Potholes, potholes everywhere you go!

Federal mess in Lagos (Part 1)
By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor

Failed portion of Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway at Ile-Epo bus-stop, Abule-Egba

Failed portion of Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway at Ile-Epo bus-stop, Abule-Egba

LIVING in Lagos can be as stressful as living in a war zone; the weather is constantly humid, traffic is hellish, living conditions are horrid, roads are terribly bad and the government appears to be ‘indifferent’. In the last few weeks, the combined problem of traffic logjam and insecurity across the state have made many Lagosians wondered aloud what is going wrong with their beloved Centre of Excellence.
A latest survey conducted by leading research institute, NOIPolls, revealed that severe traffic gridlock and heightened crime rate have now become the major sources of concern to the residents of Nigeria’s commercial capital, since Governor Akinwunmi Ambode assumed office in May 2015.
Predictably, the latter (heightened crime rate) exists because of the precarious situation of the former (severe traffic gridlock), which regrettably have been blamed on the lukewarm attitude to work by the state’s traffic regulatory personnel and hideous potholes littering many of the major artery roads in the state.

Creek Road, Apapa

Creek Road, Apapa

Lagos has elevated the definition of potholes. They are no longer small openings carved out on its roads by rainfall and lack of drainage but are alternatively death traps, that an unsuspecting motorist can pay dearly for.
These potholes, mostly on federal roads, have widened into craters and usually cause unnecessary traffic gridlocks. In some cases, car owners have to visit mechanics after a trip or two on these roads. More so, it has become an eyesore to Nigeria, the nation’s former political capital.
Lagos is encircled by dreadful roads on all fronts. Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is perennially a motorist’s nightmare; Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway is caving in under pressure and influx of citizens to the fringes of Lagos; Lagos-Badagry Expressway is taking forever to remodel and expand; too much has been written and said about the deplorable but busy Apapa-Oshodi Expressway; and the situation remains the same with Ikorodu-Sagamu Expressway.

Wharf Road, Apapa

Wharf Road, Apapa

At a time, former governor and now member of President Buhari’s cabinet as a minister, Babatunde Fashola, had relentlessy told the world how the Federal Government has over the years neglected Lagos and why a special status needed to be granted.
It is no longer fruitless to play politics with Lagos. Concrete action must now be taken to arrest the rot, which is threatening the economy of Nigeria’s biggest cash cow after oil. If taken as a country on its own, Lagos would be among the largest economies in Africa. According to a recent Economist report, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Lagos exceeds that of Kenya, East Africa’s beefiest economy.
All these have made life miserable for Lagosians. There is an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads. As a result of the traffic, many have missed business engagements, while those gainfully engaged have lost productive man-hours to the traffic.

The worries do not end there, as every person behind the wheels are weary of daredevil robbers clutching dangerous weapons in the bid to disposes motorists of money, phones and valuables. And these men of the underworld have found a new hobby in plying their trade during traffic. They are so brazen they don’t need the cover of darkness anymore.
All these are enough to stress out even the calmest soul, and sometimes most people who are stressed out don’t even know it until it’s too late.
Little wonder then Lagos was listed as one of the least livable cities in the world alongside Pakistan, Harare in Zimbabwe and Dhaka in Bangladesh by a study conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Ranking, which rated 140 cities in the areas of stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.
Inspite of this, it is an irony of sorts that the city of Lagos still attracts visitors in their hundreds daily.

• Federal Ministry of Works keeps mum

Oshodi-Isale service lane, Oshodi

Oshodi-Isale service lane, Oshodi

WHEN The Guardian contacted a deputy Director, in the Federal Ministry of Works, Mr. Godwin Eke, for comment on the bad state of the road, he directed the reporter to contact the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Works in Abuja, on the ground that he is not allowed to speak to the press.
When reminded that he has been talking to the Press in the past on the parking of trucks and petrol tankers constituted nuisance on the highway, Eke, who is in charge of Section I of the Federal Highway said it was in the past and not now.
Minister-designate and former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, had last year, said a good number of federal roads in the state were in a state of disrepair, pointing out that the situation would have been worse if his administration had not intervened on some of them, adding that he spent over N50 billion of tax-payers money to fix federal roads without getting any refund, despite acknowledgement by the Federal Government.
“We intervened in federal roads because they would disrupt economic activities if we leave them in a state of disrepair. One can imagine the economic impact of watching Apapa-Oshodi Expressway to be completely unmotorable. We can’t just watch these roads to rot away because we feel the pains.”

