Nine months after the completion of the Sango Ota Toll Gate inward Lagos lane of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, ADEYINKA ADENIJI examines road users’ agonies and other issues escalating pain on the long abandoned opposite lane.
The Lagos Abeokuta Expressway, on the stretch between Abule Egba and Sango Ota Toll Gate never cease attracting public opprobrium for the daily agonies commuters and motorists face in that axis of Lagos. The road has for almost two decades been notorious for its unending traffic lock jams. Many people from other parts of Lagos dread the road so terribly that they never want to have any cause to make use of the road a second time, after their first or perhaps last experience.
Commuters’ near-death experiences
Emeka Ojukwu is a resident of Amuwo Odofin, but the last time he visited Alakuko, in the Ojokoro LCDA in 2019, one year after the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola flagged off the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the collapsed road. This was however not until the road had become a source of embarrassment for the minister, who himself was reputed for his giant infrastructural development strides as governor of Lagos State between 2007 and 2015. Ojukwu vowed never to revisit the Agbado Ijaiye axis, as most parts of the communities covered by the highway are also known; not only because of the damage done to his car by the many craters and potholes around Kola and Moshalashi bus stops, but also for spending almost six hours on a journey that should ordinarily not last more than 10 to 12 minutes between Abule Egba and Ota Toll Gate. He was both unlucky and lucky to have been hooked behind a truck laden with a container, that eventually and the account that he eventually watched fell off its platform around the Moshalashi bus stop. It was before the completion of the reconstruction of the inward Lagos lane. He and his family were forced to sleep on the road and he concluded that a 10-year period is too short a time to experience such traffic congestion twice.
Residents vows never to make unnecessary trips
It is also commonplace to meet many dwellers in other parts of Lagos vowing never to repeat a visit to any parts of Lagos or Ogun State that would warrant them plying the rated busiest highway in the country after their only and last experience. However, in 2018, in what appears like the usually insensitive fondling of public emotions concerning the plights of the suffering public who daily endure needless traffic congestion on the road, the Minister reiterated the government’s intention to alleviate motorists suffering on the highway, though to an unconvinced public, who have become very weary of what they term “audio” commitments on the part of the government.
But, true to Fashola’s words, contractors were mobilised to the roads and the lane inbound Lagos was completely closed, as this was generally believed would enable men of Julius Berger Construction to concentrate on the road and deliver in record time; and then, move for the Abule Egba to Tollgate lane immediately. Nonetheless, as the work continued despite the intermittent disappearance of men of Julius Berger Plc, which was usually marked by the evacuation of their equipment and machines each time; the lane was eventually completed and opened for use on November 16, 2021. The partial completion of the road, expectedly elicited a frenzy of relief for travelers on the highway, as many believed that work would commence on the opposite lane outbound Lagos immediately.
Failed promises Alas!
The gale of public excitement that had engulfed observers would be short-lived once again. The modicum of hope created by the Minister after one part of the road ended as usual became a mere groping of public sensibility. And the circle continued with accidents and loss to lives and properties caused by certain factors.
