Sunday Magazine

Lagos/ Ibadan Expressway gridlock: From a major road to megamarket

As motorists endure pains occasioned by severe traffic snarl on the Lagos/ Ibadan Expressway, traders and security agents are harvesting gains from the pains of motorists. In this report, LADESOPE LADELOKUN and JOHNPAUL BORISADE write on the growing trading activities on the expressway and the need to provide alternative routes for motorists

 

All the way from Asaba, Delta State, Blessing Amoke plies her trade on the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway.

This mother-of-three, like tens of her trader colleagues on the 127.6-kilometre-long Expressway told Sunday Telegraph, find shelter in filling stations along the busy road since they originally live outside Ogun and Lagos states.

Though, she explained that she had been able to raise capital to rent a shop and purchase a freezer to start a new line of business through proceeds from selling kolanut and bitter kola on that road, Blessing still maintains her bimonthly visits to her family in Delta State. According to her, trading on the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway is very lucrative,noting that she would not allow the opportunity to make good money slip away due to the ongoing reconstruction of the road.

“I came all the way from Delta State to sell here .I sleep in a filling station around Mowe but leave every two weeks for Delta State to see my family. I buy bitter kola and kolanut from Delta State and sell here. Though I’ve been able to safe to get a shop and a freezer, I will continue to sell here as long as there is traffic here. I’m not unaware of the risk involved in sleeping in a filling station but I don’t sleep there alone.

People, who sell here are also there . But we leave very early. I can’t afford to pay rent in Delta and pay another one here. It may not be safe to sleep in a filling station but that’s how to survive for now. It’s just temporary,” she told Sunday Telegraph.

Constructed decades ago, no record shows that the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway was designed for the purpose of hosting boisterous trading activities. Findings by Sunday Telegraph, however, reveal that the frequent traumatic traffic snarl on that road has turned a blessing for a number Nigerians, who have closed their respective shops because of the huge market and profit the busy road provides and those who simply cannot afford to rent a shop because of Nigeria’s harsh economic realities.

The expressway, which was commissioned in 1978 during the Olusegun Obasanjo regime, is a major route to the northern and southern parts of Nigeria. Some 23 years ago, precisely 1999, the journey to reconstruct the federal highway began. The slow pace of work on the road, according to observers, has exposed road  users to risks.

According to reports, progress on the pace of work is stymied by lackadaisical attitude of contractors,lack of supervision, paucity of funds, litigations and lack of gravitas on the part of government. Sunday Telegraph had reported how the severe traffic snarl occasioned by the reconstruction of the road had fuelled, kidnapping, robbery and avoidable deaths.

In May 2009, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had approved the concession of the road to Bi-Courtney Limited, owned by prominent lawyer cum businessman, Wale Babalakin. But in November 2012, the government terminated the concessionary agreement due to alleged nonperformance on the part of Bi-Courtney. With a fresh contract awarded to Julius Berger Nigeria and Reynolds Construction Company Limited, former President Goodluck Jonathan flagged off the reconstruction of the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway in July 2013. Initially,the reconstruction of the road had 2017 as its completion date but it was later moved to 2018/2019 and 2022 by the Mohammadu Buhari government.

At the 2019 annual lecture of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) in Lagos, where he spoke on “Infrastructure Development and Growth in Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges.” Babalakin lamented the slow pace of work on the road, accusing the Nigerian government of insincerity over the accusation of nonperformance on the part of Bi-Courtney.

“The Lagos-Ibadan expressway project is unthinkable.We signed the contract in 2009 to design, build, operate and transfer… they terminated the concession for lack of performance without disclosing to the public that they had held us down for 22 months. It is sad that seven years after the project was cancelled, the road is only 40 per cent ready.

“They are building 40 per cent of what we wanted to build and the project has no design. It is just a repeat resurfacing of the 1977 road. The architecture of that place has changed phenomenally since 1977 and our design accommodated all the changes… Our total cost was N112billion. Now, over N350billion has been spent on 40 per cent of what we planned to build and they are still at 40 per cent.”

How I make as much as N16,000 a day selling water on Long Bridge

A hawker, who simply identified himself Gabriel, told Sunday Telegraph how selling water on Lagos/ Ibadan Expressway has completely changed his story from one who could barely feed to a businessman with a fat account balance. “When I leave my home in Berger, I dress very well and keep another shirt in my bag.

None of my neighbours knows what I do. I have three places where I get my packs of water. Business is very lucrative here. I get a pack for N700 and in that pack you get 12 bottles. So, if I sell for N100 per bottle, I make N500 per pack. Most times, I start with four packs. When I finish selling the four packs, I get another set of packs. On a bad day, I sell 15 packs. If you multiply N500 by 15,you know how much it is. But on a sunny day, I can sell 40 packs.

I  make as much as 15,000 and N20,000 here daily. I’m only telling you because you said you’re interested in the business. There’s money here o.I won’t lie to you. But I can’t tell my wife what I’m telling you. If I make N5,000,I tell her it’s N2,000. It’s a very good business. “And you have nothing to lose. It’s not like gala or bread that you cannot return.

Apart from my supplier at Berger, I have one at Warewa and the other one at Kara. So, if I don’t sell any pack,even if it’s a bottle, they return my money. But it’s not safe to believe you have a loyal customer. It’s better you buy with your money than tell your customer that he should retain certain packs for you. You won’t get any, especially during dry season.