• Quick Facts

• Lagos has 117 federal roads.
• Length of state roads is 328.
• Length of local government roads is 6,415.

• Length of federal roads in Lagos is 719.2km.
• Length of trunk routes is 646.2km.
• Length of secondary routes is 73km.

 

Federal mess in Lagos (Part 1)

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Restoring sanity to Apapa with Operation Gbale

• Nigerian Navy’s 24-hour operation enters third week
By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor and Sunday Odita

Minister of State for Defence (right) arriving Apapa for his inspection tour of the ports and being received by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade

Minister of State for Defence (right) arriving Apapa for his inspection tour of the ports and being received by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade

After a long drawn battle between government and articulated truck drivers for the control of access roads to the Apapa and Tin Can ports, sanity has been momentarily restored to the once troubled Mile 2-Apapa-Wharf-Liverpool-Marine Beach-Ijora corridor.
This long-sought relief came after the Nigerian Navy midwifed a task force, with the combined commitments of all stakeholders operating in the area.
The taskforce codenamed Operation Gbale, a Yoruba word for sweeping, was instituted by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ilesanmi Alade, to proffer lasting solution to the traffic gridlock that has kept Apapa on lockdown for weeks.
This was after the command had identified the traffic problem as a great risk to security agencies, particularly in the light of the recent twin explosions that rocked Creek Road in Apapa.

Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro (left); representative of Apapa resident, Kayode Animashaun; Commanding Officer, Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Commodore Emmanuel Uwadiae; Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade; and Ananie Anderson, Assistant Manager, Operations, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO)

Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro (left); representative of Apapa resident, Kayode Animashaun; Commanding Officer, Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Commodore Emmanuel Uwadiae; Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade; and Ananie Anderson, Assistant Manager, Operations, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO)

Rising to the challenge, Operation Gbale, a 24-hour daily operation was launched to decongest the area and minimize the risks for any acts of terror.

Deploying the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft and Wey, led by Beecroft Commanding Officer, Commodore Ovenseri Uwadiae, to the flash points, the naval personnel immediately set about riding the area of recalcitrant tanker drivers without excessive use of force.

The operation, which started in July 10, has according to Alade, achieved its aim. “Operation Gbale was instituted for the purpose of clearing the traffic gridlock in Apapa and environs. Recently, a lot of people have attested to the fact that the operation is a huge success. You will recall Governor Babatunde Fashola visited thrice and attested to the fact that life is getting better at Apapa.

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“The truth is we are not completely there yet, we have to continue what we are doing. With all the efforts and measure put in place now, we believe it will get better. What we are doing is to partner with stakeholders. As a matter of fact, my duty is not to clear roads, but because of the security implication of what is happening in Apapa, we had to take action.

“For now, we are on the road, the operation is still active and until we call it off, my men will still be on the road. We might not be there forever, but we are already inculcating the real sense of responsibility in the tanker drivers so that they can begin to do things the right way before we ultimately withdraw our men,” he said.

Attesting to the improved situation at Apapa, Lagos State Commissioner for Transport, Comrade Kayode Opeifa, told The Guardian: “We are happy the situation is improving daily, especially in relation to traffic management, which is our own responsibility.

“The truck and drivers are cooperating to the best of their ability. I was just told that it took a motorist 30 minutes from FESTAC to pass through Apapa to Victoria Island, even with the condition of the road, which is terribly bad. If the road is okay, the journey should not be more than 15 minutes.”

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On Tuesday, the Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, went on an inspection tour of the area, which was cleared of articulated trucks.

