Sorrow, shock and despair hung in the air like a thick cloud. Motorists and commuters caught in the early morning gridlock wore forlorn faces as they clustered in groups discussing the terrible fire incident that rocked the area. Not far from where they stood behind a cordon tape put up by the emergency services, telltale signs of the tragedy stood out like sore thumbs.
Indeed, for people living along the Ejigbo area of Lagos or plying the Oke Afa-Isolo Road, it would take a long while for them to come to terms with the disaster brought on them by a fallen fuel tanker.
The truck, marked LSD 663 XB, had upturned the previous evening by a failed portion of the road, while trying to ascend the Oke-Afa Bridge. For hours, traffic flow came to a halt and motorists were made to stay till late in the night as the content of the tanker was transferred to another tanker.
Unfortunately, some petroleum products, which flowed into the drainage, ignited an inferno that burnt a passenger bus, gravely injuring four persons.
In October 2018, a loaded fuel tanker upturned by Barracks Bus Stop, along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, while maneuvering through a failed portion. It spilled its contents, before exploding into flames. And by the time the flames were doused, two people and seven vehicles had been consumed.
By Under Bridge Bus Stop, still on the same stretch, a trailer skidded off the road and upturned with its wheels facing the sky. The truck driver had lost control while trying to maneuver through the water-filled craters that dotted the road. Despite warning signals sent out to other motorists to stay away, a truck with an obviously stubborn driver suddenly plunged into the pond. With the truck head submerged in water, the engine stopped. In a split second, like predators pouncing on their prey, social miscreants emerged from the blues, demanding an exorbitant fee from the obviously distraught driver. They left after ransacking both the driver and the truck, stealing valuables and money.
These incidents are just a few of the many recorded in Lagos in the last four years. Within these years, stories highlighting utter neglect and deplorable condition of roads across the state made the headlines. Lamentations and pain from these places severely plagued by years of abandonment and neglect flowed in torrents.
Worldwide, roads are considered a critical infrastructure in any nation’s life and receive premium attention. But that is not the case with Nigeria, where many of the roads have exceeded their structural life and have become huge slaughter slabs. Having been denied all forms of maintenance, they have become rustic with abandonment.
In Lagos, it has become embarrassing as practically all roads have become hubs of intractable traffic congestions and ghastly motor accidents, with unsuspecting motorists crashing into deadly craters and monstrous potholes. From the expressways to inner streets, all you hear are sordid tales of neglect that have led to frustration and dread.
No part of Lagos is spared; the roads are mostly riddled with deadly potholes that have inflicted both physical and emotional torture on motorists. From the mainland to the island, the densely-populated to the highbrow areas, expressways to the inner streets and byways, it is tales of neglect and abandonment, promises delayed or even forgotten outright.
The situation degenerates daily and as the rains are here again, the roads have become emissaries of death.
Hard times faced on the disintegrating roads have continued to raise questions that have remained unanswered. The extent of damage done to cars due to the roads’ morbid state is enormous, not to mention the loss of productive man-hours.
Presently, heading in and out of Ikorodu has turned a living nightmare. It is total bedlam from sunrise to sundown. Left with no alternative route out of the area, motorists daily suffer endlessly, marooned on a spot for hours as their vehicles crawl along the road. A journey that should ordinarily take a few minutes now slowly drags into hours. Here, different theatres of the absurd play out each day.
Among the causes of this intractable gridlock is a crater by the Mile 12 bus stop. The spot, which many have noted could be fixed within minutes, causes traffic congestion that stretches beyond Agric Bus Stop. Also, places like Ijede Road, Ishawo Road and Igbogbo Road have gradually slid into hellish routes.
Totally collapsed is the Ijede Road that leads to several thriving communities in Ikorodu. Journeying through this major artery, which also leads to Gberigbe, has become near-impossible, with a drive-through time of 15 minutes metamorphosing into hours.
Not long ago, the roads were listed among the 87 penned down for rehabilitation by the state government, through the Lagos State Public Works Corporation. Sadly, no government official, according to residents, visited the place even for an evaluation.
“We feel abandoned. We expected so much from Governor Ambode, but we were hugely disappointed. We, however, have hopes that the new governor will hit the ground running by starting with roads in Ikorodu,” Modupe, a motorist said.
Daily, those residing on and around Igbogbo Road in Ikorodu count their losses.
