Permanent solution to Lagos-Ibadan expressway
Since its inauguration in late 1978 by the defunct military government of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, the road has unarguably been the most significant arterial road, connecting the coastal state of Lagos, which harbours the nation’s biggest two ports (Apapa and TinCan) to all the six geo-political zones and the frontiers of Niger Republic.
The Federal Ministry of Works (FMW), in a recent press statement, described the road as “part of the Trans-Saharan Highways (TSA) that links Lagos on the Atlantic Ocean to Algiers (in Algeria) on the Mediterranean Sea.”
It is natural, therefore, that any failure of any part of such road will generate the loudest outcry by its users. It is in that context that the recent controversies on the seeming slow pace of its current re-habilitation could be justifiably tolerated.
The dilapidated state of the road and enormity of its re-construction costs had elicited diverse policies and varied contractual agreements and litigations, in some cases, between the government and some contractors.
No thanks to the neglect by previous administrations and dwindling government resources, which have left most of the failed federal and state road projects virtually abandoned. Nigeria has an estimated road length of 193,200 kilometres, comprising 65,000 kilometres paved and 128,200 unpaved, according to Obafemi Onashile, the vice-president (West), African Association of Quantity Surveyors.
Speaking at a forum of the Nigerian Association of Quantity Surveyors, Onashile stated that 34,123 kilometres of the Nigerian road network belong to the federal government; 30,500 kilometres to states and 129,577 kilometres to local governments.
The immediate past Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, underscored this fact on Jan. 21, 2014 while addressing the board of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), saying: “The reality in our nation today clearly shows that without the mechanism of Public, Private Partnership (PPP), Nigerians will not be able to enjoy real dividends of democracy.”
Added he: “The infrastructure deficit is large and affects every sector. Investment in the road sector alone requires at least, construction of 14,000 kilometres of new roads annually for the next seven years, apart from maintaining and rehabilitating the existing network as a matter of routine which will require the average annual expenditure on roads to increase sevenfold to nearly N750 billion. “
At another forum with a delegation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), also in Abuja last year, the former minister declared, “the government can decide how it funds its road projects.”
The high national infrastructural deficit, no doubt, was what informed government’s policy shift, which led to the adoption of the PPP model for the current rehabilitation of the Lagos-Ibadan express road, after the termination of the concession agreement with Bi-Courtney Nig. Ltd in November 2012.
In a re-awarded contract of the road with a completion deadline of mid-2017, Julius Berger handles the six-lane Shagamu inter-change to Lagos end while RCC handles the four-lane Shagamu-Ibadan-Ojoo inter-change end of the road. Already, government had committed N50 billion to the project, through its finance arrangers — The Infrastructure Bank Plc – making it it’s most attended road contract in the last three years.
“The federal government recognises the socio-economic importance of the road and has in the past three years given the utmost attention as evidenced by the continued presence of Julius Berger and RCC on site,” the FMW added in the statement issued after a recent meeting of all stakeholders in the project with the Presidency in Abuja.
As assured by Hakeem Olopade, a director of Motorways Assets Ltd, the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) or Project Company for the private financing of the project, work will peak on the vital highway soon as the rains recede and the second tranche of payment is made to the contractors.
To ensure that the road, on completion, stands the test of time, Olopade said in an interview with newsmen in Lagos recently that its new design, which would make the road a world-standard, had been completed and that it would be implemented to the letter by the contractors.
The features of the new design include a fly-over at the Redemption Camp area, new inter-changes, new drainage system, recessed service areas, lay-by emergency parkings, trailer parks, weight bridges, foot bridges in heavy pedestrian areas and electronic traffic control/informative signs.
Also commenting on the road project, the Managing Director of The Infrastructure Bank, Adekunle Oyinloye, said that implementation of a N167 billion project, via a PPP arrangement, could not be a “quick fix.”
“Project execution through private investors and lenders require lots of protocol and agreement documentation, hence some little delays in fund arrangements,” he explained.
While expressing regret at the hindrances in the execution of the project, including litigations, he appealed to the road users to be patient and law-abiding to eliminate traffic chaos on the road when construction work fully resume.
“There is nowhere in the world where investors will put money into a public utility project without necessary assurances that their money will come back,” Oyinloye added.
As work tempo is about to increase on the Lagos – Ibadan express road, one hopes that government will use it as a to deliver other strategic highways like the Port Harcourt — Enugu, the East — West road; the Ibadan — Ilorin, Abuja – Kaduna – Kano; Jos – Bauchi – Maiduguri and Yola – Mubi – Maiduguri road under PPP arrangements.
It is the only way forward, if Nigeria must bridge its yawning infrastructural gaps, especially in the road and rail sectors. All hands must be put on deck to solve the seemingly intractable problem of the Lagos-Ibadan express road once and for all.
• Adebayo is a Lagos based media consultant.