Moving in company of the FOC, Real Admiral Alade and some stakeholders, which included Mr. Kayode Animashaun, representing Apapa residents; Ananie Anderson, Assistant Manager, Operations, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO); and officials of the Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), the minister, who toured the entire stretch of the Apapa corridor, commended the FOC for the restoration efforts of Operation Gbale.

In a chat with newsmen, he said decongestion of the area is almost completely done. While work needs to be sped up on the road rehabilitation, plans are already underway to relocate tank farms away from Apapa-Oshodi expressway.

“For sometime now, we have been looking at the security implication of the road congestion here, and given the activities of Boko Haram and other elements within the society who may want to take advantage of the chaotic situation around the port, the Nigerian Navy moved in to clear the area and I am happy that so far, all the stationary trucks have been moved and a passageway have been created to pave way for smooth vehicular movement in and around the port.

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“Though there is a significant socio-economic benefit from having a traffic free access in and out of the ports, but the security element is very key to us. I have been briefed by the FOC that the entire area has been broken into eight and officers have been assigned to ensure free flow of traffic, which has eased the situation here in the last two weeks.

“Decongestion is almost completely done, though we have issues with the road, which is affecting the movement of traffic; but I am aware Julius Berger is already working on some palliatives to bring relief to road users.

“This significant improvement in terms of vehicular movement in and out the port is largely due to the efforts of the Nigerian Navy. I am also happy with the way they have engaged all the stakeholders, because sometimes, when you do a solo effort, you run into a lot of difficulty and resistance from some quarters,” he noted.

The minister added that there is need for the Lagos State government to provide a permanent holding bay for trucks, as the previous one used by the truck drivers, which is the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu Truck Terminal, is no longer conducive due to the expansion on the Badagry express road.

“It is when we have that we can have a radio link between the port and the stakeholders, so that whenever the port is ready to have them, there will be a radio communication and they can now proceed to go in. That, we cannot afford not to do as quickly as possible,” he said.

For Animashaun, the lasting panacea to the suffocating traffic in Apapa is improvement of the infrastructure, particularly road network, understanding and synergy among agencies of government operating in Apapa. “Managing all these issues is key to a robust relationship among all the agencies because the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other agencies cannot operate if the trucks cannot get here,” he noted.

 

Marine Bridge: Waiting Endlessly For Restoration

BY TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA
BEFORE the Lagos State government wielded the sledge hammer on squatters under the Marine Bridge area of Apapa three months ago, all sorts of anomalies and criminalities were game.

For those familiar with the bridge, the area was a beehive for criminal elements, who were into selling and buying of hard drugs and weapons. But since a new lease of life began that ended nightmares of gridlocks and insecurity in the area, driving on Marine Bridge seems not to pose any more threat.

However, in truth, no observer really needs a civil engineer to forecast the structural integrity of the bridge given the level of wearing, a havoc wreaked by human activities on some of the pillars upon which the entire structure rests.

Coming from Apapa, one wing of the bridge that leads to Sapara thoroughfare has been permanently closed for a while due to a recent fire incident that damaged two pillars upholding that particular section. The state of many pillars upon which the bridge rests from Marine Beach in Apapa to Ijora Causeway directly opposite the Costain Loop, is also suspect.

The sorry state of the bridge came to the fore shortly after the state government, with support from the Federal Government, put an end to the menace of traffic gridlock and illegal parking of tankers, trailers and trucks on the bridge. During the operation that eventually restored order to Apapa and its axis, federal government’s officials led by the coordinating minister for the economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, visited the Marine Beach, Creek Road and Ijora Causeway, and acknowledged the degree of damage done to the area.

At the instance of Apapa’s degraded environment, dilapidated bridges and collapsed drainage system, the FG promised to intervene. Three months have gone by and the area is yet to receive any such assistance.

Dilapitated Marine Bridge after a taskforce operation, which dismantled shanties and evacuated trailers and trucks gave the area a new lease of life.


Alluding to the apparent neglect, Governor Babatunde Fashola during a recent visit to Apapa, lamented the litany of Federal Government’s failed promises, citing instances where the central government had pledged interventions on critical issues within federal jurisdictions with respect to Lagos State and its failure to make good its promise, which he said, was not fair and just.