When plans to expand the road to four or six lanes were announced by the former governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, the news was was welcomed with much fanfare. But that excitement later gave way to grief and anger, as years after several houses were demolished, including a part of the palace of the Igbogbo monarch, nothing was done on the road. The excavation works carried out on both roads have eroded what was left of the crumbling structure.
Those staying around Ishawo Road are also living in agony. The people were happy when Ambode announced that his government was embarking on the expansion of the road. He also pledged that the road would link up with the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway so that those living in Ori Okuta, Ishawo, Agbede and others in the neighbourhood would no longer have to come to Agric to connect Ketu and other parts of Lagos. Houses were demolished, and the old road excavated. But that was the end of the ‘construction.’ The road has become impassable. And the residents are gnashing their teeth in anguish.
For years, the terrible state of Oke-Afa Road left many with experiences too traumatic to recount. Presently, it leaves nothing to be desired and the tales of agony emanating from both sides of the road are harrowing. Motorists and residents have lost count of the accidents that have maimed and claimed lives over the years as the road disintegrated. Sadly, nothing has been done to give the place even a facelift.
From those that regularly ply the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, lamentations have been pouring in torrents. It is one road that has continued to unleash hardship on residents. Years of neglect and abandonment of the international route after construction works for its dualisation commenced have impacted negatively on the socio-economic life of the area. The axis has become a place mired in pain, regrets and restiveness because of abandonment. The situation is indeed lamentable even as road users are handicapped by the man-made neglect that has crippled activities along the corridor.
Traders in Trade Fair Complex told the reporter that their joy knew no bounds when construction started on the road, even though many of them were displaced. But as the work dragged on, their excitement quickly waned. They are also bitter about the fast dwindling patronage being suffered by their wares.
“We are really suffering here. We don’t deserve this type of neglect,” lamented Obinna Udofia.
Many commuters described the road as a nightmare. They lamented that many lives have been lost to avoidable accidents, even as armed robbers torment those plying the route daily.
Daily Sun gathered that the robbers take advantage of the pothole-riddled road to ambush and attack motorists and commuters, dispossessing them of their valuables.
According to reports, several persons have lost their lives during robbery attacks, especially when the vehicles slow down to carefully navigate through the potholes and craters on the road.
A concerned resident, Ephraim Nwankwo, said the road moved from being worse to worst, adding that most of them feel they have been sidelined in the scheme of things.
“This is an international road and it is sad that a journey of less than 30 minutes now stretches into hours. The distance from Trade Fair Complex to Lagos State University gate to Ijanikin and Agbara is so bad to the extent that motorists spend close to three hours in gridlock. We are appealing to the Federal Government to find a lasting solution to the deplorable state of the road,” he said.
Generally, roads in Lawanson, Iyana Itire, Ilasa, Idi-araba, Mushin, Shomolu, Gbagada, Mafoluku, Yaba, Oyingbo, Oshodi, Surulere, Ogba, Ogudu, Alapere-Ketu, Agege, Iyana-Ipaja, Abule Egba, Ajao Estate, Isolo, Ikotun, Ejigbo and Ikeja, among others, remain embarrassingly decrepit. On most days, they remain on lockdown.
Also, for years now, Apapa, though argued to be a federal government concern, has remained in the news because of the ruins its roads have degenerated into. Virtually all streets in Apapa paint a picture of rot, frustration, anger and despondency. The daily gridlock experienced there could only be compared to living in a hellhole.
Lamenting the bad state of roads in Lagos, most Lagos residents said, as far as they were concerned, the presence of the state government was not felt in the past four years. They further noted that efforts were expended into generating money from vehicle licensing, without attention to the roads, most of which were not car-worthy.
For Adeyemi Morgan, the pain Lagosians endure daily on bad roads has become unbearable. He lamented that despite the presence of the state and federal governments, residents are left to suffer without justification.
Anthony Mordi, a businessman, lamented that the Lagos State had never had it this bad in terms of roads. He noted that he was forced to buy an SUV in order to be able to navigate his street tucked somewhere off Ago Palace way.
“After losing two cars to the bad road in this area, I had to get a car that could withstand the wear and tear this place inflicts on vehicles. The situation has become both painful and embarrassing. I just hope and pray that the new governor will move fast to repair bad roads across the state,” he said.
For many, a ray of hope seems to have appeared in the horizon with the new administration taking over the reigns of leadership.
In the words of Mordi, with the type of attention Babajide Sanwo-Olu had shown towards infrastructure development, Lagos might be in for better days.