Ten months after the Federal Government re-awarded contract for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Expressway, the job has been going on at snail’s pace.Despite the presence of the contractor- Julius Berger Plc. on site, the motion without movement scenario playing out there has simply made the road to go from bad to worse with motorists being the worst hit.
It would be recalled that the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing on May 14, 2018 officially inaugurated the rehabilitation of the road, which is valued at N22. 387b. The Director, Federal Highways, South West, Olalekan Busari, while briefing journalists during the flag-off said the total rehabilitation starts from Ile Zik Bus Stop at kilometre zero, up to kilometre 80 in Ogun State, where a brewery is located.
“The project was divided into two sections, the first section, which starts from Ile Zik in Lagos State spans about 20 km, while the second section, which falls in Ogun State is 60km.“It is a complete total rehabilitation of the entire road this time around and it is awarded at N22.387b, and for a contract period of two and half years, which we hope the contractor will actually deliver,” he said.
Prior to this period, the project, which started in 1999 suffered several setbacks after the first contract was awarded in 2000.The first section was for the rehabilitation of the Ota-Abeokuta section, which was awarded to the same contractor in 2009.The Guardian observed that for sometime now, Julius Berger has practically remained on the spot at Owode-Iyana/Ilogbo axis, while scant attention is paid to other parts, which are fast becoming dead-traps to motorists. Even the palliatives applied last year on the road have been washed away by rain.
Currently, the gridlock on different sections of the road seems to have defied solutions, and so put a heavy toll on road users. Now, the journey from Sango to Ifo, which should be about 20 minutes takes between two or three hours. Whether in the morning or at night, road users are always subjected to painful and frustrating experiences, and this has forced many to seek alternative routes.
Currently, the most terrible spots along the road are Joju Junction; Conoil Junction, Ijako-Tipper, Owode, Iyana-Ilogbo, Ilepa, Techno Bus Stop, Iyana-Shebik, Itori Bridge, and Obada-Oko, among others. Vehicular traffic is always at a standstill in these areas, and this always leaves policemen and traffic control officials helpless. Recent heavy downpours have worsened the state of the road as areas like Joju Junction, Ijako and the site of the ongoing construction work at Owode were waterlogged.
Consequently, passengers are often stranded in those areas for hours as traffic is usually at a standstill. Recently for instance, vehicular traffic stretched from Sango Motor Park, over the bridge up to Joju, forcing impatient motorists to drive against traffic, a decision that worsened the situation.At Owode, floodwater from the side under construction, which has been cordoned-off by the contractors, took over the entire axis worsening the traffic situation.
A commercial driver, Olumide Kasali, who lamented the predicament of road users on the axis, accused the Federal Government of failure to monitor the project after the media hype that greeted the contract award.“It is disappointing to see that Julius Berger has stayed on a spot since it started work on the road. Even though proper construction of the drainage is essential in the Owode area because of the nature of the place, many people are of the view that the company should make haste and move to other locations in order to finish the job on schedule.
“The present state of the road is actually affecting our business, and that is why a good number of commercial drivers that hitherto plied this route have abandoned it. The few of us that are still here are taking serious risks because our vehicles are taking a hit.”Mr. Ayinde Onibudo, a civil servant, who resides in Pakoto in Ogun State, but works in Lagos, described the state of the road as dilapidated. He said: “Julius Berger should get serious with what it has to do before the rain starts. We that live around this flank and ply this road daily have suffered enough on it. Most times we get to work late and get queried. So, we are appealing to Julius Berger to get serious.
“This journey I’m embarking on, ordinarily should not take more than 30 minutes, but because of the poor state of the road, it now takes an average of three hours, and I fail to understand why the contractor has failed to move away from the spot it has been all this while. The funny aspect of it is that during public holidays when the road is reasonably free, the contractor will also be on holiday; they work like civil servants.”
While several posers raised regarding the slow pace of work have remained unanswered about a year after the contract review, The Guardian reliably gathered that the said N3.5b “released” by government was a ruse, as what has actually been released so far falls far below the said amount.
The Deputy Director, Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing in Ogun State, Olukayode Popoola, in an earlier interview with The Guardian claimed that all the bad portions, which contributed to incessant gridlock on the road have been patched by the contractor.“As per the Owode axis, what they are doing there is a permanent work that cannot be finished in one or two days. That is why they have remained there. The slow pace of the job is due to the Nigerian factor. The challenge right now is the budget, which has not been passed. By the time the budget is passed, money would not be problem for the contractors.” He, however, confirmed that the contractor did not get the entire N3.5b allegedly released to it as mobilisation fee, saying, “what was released to the contractor wasn’t up to N3.5b, but government is still working to complete the payment.