Like a merchant of death, the road lays in wait daily to unleash a harvest of traumatic experiences on residents and road users. To Lagosians, the Lagos-Badagry Expressway remains one dreaded road. Yet, it is a necessary one that must be traversed.
But good times might soon be here, if the assurances by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu turn out to be true. The governor has pledged that construction work would soon commence on the abandoned stretch of the road.
During a recent inspection of the expressway, Sanwo-Olu promised that construction would commence on the road this month.
He disclosed that repair works would start from the Mazamaza to Okokomaiko axis, adding that talks were on with the contractor to resume work on site once the required financing was put in place.
The governor regretted that the 10-lane road project had been abandoned for over four years and pledged that residents would have reason to smile again.
“In this month of June, we shall be moving to site. Work will commence on this road. We will dot the i’s and cross the t’s this week so as to move to site immediately. We will ensure that we speed up discussions with CCECC and move to site because work has been abandoned here for almost four years,” Sanwo-Olu said.
Though the directive was a welcome development, most people have received the news with scepticism. Many residents noted that until sustained construction work commences, they would still feel abandoned.
How it all started
Years before it became a monstrous route, the Lagos-Badagry Expressway connected Nigeria to other West African countries through the Seme Border. Constructed in the 1960s by Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, the dual carriageway served as a critical link to commercial and tourism hubs located in the axis.
However, in 2009, the Lagos State government embarked on a project to expand the expressway into 10 lanes. The project had two major intermodal transport schemes – the Lagos-Badagry Expressway and the light rail Mass transit, with accompanying infrastructure. The 10-lane superhighway was to take off from Eric Moore interchange and traverse westward through Orile Iganmu, Alaba Oro, Mile 2, Festac, Agboju, Iyana-Iba, Okokomaiko, Iyana-Era, Ijanikin, Agbara and Ibereko to terminate at Badagry.
Overnight, the Lagos-Badagry Expressway became a stretch of crumbling structures and ruins. The massive demolition to pave way for expansion evoked varying degrees of emotions. From people struggling to save their goods from being crushed by smoke belching bulldozers to those seated on the ground watching with bloodshot eyes, hands supporting their chin, it was clearly a harvest of pain and tears.
The trauma of watching helplessly as investments were crushed by bulldozers was unbearable for many. With the massive demolition over, many moved from being owners of thriving businesses to mere roadside traders. Some landlords who failed to meet compensation requirements set by the state government also moved from being landlords to tenants and squatters.
Years of pain
Sadly, years after the demolition, what followed has been a deluge of lamentations and harvest of pain for motorists and residents. The project, which was started with gusto by the Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola administration, was abandoned by the succeeding Akinwunmi Ambode administration. With that, there were daily doses of hellish experiences unleashed on the luckless residents and motorists. This was despite assurances by Fashola that his successor, whom he said understood the project thoroughly, would complete the road.
With months turning to years, the Lagos-Badagry Expressway made headlines as it was locked down to traffic and socio-economic activities. Numerous accidents, deaths and daylight robberies were successfully perpetrated in the axis due to its derelict state. The utter neglect and deplorable condition made it a dreaded zone.
An approval was later given by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to have the 46-kilometre expressway fixed, but residents lamented that remedial works carried out on it were merely superficial. Despite the intervention, areas like Iyana-Ishashi, Mowo, Agbara, Ijanikin, Oko-Afo, Elija and Magbon, among others, remained death traps.
For Pa Mukaila Balogun, a landlord and mechanic, it has been a long, painful season. The octogenarian’s house was among those brought down by the Lagos State demolition squad. In the years that followed, he had also endured the many traumatic experiences the international route unleashed on people.
Sitting pensive in his workshop by Oluti bus stop, he watched keenly as vehicles struggled to manoeuvre through massive craters that littered the stretch. To him, it was turning into an endless torment for innocent citizens.
Cries for help
Several protests aimed at drawing attention to the state of the road, seem not to have yielded any effort.
During one of such protests organised by Dr. Joe Odunmakin, president, Women Arise For Change Initiative, a call was made for a state of emergency to be declared on the road.
Odumakin said the road had become a death trap and a huge hindrance to business and economic growth in Badagry and its environs.
She said: “As we speak, we will find out that Badagry has been a gateway of pain and anguish. A lot of people have died on the road and tourism has almost collapsed. This is a place that over N460 billion has been spent to rehabilitate.
“There’s a nexus between infrastructure in terms of roads and the economy. The economy here is almost coming to stagnation, and this is why we support this just cause.”
She urged government to rise to the occasion by fixing the road because of its location and the crucial purpose of its link to other West African countries. She also described the condition of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway as not just an eyesore but a shame to the nation.
Severally, residents, traders, business owners, and organised labour, among others aggrieved by the sordid state of the road, have expressed their dissatisfaction through peaceful protests.
Possible end to a reign of pain
Receiving the governor’s directive with mixed feelings, many have maintained that, until repair works actually commence on the collapsed road, any promise emanating from Government House would be taken with a pinch of salt.
They lamented that years of pleas and cries to the state government over the unmotorable state of the road seemed to have always fallen on deaf ears.
Further decrying the bad state of the road, Elijah Muoka, a landlord in the axis, said for a first-time visitor, a trip on the road from Under Bridge Bus Stop, would leave a very bad impression.
“A foreigner that comes into Nigeria by road through the Seme Border would definitely assume that governance has collapsed in the country. How can a leading route into the country be allowed to collapse irretrievably? It is unheard of.
“I just hope the new governor lives up to his promise to fix the road. The situation is a shame to the country.”
“For years, both the state and federal governments never offered the people living in this area anything. We only see them when it is time for us to vote. We are tired of hearing promises. We want action this time,” another resident said.
Chidozie Amadi, an economist, lamented that it was rather unfortunate that government allowed a major gateway into the country to deteriorate to such a level: “I still can’t understand why people had to be subjected to this inhuman condition for so long. The state of the road continues to confirm that we are not a thinking society; and are only reactive rather than pro-active.”
Although Sanwo-Olu pledged to deliver the road during his campaign, citing its role in connecting Nigeria to other ECOWAS states as critical, many say it remains to be seen whether he will live up to his promise.
“We believe strongly in his words. We would want to believe that his word remains his bond,” a resident said.