These factors include, but are not limited to the deplorable state of the highway; illegal street trading; impatience on the part of motorists, and commercial drivers, coupled with activities of road transport unions, who cash in on failed portions of the road to constitute a barrier to the already slow pace of traffic, choosing some of the worst parts of the road as their points of convergence to collect tolls from motorists, as against their known convention of the bus stop by bus stop collections. The deplorable condition of the ‘Agbado Ijaiye highway’, as the road is usually called, has led to many avoidable deaths. Motorists out of frustration resort to driving against traffic when alternative routes equally become impassable – either due to traffic congestion as a result of high vehicu-lar density, or sheer impatience, even as members of the public continue to call for the arrest and punishment of perpetrators. Presently, the Lagos to Sango Ota lane of the Lagos Abeokuta Expressway can best be described as failed! From “U-turn Bus Stop’’, through Meiran – Ijaiye axis, to Kola, Alakuko to Amje Bus stop; a distance of about 6 to seven kilometers, anyone who had had the cause to drive on the road would confirm the impossibility of driving any 40 consecutive seconds in a single stretch of driving/ throttling without encountering one truck-sized crater or the other. At the “U-turn” bus stop end, commercial drivers and tricyclists in their bid to avoid destructive and unending ditches that have taken over the roads, take to “one-way” driving and this has caused many mishaps that have led to many deaths on the road. Drivers and cyclists in their bid to avoid bad portions between General and Ammadiya Bus stop switch to driving against traffic, while many soon switch back to their lanes around a makeshift U-turn situated in front of the President Paint factory, the more audacious remain on the illegal lanes until the next turn around Meiran bust stop. In between Ammadiya and Ijaiye Bus stops, the most disturbing of the many craters dotting the highway is located at the Obadeyi Bus stop. It was created in 2021 by an excavation that had been left uncovered by construction workers of Julius Berger Plc, who for months opened up a section of the road, purportedly to carry out expansion work on un-derground canals at the Obadeyi bus stop. This thickens the congestion up till Ajala and Ijaiye Bus stops, where motorists prefer to branch off the highway, either to avoid the terror of falling containers between Meiran and Kola, but more notorious at Kola and Mashalashi bus stop, but also for ease of navigating the Governor Sanwo-Olu completed Ojokoro inner roads as they link communities in the Agbado-Ijaiye area and beyond.
Another trend in the congestion
The terrible traffic experience on the verge of negotiating the Agbado road, recently renamed Bola Ahmed Tinubu road, though tarred but narrow, is further compounded by the recklessness of street traders and transporters, who appears to have jointly sought and obtained official approval from the police to ‘legitimately’ occupy the road as motor park and a market square. Sadly, the traders and transporters who unlawfully occupy the roads are never seen before the vehicle traffic peak periods.
Investigations however reveal that these traffic law violators deliberately wait until the official closure of government offices before taking over the streets, thus sadly coinciding with the congestion- prone period of the day. A commercial motorcyclist who identified himself as Hakeeb Okanlawon said, he and many of his colleagues chose to drive one way between Ammadiya and Meiran Bus Stops, purposely to avoid the needless spilling effect of the snarl caused by street traders at the Ijaiye Bus Stop.
“That Ijaiye will just waste valuable time for nothing, lamented the twenty-something year old cyclist. “That is why we take one way from Ammadiya down to Meiran”, Hakeeb concluded. Unarguably, driving against traffic to avoid the problematic Obadeyi -Ijaiye section of the 9-kilometer stretch of road has led to many deaths. Recall on June 4, 2022, yours truly witnessed and reported the knocking down to death of one Kehinde Kazeem, at the Ijaiye Bus Stop by a hit-run one-way driver. Also on Friday, July 29, 2022, two male soldiers and one female civilian were reportedly killed in an auto crash around Obadeyi Bus Stop, Ijaiye, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
A truck was reportedly driving the wrong way when it collided head-on with the Mitsubishi car which had four occupants in it. Congestion at the Ijaiye Bus Stop, truly, inevitable, yet suppressible if law enforcers from the Ojokoro Police Division would be alive to their constitutional responsibilities of discouraging not only street trading, but also transporters who recklessly turn the busy junction into a garage. A private motorist who plies the road every day, who prefers anonymity, said the level of traffic at the Ijaiye Bus Stop would have been avoidable but for the traders; “mostly youths selling yams and fruit stuff in wheelbarrows and other traders in the middle of the road,” this he concluded, could reduce the number of vehicles driving against the traffic.
Challenge of one-way driving
In April 2022, four siblings were crushed to death at Amje Bus Stop, on their way from church. Sympathizers who witnessed the unfortunate accident lamented the atrocities of “one-way” drivers. One Akeem Tajudeen, is one person who helped rush the victims to hospital expressed frustration at the daily experience of having to rush victims of drive against traffic to nearby clinics. Pointing to a vulcanizing compressor by the roadside, Akeem said, that is my shop. “I have seen many things in this place. One way drivers are the devil on this road. Both private and commercial drivers commit the crime.
