One month after Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu declared a state of emergency on roads, and gave a marching order to eight construction firms to help fix the roads and relieve residents of traffic nightmare, it is still the same old story.
The question Lagosians may soon ask Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is: just how much longer does he need to fix the roads?
The question, which is being asked with all sense of responsibility, is because they are seeing no sign of respite that anything may change soon, despite the imminence of the dry season, the much-expected period where much speed is expected on ongoing projects.
Their worry was triggered by none other than the lackadaisical attitude of the contractors saddled with repairing the roads and bringing the much-needed relief to road users.
On October 13, the governor declared an emergency on the roads and saddled eight construction companies with constructing some selected roads.
The contractors were Messrs Julius Berger Construction Company Plc, Hi-tech Construction Company, Arab Contractors, Metropolitan Construction, Slabaugh Construction, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), Rajaf Foundation Construction, and RCF Nigeria Limited.
Some of the critical highways and even inner roads listed among the roads for urgent remedial attention include the Ojota stretch of the Ikorodu Road, Motorways -Kudirat Abiola Way, Apogbon Highway, Babs Animashaun Road, Agric/Ishawo Road and Ijede Road in Ikorodu, as well as Lekki-Epe Expressway from Abraham Adesanya to Eleko Junction.
Also to be touched in what may be the first phase of the massive reconstruction are the roads in Ikoyi, Ikeja GRA and Victoria Island.
“We expect the rains will begin to subside and this is why we are mobilising our contractors to immediately start the major construction work on the identified highways and bring permanent relief to residents. I am giving all Lagosians the assurance that the contractors will start the construction in earnest and will deliver on the terms of agreements reached with them,” Sanwo-Olu assured.
He also directed the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) officials to work round the clock to control traffic in areas where the construction would take place.
Sanwo-Olu, who empathised with pain of road users, gave the contractors a marching order to start the reconstruction the following day.
Their efforts, according to the governor, are to be complemented by the rehabilitation by men of the Lagos State Public Works Corporation (LSPWC), which during the August break, claimed it palliated 200 roads.
Some road users have raised concern that virtually all those roads have since been washed off in the ensuing rainfalls of the last two months.
A section of road users are even querying what qualifies Victoria Island, Ikoyi, and Ikeja GRA, while many more densely populated roads abound at Oshodi, Mushin, Agege, Okokomaiko, Ojokoro, Ifako-Ijaiye and even Ikeja, all in the mainland, all of which could have given more relief to road users, had they been attended.
The Nation’s checks, however, showed that one month after Sanwo-Olu’s approval, none of the contractors have mobilised their workforce to site, despite the respite from the rains.
The situation on most of the roads listed as priority by the government and for which contractors have been selected has remained same.
The Nation could not immediately confirm whether the government has mobilised all the contractors.
However, Sanwo-Olu kept assuring road users that he has their listening ears, and feels their pain. He sought Lagosians’ understanding as he sorts the state’s myriad challenges.
The governor disclosed that his administration had audacious programmes lined up to address the current challenges facing the State.
He however hinted that his strides might be hampered by “a number of irrevocable financial liabilities tied to which the State’s resources had been tied,” by his immediate predecessor.
He said: “I know I cannot give excuses to Lagosians that I met the state in financial mess. It would amount to meaningless stories. And nobody will never know the real status of finances of any state until they get there. It is until I got there that I realised how bad we are in terms of outstanding liabilities, financial commitments to local banks and Federal Government’s bonds.”
To finance the capital projects envisaged for the state, the governor disclosed that he might have to seek fresh funds. “We may have to widen the tax net and improve the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state, to fund some of the pending capital projects,” he said.
At a public forum recently, Sanwo-Olu also took umbrage at critics, carpeting his administration, saying having concluded planning, implementation becomes easy.
Sanwo-Olu’s critics are unrelenting. They said seven months is too long for the governor who knew he was inheriting assets and liabilities of a state to make an impression.
Sanwo-Olu, who brandishes a two-governor-in-one ticket, they claimed is too solid to be wasting time at the door of indecision.
His dithering, they claimed, depicts a mind not cued to the assignment of his office.
Adeola Samson was one of such critics, who believes Sanwo-Olu should stop wallowing in self-pity and face his assignment.
“The governor knows the roads were bad, long before he was sworn-in in May. The roads have been deplorable and road reconstruction was one of his cardinal campaign promises, so why is he delaying after the victory?”
Some users believe bad roads are a major cause of traffic nightmare on Lagos roads. They reasoned that if 50 percent of the roads are fixed, much of the choke being experienced across the state’s road network would have been addressed and traffic will move more freely, leading to a reduction in the cumulative man-hour loss in the state, which is put conservatively at over two billion man-hours per year.
But the governor reasoned that other factors outside bad roads are responsible for traffic gridlock.
According to him, population and vehicle count are exerting immeasurable pressure on the roads.
According to Sanwo-Olu, more than 10 per cent of the nation’s 180 million population, reside in the state.This is beside a vehicular movement average of 240 vehicles per kilometre, as against the national average, which ranges between 11 and 15 vehicles per kilometre.
The governor said being the nation’s economic capital, Lagos roads will always experience traffic congestion but pointed out that his administration is coming with a robust transportation system to relief the roads and lessen the pain of road users.
He said: “In the short to medium term, we have decided to come up with intermodal transport scheme, which will see us simultaneously developing capacities in waterways, rail and road mode mass transit. Our intervention is largely focused on the road, because it is the most used method of transportation.
“The BRT programme is on course and we have taken delivery of 800 buses, which we are currently trying to clear from the Nigerian Port. Once this is done, we will be able to remove a lot of yellow commercial buses off the road in line with our transportation plan. “
On the road infrastructure, he promised some speed once the rainy season is over.
Dayo Ayeyemi said with one, out of the six months of dry season gone, the governor need to breathe hard on the contractors if appreciable work is to be done on the roads by the advent of next year’s rainy season.
A Deputy Director of Public Affairs in the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure Mr Adesegun Ogundeji said the complaints had been high this year because the rain has a debilitating effect on the roads.
“Once it rains, the surfaces of the roads are usually washed away, leaving the roads distressed, depressed and deplorable,” he said.
He said the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure and the LSPWC have been mandated and are working on the roads to ensure they are repaired and the pains of road users are attenuated.