Many Nigerians who travel regularly on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway in the past 10 years have one, two, or many sad stories to share.
A lot of people put up with suffering, pain and agony due to regular gridlock as a result of diversion by construction companies handling repairs on the expressway. Sometimes such diversion and recklessness of driver lead to accidents, fire outbreak, loss of lives and man-hours.
From depreciating health to loss of lives, valuables and livelihood; and many hours of trekking in the hot blistering sun just to escape the traffic, men and women, young and old, students and workers have unpleasant stories to tell.
For Mayowa, who is a journalist with a foremost newspaper, five years of daily commute and escaping near-death experience affected her mental health.
It was 3 pm in the afternoon and Mayowa’s mind was filled with thoughts of how she will finish the day’s job before the end of production. As a journalist, she has an exclusive story to write as well as a report and two press releases to complete.
She was at Berger bus stop, trying to embark on a 15 minutes journey to her place of work but commercial buses were not available.
The few available buses have doubled the fare and a lot of commuters were at the bus stop waiting their turn for the next available and affordable bus. She hopped on the next bus, which called the fare N600 instead of N300, even though other commuters retreated.
She said, “You see, I made that decision because I didn’t want to risk any delay at the bus stop. However, the delay I feared eventually became my nemesis on this fateful day. A journey of 15 mins eventually turned to about four hours while my return trip lasted for approximately three hours.
“The bus proceeded down the expressway towards Kara bus stop, OPIC bus stop and then to Fagbems. We climbed the long bridge and the driver began to slow down because some vehicles ahead of us were on the reverse and moving towards us.
“People who regularly move along this route know that when this happens, it means there is a gridlock of the express. My bus also reversed and joined the other vehicles to take an untarred service road beside the long bridge.
While we were trying to escape delay on the long bridge, we encountered something worse on the alternative road as the road was slippery at certain sections, many vehicles got stuck in the muddy parts. The lanes became narrow and later got completely blocked.
According to her, about three hours were spent on the untarred road as there was no opportunity to join the expressway again that had started opening up.
Mayowa explained that at about 10 pm when she had finished the day’s job, she spent not less than three hours on the second lane of the express as the long bridge was divided to two parts and traffic diverted to only one part that could only accommodate one vehicle at a time.
She said a truck broke down on the single, narrow lane and all vehicular movement was at a standstill for over two hours until the truck was fixed.
According to her, she got home a few minutes to 1 am due to the unfortunate incident.
Mayowa said she spends several hours in traffic three out of the five days that she goes to the office, which took a toll on her mental and physical health.
Nature of Repairs On Lagos-Ibadan Expressway
The Lagos-Ibadan expressway is a 120km highway that links Lagos, the commercial centre of Nigeria, to other Southern parts of the country. It is one of the busiest roads in West Africa
In 2012, the rehabilitation of the road was awarded to two construction companies – Julius Berger and RCC, after a failed concession by Bi-Courtney.
The repairs on the Lagos-Sagamu part of the highway were awarded to Julius Berger and the scope of work involves the rehabilitation and extension of about 43 km of the road, existing bridges and concrete deck on pile, construction of new drainage system, upgrading of 4 existing underpasses, construction of three new flyovers, two toll plazas and 10 pedestrian bridges.
RCC was asked to repair the 83km Sagamu to the Ibadan section. The project officially commenced in July 2013 and was meant to be completed in two years, but 9 years after, the project is still ongoing.
29-year-old Businesswoman died
Olawunmi narrated how she lost her elder sister, Oluwadamilola, a 29-year-old businesswoman, who was involved in an accident due to a ditch on a failed section of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
According to her, the incident that happened less than a year ago, devastated her family, her husband, adding that Oluwadamilola left behind a two-year-old daughter and a baby.