We want the police to arrest and impound their vehicles.” “We have been begging the authorities, especially the police, to ensure that they arrest those driving one way at this bus stop, but they choose to turn deaf ears to our pleas; look at what has happened now.” He continued, “These drivers like taking one way at Amje Bus Stop despite the risks.
The drivers will even be speeding, knowing that they are driving against oncoming vehicles and passersby.” My Pius Ajogun is another Lagos dweller who dreads the Lagos Abeokuta Expressway like a plague. He visited once and said the traffic on the road is not just of government neglect and official dereliction of duty on the part of the supervising ministry.
Based on his experience, Pius pointed out other factors like street trading and activities of commercial transporters and men of the Lagos State Park Management Agency, who he says additionally assume the unofficial position of allocating trading spaces for illegal roadside trading at certain exits like Ijaiye, Kola, and Ajegunle Bus Stops. According to Ajogun, government neglect is a major cause of the spate of congestion on the highway, with most parts of the road dotted with craters and dangerous “drum holes” that hinders free vehicular movement.
Danger of falling containers
The Ijaiye and Kollington bus stops have a higher density of vehicles branching off the expressway in common. The Agbado and Nureni Yusuf roads at Ijaiye Bus Stop and Kola bus stop respectively are the most plied as well as most popular roads in the Ojokoro LCDA. Leading to numerous far and beyond communities in neighboring Ogun State, as well as serving the purpose of a rat race, an escape for the dilapidated-occasioned traffic congestions on the highway, these roads instead of easing motorists’ traumas sadly, now contributes to users’ agony.
The option between Meiran Housing Estate Gate and Kollinton Bus Stops is almost impossible. And chances of falling containers are highest between Councpl and Moshalashi Bus Stop on the outbound Lagos lane. Akiko and Amje have also witnessed an uncountable number of falling containers. For High Chief Akinwale Akintonde, the Baale of Ijaiye, there is nothing the people could do than to continue to beg the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), to please consider the pains of sufferers on the road, saying that the deplorable state of the roads has turned it into a death trap.
“It has become a death trap. Traffic is the minimal hazard on that road. There is a risk of death caused by those who drive against traffic. The habit has remained unchecked.” Praising Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State for the timely move to complete the 31 inner roads in the locality, the High Chief said the action has nonetheless helped minimise the difficulties resulting from the dilapidation on the Lagos Abeokuta Expressway.
“That is how you find the 31 access roads useful and the gains unquantifiable.” The Baale Ijaiye however urged the FERMA, the department in charge of the highway to expedite reconstruction work on the Abule Egba – Ota lane of the Expressway. He nonetheless persuaded Governor Sanwo-Olu to consider the strategic importance of an interstate road between Lagos and Ogun State, and cause the execution of the longoverdue dualization of the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu Road (formerly Agbado Road). This, according to the Baale, would eradicate street trading and other traffic law violations.
The traditional ruler noted that the dualization of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu roads has become imperative, due to the growing population and the resultant increase in the volume of traffic. He also noted that the likes of Ekoro and Meiran Road, in neighbouring Agbado Oke Odo LCDA, which have both been tarred, are not only intra-state but also run through less populated communities when compared to Ijaiye.
A commercial tricyclist, who spoke to our correspondents and gave his name as Lamina Babatunde and plies the Agege to Agbado route, said he rarely makes use of the expressway, especially at peak periods, due to incessant traffic snarl.
He noted that he has found the Ojokoro inner roads a safer and more user-friendly route. “I always avoid the highway at peak periods. Once I get to Oja Oba, I branch into the inner roads from Olaniyi, doing that I could escape the suffocating traffic caused by the decrepit condition of the highway. “Thank God for these “corner corner” roads, we would have been charged as much as N700 instead of N400.” As it stands, only a speedy rehabilitation by engineers on the road is the only visible means of easing the suffering of road users on the Lagos Abeokuta Expressway. Law enforcers also need to step up their enforcement and crime discouraging functions through self-cleansing as men in military uniforms and other large military vehicles are usually seen engaging in one-way driving on the routes.