We are no longer what they thought we were. We will put aside ridiculous sentiments and prejudices.This jinx we must break.
It has an unusual checkered history with turbulent background. It has seen a lot of ups and downs. Ab initio, they saw it as a cash cow, an oil well of sort. And the wicked and the weird have been treating it as such. Very sickening and saddening.
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The 127.6-kilometre Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is it! Every government has used it as a chessboard. They have been playing dirty politics with it with reckless abandon. The so-called elected governments are the most guilty. They never cared a hoot if our ox was gored, bruised or even fatally wounded. They were brutal in their approach. They forged ahead ruthlessly since the end would invariably justify the means.
The expressway was commissioned in August 1978 by the military junta of the then General Olusegun Obasanjo. It was one of its greatest parting gifts before relinquishing power on October 1, 1979.
It prides itself as the oldest expressway in Nigeria. Unarguably, the nation’s busiest interstate route, but arguably the busiest in the West African Coast. A major part of the ambitions Trans-Saharan Highway; linking Lagos on the Atlantic Ocean to Algeria on the Mediterranean Sea.
Not only that, the expressway connects the Atlantic City of Lagos to the Indian Ocean City of Mombasa, Kenya, through Cameroon and Central Africa. It is such an important route to the African economies.
Since its commission 40 years ago, the road has been under dismal neglect. The Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), was to ensure its maintenance. But this never happened. Not even once did FERMA make a serious attempt to maintain the road. What we witnessed were few half-hearted palliatives here and there. And of course, they never lasted the distance, because of the monstrous “Nigerian factor.”
From palliatives, they moved to the Bi-Courtney Concession contract in 2009. That was the height of blame game between the company and the Federal Government.
Courtesy of PREMIUM TIMES: “Under some of the most lavish concession terms, the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreement authorised Bi-Courtney to construct the road and run it for 25 years, at the cost of N86.5 billion.”
The checks and balances: “For each day the road was left unconstructed, the agreement said, the company was to pay a penalty of N100,000 per kilometer; and the same for a square of an unconstructed bridge along the route.
“Where the government was liable for the delay, the company was to get commensurate time extensions, alongside a defraying of the inflationary cost on the initially agreed construction cost.” With all these charitable terms and venturous stipulations, the road pitifully remained unfixed. Both sides only traded blames on the delay. None dared press for the relief generously provided in the terms, because they were both guilty as charged.
And we, the road users, were left on our own. We were wickedly made to bear the brunt of their recklessness and unfaithfulness. And that came with heavy casualties in terms of lives and properties.
What an insane country! Shamelessly, they came again, that they were moving yet to another level. This time around, they labelled it re-construction.
Promptly, without looking back, the Bi-Courtney Concession was terminated. It was put in the dirty dustbin of our ugly history.
That death-kneel came on July 8, 2013, when ex-Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, re-awarded the contract to Julius Berger and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) at the initial staggering sum of N167 billion. Berger would handle the four-lane each side Section 1 from Lagos to Sagamu Interchange. RCC would take the three-lane each side Section II from Sagamu Interchange to Ibadan.
Former president Goodluck Jonathan did the flag-off later in 2013. He vowed: “Government would mobilise the necessary funds to ensure the completion of the project in 30 months, although the contractors have been given a 48-month timeline to complete it.” It was another political statement. That promise collapsed like a pack of loose cards.
Now, the vultures are at it again. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is in the news one more time for the wrong reason. The route is in another dour moment of disappointment, excuses and blames. They are profiting immensely from the endless construction. That is why they subject the road to countless postponements.
They patiently waited for the right moment to strike. That rare opportunity came handy that Sunday afternoon. Thamm Olaf is Julius Berger’s operations manager. He told the Senate Committee on Works that it would not be able to complete its section of the project until 2021. No specific day or month is attached. He deliberately left ample room for further deceits and manipulations. That section ought to have been completed last year. Olaf expectedly blamed “paucity of funds and some adjustments” for the senseless postponement.
Leader of the committee, Kabiru Gaya, who was Kano State governor in the ill-fated Third Republic was furious: “The Federal Government has pumped a lot of money on this road. We even increased the cost of road infrastructure from N500 billion to N600 billion in the 2019 budget. We expect the contractor to increase the pace of work, even though there were amendments on the road.”
We are more than convinced; that is where it would end. It would not go beyond that political statement. We are eagerly waiting for another postponement in no distant future. They went a step further to put salt in our deep injuries by their posts on social media concerning the road. It affects other roads and projects supposedly completed or “nearing completion.”
You will wow and bow at the pictures of these projects on the internet. They are everywhere and on every available platform. They are classical examples of deceit, fraud and wiliness. They are at ridiculous variance with what is actually on ground.
For instance, l ply the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway twice a week. I am familiar with its potholes and gullies. Its “big success story” pictures on the social media do not match these actualities and facts. They are poles apart.
Yes, progress was made along the line after spending so much in the last three and a half years. But the road remains as dreaded and foreboding as ever. Those posts are substantially perfidious.
This sadly takes us back to online governance pioneered by ex-governor Saminu Turaki. He held sway in Jigawa State between 1999 and 2007. He ran his government online. He would be somewhere in a remote part of India. He would post on the government website, countless pictures of the roads, housing estates, etc, he supposedly built. Chimaroke Nnamani, ex-governor of Enugu State, fell for it. Remember the long-stretched pictures of the famous Ebeano tunnel in Enugu, beamed constantly on CNN? We are right back in that Dark Age.
We are no strangers to their pranks. We cannot be used again. We will ask relevant questions this time around. We will raise issues on accountability and promises previously made.
These politicians from all divides should be told: We are no longer what they thought we were. We will put aside ridiculous sentiments and prejudices.
This jinx we must break. No repeat performance of glaring failures.