He made reference to the ocean surge, which is eroding Alpha Beach in Lekki. Fashola cited the FG’s failure to refund over N60 billion, which the state government spent to rehabilitate federal roads in the state, noting that the latest instance “is the clearing of Apapa and its environs, which has opened up Apapa Central Business District after years of economic paralysis.

“The state government has been solely responsible for the sustainability of Apapa since we completed the removal of the shanties. So far, the Federal Government has not contributed its quota. We cannot bear the burden alone because this port is the number one seaport in the country and the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority is evidently responsible for the traffic gridlock along Wharf Road.”

Fashola noted that the Federal Government does not compensate Lagos State for all the damage it did to infrastructure in the state. “We get nothing from all the money they are making from the ports. I would expect a FG with conscience to take a decision that since we are running our tankers through your roads, this is what you get every year to repair the roads.

“Instead, they are carving out our land. But we have started reclamation of our territory with or without them. Regenerating the blighted areas would cost over N12 billion,” he said.

Giving the breakdown of what it cost the state to clear Marine Beach and Ijora Causeway, Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, said it cost N100 million to clear all the shanties and remove abandoned vehicles from this axis. “We have completely cleared the place. And today, it is very easy for one to drive through Apapa, but the state is yet to receive FG’s response in different areas it pledged to make intervention.”

Artistic impression of the State government’s proposed Apapa Regeneration Plan


UNTIL early May, Apapa was a no-go area despite its strategic significance to the country’s domestic economy. This was partly due to illegal parking of trailers, tankers and trucks, which almost entirely took over the entire roads leading to Apapa, where the country’s key seaport is located. Consequently, a number of businesses had no other choice than to relocate from Apapa to save their capital.

This was worsened by the indiscriminate mounting of shanties in different parts of Apapa by illegal occupants, whose activities had escalated crime rates. According to the Chairman of the Lagos State Taskforce on Environment and Special Offences, Mr. Bayo Suleiman, it explained why cases of robbery, rape and all sorts of criminalities were rife in the area, thus threatening individuals and businesses alike.

He, however, said with the advent of the new era, which has yielded much result, the gains of the exercise, such as reduction of traffic gridlocks, removal of criminal hide-outs and shanties and cases of degradation that are being remedied, must be sustained.

On the next line of action, the Special Adviser to the governor on the Environment, Dr. Taofeek Folami, said unveiling of the Apapa Regeneration Plan followed the demolition exercise.

“We will be landscaping the space we reclaimed in Marine Beach and create a recreation centre for residents of Ijora and Ajegunle. Some of the facilities that will be available at the recreation centre are basketball court, a football pitch, among others.

“We have done the design for the project. The streetlight from Ijora to Apapa has been designed and the estimate made. At Ijora Olopa, there would be a basketball court and boxing rings, where residents of Oyingbo, Ebute-Meta, Iganmu and Alaka, among others, can come and relax at their leisure.”

Folami added that besides sport facilities, which would adorn the reclaimed spaces, an outdoor advert boards would be created at strategic places, which would serve as a source of revenue for the state.

Bello said the cost of regenerating Apapa is huge, which explains why Governor Fashola set up an inter-ministerial committee to ensure full implementation of the project. The ministries to be involved include the Environment, Agriculture, Works and Infrastructure, and Lagos State Advertising Agency (LASAA).

“The project is quite big and might be difficult to put a specific cost to it because it will require that the drainage system be rehabilitated and road infrastructure fixed. At the moment, the state government needs over N6 billion to reconstruct the road from Marine Beach to Apapa alone. This is as a result of the petrochemical products spilt on the roads by those who turned the roads to their workshop, causing major degradation to the environment,” the commissioner stated.

Explaining the damage done to the area, Bello said all the spilled oil from the tankers goes underground and pollute the underground water.

“From this, ultimately, residents will extract water for use and tomorrow, we will be talking of cancer and related diseases. The people must be made to understand this. We are determined, however, to transform this place”.