She said, “On September 29, 2020, my brother-in-law went to help his friend who just got back from the United Kingdom to transport him from Lagos to Ibadan. After picking up his friend, they fell into a ditch along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
“Their tire bust and they packed at the left side of the road and tried to fix the car. They had to take the jack from the vehicle and other equipment. My brother-in-law started loosening the tire while my sister and his friend went to get the extra tire and other tools.
“An oncoming vehicle also lost control at the same spot, fell into that ditch but unfortunately lost control and hit my sister from the back against the booth of the car. The friend was not too close to the car so he jumped away and hit his head on a stone.
According to Olawunmi, there was no help for several hours after the accident and her sister had already lost a lot of blood, but when help eventually came, the hospital said she was brought in dead (BID).
She added, “For like five hours, there was no help. They were on that spot and cars coming were not waiting to help at all, thinking it was a setup. That is how we Nigerians think.
“A man eventually reversed and came to help them, took them to a nearby hospital, placed her on oxygen, her broken leg was stitched and they started coming to Ibadan around 7 pm. “By the time they got to Ibadan, the hospital quickly attended to them.
“But they said she was brought in dead. The man did some tests and said she had already bled in the head and that if she was revived, she would remain a psychopath all her life.”
Broken Glasswares Due To Bad State of Road
A communications expert, Reginald, also narrated his ordeal while trying to transport fragile items on the same highway.
He said, “My trip on the Lagos Ibadan Expressway was done with mixed feelings. First, I actually went to Ibadan, Old-Ife road to give my elder brother some items that he needed because he got married in December and moved to Ibadan. I had to carry the majority of his things in my house to him.
“On getting to Berger, the road was smooth but once we got out of Lagos, the road was so bad, terrible as we entered a lot of potholes and some of the breakable items like Kitchen utensils, glasses, and ceramic plates were wrapped in newspaper and put together and cushioned with clothes but some still got broken due to the bad road.
“We experienced a lot of portholes especially on the failed sections of the road. We experienced a lot of temperature spikes because the weather was very hot. “After offloading the items and furniture, on the return journey. We still had a lot of potholes and failed sections of the road.”
Journey of 2 minutes turned to one hour
Dolapo, biotechnology engineer, has been a regular commuter on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway for the past five years.
Due to the ongoing constriction on the road, he said there have been diversions, merging and narrowing of lanes such that a little impediment causes several hours of gridlock.
He said, “I’m a regular commuter on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Since they started the road construction, it’s been tough passing through that road.
“It’s difficult to predict what you will experience on the road. There are days I’ve spent hours between Arepo and Punch Newspaper because of faulty trailers blocking the way. There are times when there are no impediments but the high influx will make one experience slow movement.
Just last night, we were leaving work around 11.30 pm, one truck was faulty almost in front of Punch, so, there was a backlog. The way the road is at the moment, we have to go through a Chinese factory to join the road, we can’t hit the expressway directly from the office. “The other part of the road (those going outside Lagos) was heavy with traffic.
“To cut the long story short, from Punch towards Lagos to Berger was free, but a trailer got damaged almost in front of Punch; we were in the traffic for over one hour.”
Timeline of Repairs On Lagos-Ibadan Expressway
2009: A 25-year Lagos-Ibadan Expressway rehabilitation concession project was awarded by late President Umaru Yar’Adua to Bi-Courtney Consortium for N90billion
August 2009: Bi-Courtney moves to site
2012: The contract for the reconstruction and maintenance to Bi-Courtney Highway Services, was terminated by former President Goodluck Jonathan due to alleged non-performance of the contractor.
Bi-Courtney drags FG to court over revocation of contract
2013: The repairs works was awarded to Julius Berger Nigeria Plc and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) Limited for N176 billion
2014: Motorways Assets Limited (MAL) signed a Finnace, Operate and Maintain Agreement with FG for a period of 40 years with N50 billion government funding and N117 billion funds from MAL
2015: Bi-Courtney Drags FG and MAL to court over new concession
Court granted a mandatory injunction against the concession agreement with MAL
2018: President Muhamadu Buhari established a Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) to finance critical roads, like Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and power projects.