When in 2009 contract was awarded for the reconstruction and expansion of Lagos-Badagry Expressway from its four-lane structure to 10 lanes with a light rail track in-between, there was a mixed bag of joy and pain, particularly among motorists, residents and those who had business along the expressway.
This particular project was at the centre of ‘Hurricane Fashola’ which defined the early days of Babatunde Fashola as governor of Lagos when socio-economic expediency derived relevance and essence from unabashed political will.
Expectation is that the redevelopment of the expressway will not only open up the West African market to Nigerian business and traders, but also affect positively the value of properties along the corridor. It will further impact on economic, commercial and social activities of people in that axis.
The first phase of the project (Lot 1) handled by the construction giant, Julius Berger, which started from Orile Iganmu and terminated at Maza-Maza, was completed a bit behind schedule and the second phase (Lot 2A), which is to run from Maza Maza to Okokomaiko, was awarded this time to the China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation (CCECC) which also has responsibility for the rail content in the phase one (Lot 1) along with Lot 2.
We commend the Lagos State government for the project, but like the motorists and residents on this expressway, we are deeply worried with the mounting challenges that characterise the snail pace of work by the new contractor who, it seems to us, has continued to maintain ‘presence’ on the site as a strategy to keep the job.
The stress and strain on commuters on this expressway is better left to the imagination and we, therefore, urge that speed should be brought to bear on the execution of this project, at least for the sake of those who have made the great sacrifice of losing their homes and businesses to the project.
We don’t have any qualms or reservations on the integrity or/and competence of the Chinese firm to do quality job on the expressway. After all, Chinese technology has taken the entire world by storm, delivering values in manufactured products across Africa, Europe and America.
It does not, however, speak well of the contractor and the promoters of this project that the entire three-phased project which is planned to terminate at Seme border with completion timeline of four years is taking almost eternity to complete such that, six years after, the second phase of the project is yet to achieve 30 percent completion, leaving the entire corridor distorted and disoriented.
Much as we agree with the Lagos State government that the redevelopment of the road will open up trade across the West Coast, where it is estimated that the annual volume of trade runs into billions of naira, we are also bitter that the project is not getting deserved attention.
Apart from trade facilitation, the human element should also be given serious consideration in the execution of this project because the present state of the road is a nightmare to motorists and commuters alike. People spend upwards of three hours to commute between Mile 2 and Okokomaiko that should, ordinarily, take 30-40 minutes. This has both social and health implications, and the economic loss in terms of man-hour can hardly be quantified in monetary terms.
There’s no gainsaying that the completion of this project will impact positively on the economy of the state because apart from the regional trade that will be boosted, many companies have positioned themselves to take advantage of the expressway and many more will relocate to this axis.
Besides these, many Lagos citizens have invested in property on this corridor only waiting for the expressway to be completed so they can move in. From all these prospective residents and businesses, we see the state government generating enormous revenue that will enable it to provide more roads infrastructure and other social amenities for the citizens.
We, therefore, appeal to all stakeholders in the project, particularly the state government and CCECC, to do all within their power to inject more life into this second phase of the project. Its continued delay amounts to mercy-killing for residents, traders, motorists and commuters who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the noble decision to do the project in the first place.