September 25, 2022

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Lagos-Ibadan gridlock worsens, commuters knock govt, contractor

Commuters, motorists and residents have expressed frustration after enduring gruelling traffic on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

The traffic, which started last week, heightened on Monday and Tuesday, as travellers coming home from the Sallah holiday got trapped in the gridlock.

The situation, however, became worse on Wednesday following the end of the holidays and the return of workers to offices, leading to a high volume of vehicles moving inward Lagos.

PUNCH Metro noted that the stretch of Arepo towards Berger inward Lagos was totally blocked, as motorists negotiated potholes through the axis.

A traveller, Mr Emeka Nze, said he missed his flight and consequently a business deal, due to the traffic.

Nze said, “My flight was slated for 9am on Monday. I left the house with my driver a few minutes past 6am after my in-law called to tell us about the state of the road.

“I live in Aseese; I never got to Berger, as the traffic was just too much and you know there is fuel scarcity too, so we almost ran out of fuel. I was frustrated and had to turn back as the purpose for which I was travelling was already defeated.”

A commuter, who gave his name only as Dele, said the stress of passing the road everyday was beginning to affect his health.

He said, “The traffic has made it a hurdle to get vehicles to come this way. The few that do have increased fares by almost 300 per cent. Sitting for long in traffic is beginning to affect my health; my feet get so swollen that sometimes I have to alight and walk beside the bus a bit just to control it; my back hurts a lot too. I don’t know why they can’t find a lasting solution to the problem. At least for a month or so, in April, we enjoyed the road until they started dividing the road again without fixing the bad spots at Fatgbems; it’s unfair on us.”

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Dele slammed Julius Berger for leaving commuters to their fate.

A driver, Eze, said, “The time I have spent in this traffic is tiring. Julius Berger should use the necessary materials to fix this road once and for all instead of the substandard work that allows rain to keep damaging the road.”

Residents along the axis also decried the traffic, which they said was avoidable.

Residents on the Isheri-Riverview Estate, who spoke to PUNCH Metro, expressed their displeasure at the state of the road, saying motorists, in a bid to avoid the traffic on the expressway, resorted to plying the untarred road leading to their estate, thus extending the traffic and making the route unmotorable.

They wondered why the Ministry of Works refused to fix the expressway despite the harrowing ordeals of motorists.

Our correspondents learnt that five people were injured early Wednesday in an accident at the Arepo end of the road involving a Mack truck and a yellow Mazda bus travelling from Ibadan to Lagos.

The truck was believed to have broken down in the middle of the traffic that lasted for hours, thereby causing the bus to run into it.

The Ogun State Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps, Ahmed Umar, said the accident was caused by speeding.

Definite answers regarding the counter-measures employed by the government to tackle the gridlock, however, continued to be elusive.

While the traffic congestion had originally been attributed to ongoing construction work around the Otedola Bridge axis of the expressway, findings by PUNCH Metro revealed that the situation had recently been exacerbated by bad portions of the road at the Isheri/Fatgbems Junction.

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The development comes as a big blow to the Federal Government, which had maintained that arrangements had been perfected for the inauguration of the expressway.

Speaking in an interview in May, a former Minister of State for Works and Housing, Mr Mu’azu Sambo, said the government by June 2022 would inaugurate the expressway, and by so doing record an accomplishment previous administrations failed to deliver.

When one of our correspondents called Julius Berger to find out measures being deployed to address the situation, a representative of the company declined comment, but agreed to transfer the enquiry to another officer with adequate clearance level to speak on the matter.

However, the designated official also declined comment on the situation, stating that the official who ought to respond to the enquiry was not “on seat” at the time.

Asked if she could provide PUNCH Metro with the contact of the official, she said the employee was away on an official assignment and could not be reached.

The Julius Berger’s spokesperson, Emmanuel Isibor, did not also respond to phone calls as of the time of filing this report.

Similarly, the spokesperson for the Federal Ministry of Works, Adjobome Lere-Adams, when contacted, asked PUNCH Metro to send an official letter to the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja before the enquiry would be treated.

An official of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing told our correspondent on Wednesday that Julius Berger had been deployed to carry out palliatives on the failed portions of the expressway.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to lack of authorisation, said, “Julius Berger is on the way there now to do palliatives pending when permanent works will be done there.”

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One of our correspondents spoke to Hamza Adamu, the leader of the Julius Berger team deployed to work on the road.

Adamu said the company had to wait till the end of the Sallah celebration before carrying out repairs on the failed sections of the road.

“If we were to commence work last week, traffic would have been worse and the more rain we have, the more the asphalt would come off because it is old and not as new, but as you can see now, we are trying to maintain the road so that traffic can be controlled,” he added.

He noted that while the palliative work was a temporary measure, full scale construction work would commence on the road next week.