They looked left, right and left again, and then, with the speed of light, the four pedestrians raced across the road to the median. They repeated the ritual before crossing the final lap at the other end of the road.
When former Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, approved the reconstruction and expansion of Oshodi-Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road in Lagos State, residents went into jubilation.
Motorists and commuters also danced for joy because the only access road to the busy airport was then characterised by gridlock. Besides the perennial traffic congestion and potholes that dotted the route, the road was nothing but an embarrassment to Nigeria. First-time travellers on the road would be forced to ask if there was another major road leading to the busiest international airport in Nigeria.
Just as promised by the then governor, in September 2017, work commenced on the road. The reconstruction of the road saw its transformation to a 10-lane expressway. The quality of work done by the contractors was applauded by many.
The reconstruction began after the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo approved in May 2017 that the federal road should be handed over to the Lagos State government for total reconstruction.
In April 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari visited Lagos amid fanfare to inaugurate the rehabilitated Oshodi-International Airport Road, among other projects.
But something was missing. There was no single pedestrian bridge on the entire stretch of the road. This poses grave dangers to residents who would have to cross the wide road while leaving home and returning from their schools/workplaces.
When the reporter recently visited the road one Thursday afternoon, pedestrians were seen labouring to cross the road. Some of them told Daily Sun that the expansion without the footbridge on the road has become a sort of punishment to them, especially schoolchildren.
People crossing at bus stops such as Stop Over, 7 & 8, Carwash, and NAHCO have to do so without a pedestrian bridge to mitigate their risk. Blood has spilled on the road. Pedestrians who would have used the pedestrian bridge are thus forced to cross the expressway at the risk of their lives.
It was gathered that the only existing pedestrian bridge near 7 & 8 Bus Stop, in front of Ibis Royal Hotel, was pulled down to give way for a modern one. But two years after, residents are still waiting for new pedestrian bridges to be completed.
Unfortunately, there are no warning signs to motorists that people are crossing at these busy bus stops. There are also no speed bumps to ensure vehicles reduce their speed. Zebra crossings that ought to have protected the pedestrian are also missing.
The question that easily materialises on the lips of concerned Nigerians is, “how much does it cost to build a pedestrian bridge that the government will put the lives of pedestrians on danger on daily basis”?
A fruit seller close to 7 & 8 Bus Stop, Maryam Waeed said that she has witnessed up to four fatal accidents since the road was commissioned. She said the project is a nice one except the bridge that was yet to be completed.
“People are more careful when crossing the road. If you come here in the morning, you will pity the children who are crossing. Some people who are very scared could be there for up to ten or fifteen minutes. Those vehicles are always on high speed without considering the people crossing. The government should quickly do something about it so that more lives will not be lost,” she said.
Another resident of the area, Mr. Adegbite Ola, said that there was hardly a week without a pedestrian being knocked down by a speeding vehicle.
Said he: “We have witnessed many accidents on this road just because there is no pedestrian bridge. I heard a blind man was hit at Junction Bus Stop, while he was trying to cross the road. It is sad that taxpayers are meant to suffer for government’s insensitivity.”
Another resident said: “It is always risky in whatever way you look at it. At times, a driver who might want to play a Good Samaritan will slow down and the pedestrians would race onto the road not paying attention to other speeding vehicles on the second lane. This kind of scenario has led to many accidents on the road. Many lives have been lost on this road. The government should complete the bridge as fast as possible.”
An environmental activist, Edward Monday, faulted the state government for hurriedly opening the road when the pedestrian bridges were yet to be constructed.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the road construction itself; it is an excellent work done. But what we are not happy about is the lack of pedestrian bridges. This has made nonsense of the entire project except it is quickly corrected. There was no point for the former administration to commission the project. Perhaps, the governor wanted to add it to his name by all means.
“I call on the government to swing into action and ensure that bridges are quickly constructed at the busy bus stops. We also understand that the road is busy 24 hours of the day due to the heavy activities at the international airport.
“More than 90 per cent of vehicles that access the airport pass through this route. And for the fact that there are residential areas before the airport, government ought to build the pedestrian bridge side by side with the road. If a life is lost in-between when the road was commissioned and when the footbridge is built, then we should hold the government responsible.
“Safety of lives should not be traded for anything. The government should value lives when designing any project. If there is no human being we can’t be talking of beautiful environment or quality road. So, the people should come first,” he said.
A driver with an online automobile company, Mr Dayo Ademuiwa said that the problem is further complicated by some commercial drivers who take one way.
“Even though there is no reason for them to drive against traffic, you still see these people doing so. Some of them would put their vehicles on reverse for several kilometres. They are so impatient and reckless. But I understand the fact that most of them didn’t go through any training before they started driving. It is quite unfortunate.
“The pedestrian bridges are very important on this route because many drivers and their passengers are always in haste to catch up with their flights or with someone who is flying. It is a strategic and busy road,” he said.
Some concerned users of the road have called on the Federal Road Safety Commision (FRSC), Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) and other relevant agencies to mobilise their officials to these busy bus stops on the route so as to avert further calamities.
At NACHO Bus Stop, Daily Sun saw the contractors working on one of the two bridges that were designed for the road. But there was no work going on at the second one near 7 & 8 Bus Stop.
At NACHO Bus Stop, the pedestrians were seen forming alliance to flag down speeding vehicles to slow down so that they could cross. Many of the drivers ignored them as they continued to try their luck. They would hurl curses on the recalcitrant drivers.
Another environmentalist said: “These things can only happen in this part of the world. It is not done in any advanced country. In Lagos Island, particularly Lekki area, shops are built in front of almost every house. Nobody cares about the safety of the people. Nobody cares about the health implication. Nigerians and the government need to wake up because these anomalies must not continue,” he said