By Femi Alabi Onikeku
Two major roads in the Alimosho area of Lagos are not happy. They had been the darlings of the state’s roads construction, receiving millions of naira in concrete and asphalt. Suddenly, they have been jilted in favour of Ejigbo-Ikotun – the most ugly.
Now, they are warning Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s latest babe to beware, saying a similar fate could lurk around the corner.
Eyeing Ejigbo-Ikotun road from far off, Ijegun-Jakande and Idimu-Ejigbo roads have very good reason to be jealous. They both have reached advanced stages of construction, and may have even announced to their kinfolks that they had just a few more months to conjugality. But when everyone least expected, Ambode paid a visit to their neighbour, a privilege they never had. Not only that, he even swore (okay, he promised) to fix the road. And before residents of the area could say cheese, heavy machines had moved in and begun a historic transformation.
It might never be known why the Lagos State government abandoned mid-stream its romance with Idimu-Ejigbo and Ijegun-Jakande roads. One thing is clear, however: its singular act of developmental infidelity has brought hardship to residents of the affected areas.
“It has crashed business,” said one shop owner at the OPC Junction end of the Idimu-Ejigbo road. He cried that with diversion of traffic from the unfinished section, the flow of customers has turned to a pitiful trickle. “Residents can no longer take their cars home, like the owner of this car (pointing to a green SUV parked in front of his shop).
The owner of the car, simply referred to as Pastor, complained that the present state of the abandoned road precipitates severe flooding when rain falls. “It was even God that helped me,” he said of his car, drawing the reporter’s attention to a yellow bus that “for over six months” has been unable to move out of his compound.
“The situation is pathetic. We don’t know why work stopped. We heard that the contractor was not paid. Others said the Lagos State government wanted to do a reappraisal of existing contracts. Yet, others said it is pay back time for those who didn’t vote Ambode in the last governorship election. About a month ago, we heard that work would resume shortly. We hope that government will ensure that work commences, because people, here, are not finding it funny,” he said.
“I am praying that God will touch their hearts to come back and finish this job,” said one spare parts trader. “We used to sell before, but now the road diversion has taken our customers away. It’s only a few people who know us that still come here,” he added.
A spokesman for Kaniex Filling Station, located in the same area, complained bitterly that the station had been operating on a lease, and that the operators are under obligation to cough out millions despite being forced out of business for many months by the road diversion.
“We borrowed money from a bank to lease that station. For this year, it means we are not going to get anything; and that’s a huge loss on our side. It’s a terrible situation. It’s very terrible. We contacted the contractor in July. We didn’t see them. They said they would come back in August. We have not seen them till now. It seems that the contract has been abandoned. We want the road to be finished, so that we can get back to business. Even the people that work at the station have been at home for the past six months. And these are young school leavers; it’s affecting everybody,” he said.
The yard of Metropolitan Construction Company Limited, also in the area, was a ghost of its former self. There were no workers or heavy machinery, only two containers, concrete slabs, blocks, heaps of sand and granite, and one man who puffed away at a stick of cigarette, as his counterpart did laundry. They appeared to be security men. “The construction firm will return in two weeks,” said the smoker with an air of certainty.
At Jakande-Ijegun road, one foodstuff seller lamented closure of a section of the unfinished road, saying: “We are frustrated. The contractor said they were going on a vacation about three months to the last general election. Car owners can no longer bring vehicles into their premises. Business has also been affected.
Motorists are able to drive on asphalted surface from Jakande to the Ade Ojo area, from where the road becomes a pain-in-the-neck single lane, all the way to Ijegun, with various sections of the unfinished stretch in diverse stages of abandonment.
A woman who sold provisions regretted that besides cutting of prospective buyers, supply trucks are forced to park at an unnecessary distance in order to offload goods. She noted that since the project was suspended, the single lane that serves all road users has seen several auto accidents.
BUT while residents affected by stoppage of work at Jakande-Ijegun and Idimu-Ejigbo roads count their pains and losses, their counterparts at Ejigbo-Ikotun seemed to be vibrantly optimistic.
Asked if they weren’t having any fears the construction would be halted half way, three commercial bus operators at Iyana Ejigbo chorused a hopeful yes, citing the recent visit by the state governor to the area, and consequent rehabilitation.
At various spots along the road, Wednesday, heavy equipment was seen. Work done included ongoing drainage construction at Iyana Ejigbo; sand filling of the huge depression also at Iyana Ejigbo; sand filling at the Ile Epo area; asphalting of one side of the road between Cele and Ile Iwe bus stops; and first stage asphalting between Ile Iwe and Synagogue bus stops.
One cloth seller in the area said he has no doubts the road would be finished, given the speed at which work was progressing. Again, he also cited visit by Governor Ambode to the road, and concluded, “I am taking him at his word.” One spare parts dealer, in front of whose shop an excavator had dug a huge trench, said he believes the work would not be left mid way, stressing that no sooner did workmen dig up the proposed drainage than they began to pour in concrete.
But being optimistic about road construction in Lagos State is a precarious undertaking. The Jakande-Ijegun road began with a campaign promise by former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 1999. After several false starts, hiccups occasioned by pipeline explosion that recorded huge fatalities, and part abandonment and, of course, trauma to users, the road is still not finished, 16 years after! The story of the first phase of the Ejigbo-Idimu road also witnessed false starts and great pain to people in the area, with residents criticizing the contractor for incompetence, lack of equipment and shoddiness. Started August 2012, the entire road, less than three kilometres, by August 2015, is still unfinished, with date of its completion hard to pinpoint on any year’s calendar.
With millions of naira already sunk into construction of the Jakande-Ijegun and Ejigbo-Idimu roads, observers wonder why many more millions, praiseworthy as road rehab is, is still being poured into another fresh project. Perhaps, the Lagos State government has some heart-warming information about completing the two roads that it is keeping from agonizing residents.
People who spoke to The Guardian seemed to hinge a lot of optimism on the pre-rehabilitation visit by Ambode to Ejigbo-Ikotun road. Whether visit by any governor to a project site is a secret formula that gets things working, or that Governor Ambode is a man of his words will be seen in months (perhaps years) to come.
May God spare our lives.
Source: The Guardian