern over the plight of travellers on the road. Various interventions were made in the form of palliative measures. Prince Abiodun was also very consistent in demanding that Ogun State should be allowed to reconstruct the road. Various representations were made to the federal government to that effect. At one point, both Ogun and Lagos states jointly approached the Federal Government for the same purpose, and again, the efforts were rejected, even when a detailed and comprehensive proposal, including funding, was presented.
The new administration of President Tinubu presented another opportunity for Governor Abiodun to continue his drive and determination to persuade the Federal Government to relinquish the reconstruction of the road to the state government. On August 31, when Engr. Umahi visited him in his office, Prince Abiodun recalled his efforts, including with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in getting the Federal Government’s permission to take over the reconstruction of the road. The efforts never yielded any positive results.
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 Jonathan. 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 that we wanted to put into the reconstruction of the road.
“Then, there was no minister. We were told that because the road was under contract, what they would like to do was 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.” The no progress means further deterioration of the road.
Penultimate Saturday, at the grand finale of the Yewa Cultural festival in Ilaro, the governor seized on the presence of the leadership of the Senate, led by Senate President Godswill Akpabio, to appeal to the Federal Government once again to transfer the reconstruction of the road to the state because of its importance to the socio-economic development of the state. An elated Governor Abiodun was full of joy and was effusive in praising President Tinubu for the gesture. He said: “Approximately a month ago, the Minister of Works, Engineer David Umahi, paid us a visit to inspect the Federal Government’s road infrastructure in Ogun State. During this visit, we had the opportunity to express our concerns and aspirations for the improvement of these roads, which we believe would greatly contribute to the socioeconomic development of our state.
“Today, I am pleased to inform you that the Federal Government has entrusted our administration with the reconstruction of the Abeokuta/Sango Ota Tollgate Road. This decision brings us great joy as it signifies a commendable step towards alleviating the challenges faced by road users on this particular route. I would like to express my utmost gratitude to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu – GCFR for granting us this longstanding request. It is a testament to the success of our Renewed Hope Agenda and reaffirms our commitment to delivering positive change and progress in our dear state. I am sharing this news with the good people of Ogun State and visitors alike, as an important stakeholder in our society. Your support and understanding throughout this process have been invaluable, and we believe that this development will greatly benefit everyone who utilises this road.
We are committed to keeping you updated on the progress of this project and its impact on our region.”
There is no doubt that Ogun State taking over the construction of the road has the potential for ensuring significant improvements in road infrastructure in the state. Once transformed into a world-class carriageway, it will reduce travel time, improve safety, and enhance the overall transportation network of the state. This will facilitate the movement of goods and people, potentially boosting trade, commerce, and industrial activities in both Ogun and Lagos states.
With the road falling under the new Highway Development Management Initiative (HDMI) programme, which is Public-Private Partnership (PPP), it is expected to attract private sector investments, reducing the burden on the state government’s finances while ensuring that the road is maintained to high standards. This can be seen as a win-win scenario for both the government and private investors. The construction and maintenance of the road will also create job opportunities for the local workforce, providing employment and income to the community. Additionally, the construction of trailer parks and other infrastructure can create further employment opportunities.
This much was confirmed by the state Commissioner for Works, Engr. Ade Akinsanya. Speaking on plans on ground, Akinsanya said reconstruction would begin almost immediately.
”With the transfer done now, we are happy and ready to immediately take over the project and turn around the fortunes of the road. It’s what we’ve been looking for, praying for since we came on board. We will take over immediately, subject to paper works between us and the federal ministry,” Akinsanya said. With 61 kilometer of the entire stretch of the 77kilometer in Ogun State, Akinsanya said the state will still work with Lagos State that has 9 kilometer on a lot of modalities and the federal Ministry of Works to meet the criteria of the Federal Government.
“We are working on how to fund the project. Aside the road, we will have trailer parks and other infrastructure in place. It will be in partnership with some other stakeholders. It’s a PPP project and work will start as soon as possible. The work will be accelerated so that delivery will be swift. We will give the best standard in the shortest time possible. We appreciate the minister for supporting our quest all along. Governor Abiodun is still working hard for more of this,” he added.
.Adeniran is Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Ogun State.