By Tope Templer Olaiya
AFTER much agitations spanning decades, the long-suffering residents of Isolo, Ejigbo, Isheri-Osun, Ikotun, Abaranje, Igando, Idimu, Ijegun and beyond heaved a sigh of relief when the Lagos State government awarded contract for the Ajao Estate-Oke Afa link bridge to China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) in November 2011.
The Oke-Afa community benefitted from the 2002 Ikeja cantonment bomb-blast disaster with construction of the bridge to pass over the Oke-Afa canal, even though it took the government nine years the accomplished that after the promise was first made in 2003 on the occasion of the first anniversary of the tragedy.
With few months short of the stipulated period of 18 months, the 2.1km dual-lane road, which starts from the NNPC depot at Ejigbo and ends at Chivita Avenue, Ajao Estate, was completed two months ago with modern-day road furniture, which included covered drainage on both lanes, a walkway for pedestrians, road barrier and streetlights.
On completion of the project in September this year, the road was unofficially opened for public use even as the contractor waited on the state for the project handover and commissioning.
However, though the road was only partially opened for test running, it was praise galore for the governor for shunning resistance from some quarters to make the project a reality.
Residents felt reduced pressure on the agonizing Isolo-Ejigbo-Ikotun traffic, as commuting from that axis of the state to mainland Lagos was smooth sailing.
But at the peak of the residents’ joy an incident spoilt the fun.
An accident on the yet-to-be-commissioned road, which broke the leg of a pedestrian, forced CCECC to abruptly shut the bridge and allowed only pedestrians to use the facility, forcing road users to endure the excruciating traffic on the busy Isolo-Jakande Estate road.
After the incident, there were some readjustment to the project design as Oke-Afa residents and a group, Nigerians Unite For Road Safety (NUFORSA) pushed for more user-friendly road infrastructure like pedestrian crossing and speed bumps to protect the anticipated high pedestrian and vehicular traffic on the densely populated community.
Faced with a new challenge, efforts are on to make sure critical road furniture, particularly road signage, are completed before the facility is ready for use. Some roads have already been designated one-way route and the directional signs are expected to make traffic diversion in Ajao Estate easier for motorists.
The project supervisor, the state Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, explaining why the commissioning of the link bridge is delayed, told The Guardian that after the accident, there were agitations by the communities – Ajao Estate and Oke-Afa – on the need for safety of road users. This resulted in the postponement of the commissioning to ensure all safety facilities are in place.
“To avoid the situation that occurred at the Lekki-Epe expressway recently, where a truck killed some pupils and residents in the area requested for a pedestrian bridge, we decided to redesign the Ajao Estate-Ejigbo link bridge by first sending a memo to the Ministry of Transport to inspect the road and come up with possible recommendation,” an official of the ministry said.
According to him, the project redesigning would be completed before the end of November or if there is delay, it would be first week of December,” he pledged.