People pay for as much as 50 packs and they sell all in a day.You know how much that is after selling. See the man selling plantain chips there. He has a shop at Ibafo. He closed his shop at Ibafo to do business here. There are many people like that here,” he explained.

It’s the place to be for business – Ghanaian bread seller

For a Ghanaian, who identified himself as Usman but popularly known as Kala on the Long Bridge, there cannot be a bigger ‘market’ to sell his loaves of bread. In a chat with Sunday Telegraph, Usman said: “I come here every day from Ojuelegba. That’s where I buy my bread to sell here. When I buy at N250, I sell between N400 to N500. The people around me here get it for N400 but those who buy in traffic get it for N500.

When I was coming here in the morning, I brought 50 pieces here but I’m left with 12 now and the day is not even over. But if I can’t sell the remaining 12, it will be my loss. That’s the advantage people who sell water have over us here. But this is the best place to be to do business.” Another hawker, who gave her name as Aisha, told how hawking on the Long Bridge has made her the breadwinner of her family. “l’m a secondary school leaver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m here to make money for myself, especially to register for my examinations. I’m to sit for WAEC examinations again and whatever I make here, I also share with my mother. I make an average of N4,000 daily. I make N1,000 from each carton of gala and I sell about 4 or 5 cartons daily. I’m still a learner when I compare myself with other people.”

 

With N500,N200, police, FRSC officials allow one-way drive at Warewa

 

Apart from hawkers on the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway, policemen and Federal Road Safety Corps(FRSC) officials harvest from the pains of motorists, who ply the road, findings by Sunday Telegraph revealed.

 

A commuter, Tunde Adewale, shares his experience: “Policemen are part the problems of motorists. They are supposed to be law enforcers but they the law breakers. While going to my office last Friday,they were in front of Warewa filling station, collecting money from commercial bus owners and private vehicle owners in broad daylight.

 

They are not just complicating the traffic situation,they endanger the lives of pedestrians and increase the risk of accident on the road. It’s shocking that it is happening beside a police station. It’s not the only spot. I remember our driver bribed policemen at two spots but I don’t know the second spot. Not taking Tunde Adewale word for it, our reporter visited Warewa.

 

Right from Mowe Bus Stop, it was observed that drivers advertised their willingness to drive against traffic to effectively compete with motorcycle riders who offer impatient passengers an alternative. Our reporter got on one of the buses on Tuesday.

It was observed that before getting to Warewa filling station, the conductor alighted, saying je ki n lo fun won lowo(Let me go and give them money). Meanwhile, despite paying policemen like other drivers, FRSC officials stopped vehicles from heading to Lagos.

However, a mild drama ensued when four commercial bus drivers threatened a showdown, saying there was no justification for delaying them after paying N500. “I can’t understand why they’re keeping us here. If the policemen fail to “settle” them, should that be our business?

We will mobilise and deal with these people. We have no time for this nonsense,” one of the protesters fumed. Meanwhile,our reporter left the scene for another portion of the road. On return to the same spot an hour later, an FRSC official was seen collecting a N200 bribe to allow a motorist drive against traffic. Confirming he had been “settled, the said FRSC official told his colleagues: “It’s just N200. I’m going home”.

Fashola provides reason for delay

The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the delay experienced in the completion of the Lagos/ Ibadan expressway was due to the drainage constructed across the road by the Oyo State Government. Speaking on Wednesday at the inaugural edition of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration Scorecard 2015-2023 Series in Abuja, Fashola appealed to motorists for understanding.

 

His words: “The Oyo State Government is building a drainage channel across the road. So, we are having difficulties because the contractor has slowed down and we have to slow down too.We do not want to finish the road and come back to destroy it for the drainage channel construction. On the Lagos axis, we are working on the last six kilometres into Lagos; that is a very highly densely populated area.

 

We left it for the last because we knew it to be the most difficult.We are appealing that you bear with us and we are hoping that very soon there will be relief there,’’ he said Earlier, the Acting Federal Controller of Works in Lagos State, Forosola Oloyede, had admonished motorists to prevent unnecessary delays by observing safe driving rules, avoiding driving against traffic and obeying all dedicated road diversions along the road.

 

“Road users should be patient by not driving against traffic and obeying stationed road traffic officers in order to allow for free flow of traffic. In conclusion, it is a known fact that there is no pain without gain.

 

It is thus our utmost belief that the general public would be the ultimate beneficiaries of the world class road infrastructure that the government plans to deliver through the ongoing reconstruction works on the road. “We therefore appeal for the cooperation of the general public towards this end,” She said.

Motorists fume, demand alternative routes

Commenting, motorists harped on the need for the government to provide alternative routes to ease the pains and frustrations of road users. A public school teacher, Adesegun Agoro, who lives in Mowe but works in Lagos bares his mind: ” It is not enough to tell us to continue to bear the pains. We have been bearing these pains for years.

Enough is enough. What does it take to provide alternative routes? Why should people be subjected to this stress because some people are irresponsible? This is completely unacceptable,” he protested. In the same vein, another road user, Frank Habib, said it was important to create temporary roads at critical points to reduce the suffering of road users. “I think it is uncharitable to keep urging Nigerians to endure.

These people know the right thing to do. They know the best international practice for the reconstruction of a highway of this nature is to create temporary roads at critical points to alleviate the suffering of the road users but they are not doing that.We don’t know how long we will have to endure this. It’s really sickening,”he told Sunday Telegraph.

 

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