IBADAN- ILORIN ROAD: A Promise Unfulfilled
THE story of Ibadan-Ilorin expressway, for years, has been one accompanied with tales of woes, unfulfilled promises and insincerity on the part of successive administrations. The road is a commercial nerve in the country, whose potential is underutilised. The road is not only restricted to people, who live in towns and villages along the route, but to the entire nation.
At a time, it was the only road linking the North and the South. The road also forms part of the Trans Sahara Highway, starting from Badagry through Sokoto to Niger Republic.
Experts and watchers of events, have, however, said that the quick construction of the road will contribute to Trans Sahara trade. Currently, some of the heavy-duty vehicles move goods from the seaport in Lagos, through the Ibadan-Ilorin road to get the cargoes to other parts of the country, especially, the northern areas.
In 1979, the military head of state and former civilian president, chief Olusegun Obasanjo, listed the project as a priority in his handover notes to the succeeding government of President Shehu Shagari.
When he exited power in 1979, many thought the project would experience speedy attention. That was not to be, however. Since then, Nigeria has had over six administrations and over three decades of civilian interspersed with military headship. During this period, the vital nature of the road has been as influential in public discourse, just as Obasanjo said in 1979. But none of the administrations have been able to successfully complete the project despite consistent promises.
In 1999, fate once again thrust the leadership of the nation in the hands of Obasanjo and many heaved a sigh of relief in anticipation that the expressway would be completed within weeks, nay, months, going by the passion he exhibited the first time he assumed power. That appeared so at first.
Obasanjo had gone down memory lane, while flagging off the road project a second time that, “plans for the construction of the road started in 1979 when I was military head of state. The design of the road started and we suggested it as a priority project to succeeding governments. I want to thank past governments for being kind enough to leave the work where I left it 21 years ago for me to pick it up again. I want to assure the governors of Oyo and Kwara states that the work will be completed in the shortest possible time and we will be able to move in expressway between Ibadan and Ilorin.”
That promise remains largely unfulfilled, even many years after the second exit of Obasanjo, making many to see it as an unbreakable stronghold.
As at 2001, the Federal Government had divided the project into three sections to be given to three reputable construction firms. Section one takes off from Ojoo in Ibadan and terminates at Irepo market in Oyo town. This section is approximately 44.5 kilometres. The section II links Oyo town with Ogbomoso, while section III starts from Ogbomoso and ends at the Gerin-Alimi roundabout in Ilorin.
The contract was subsequently awarded in three segments: Ibadan-Oyo was awarded to PW Construction Company for N15 billion; Oyo to Ogbomoso, another 45 kilometres was awarded jointly to PW and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) Limited, for about N15.2 billion, while the 45-kilometre Ogbomoso-Ilorin was awarded to RCC in 2001 for N15.7 billion.
Two years later, the joint venture (JV) companies, that is, PW and RCC, asked for 37 per cent variation in cost.
Government, however, conceded 15 per cent variation, which was rejected by the JV partners. This led to the cancellation of the contract. But six months later, RCC alone got the same contract, (Oyo–Ogbomosho section), for N47.5 billion. A British firm of quantity surveyors reportedly submitted that about £130 million or N32.5 billion inflated the middle section of that road. Now, the entire road is costing N78.4 billion or $490 million.
The construction firms were given 36 months to complete and handover the road to the Federal Government. Sadly, while two sections, Ibadan-Oyo and Ogbomosho-Ilorin have been completed after several years of delay, Oyo-Ogbomosho is still left undone.
While commissioning the newly constructed Ibadan-Ilorin four-lane divided highway (Route A1) Section 1 Ibadan-Oyo in 2013, the erstwhile Works Minister, Mike Onolememen, disclosed that the Oyo-Ogbomosho segment is under construction at a whooping sum of N47.5 billion and assured that it would be completed soon.
He stated that the Ogbomosho-Ilorin section had since been completed, leaving the middle segment, Oyo to Ogbomosho, for that corridor to be finally delivered. He added:
The road is a section of route A1, one of the four North-South arterial Highways in the sense that Ibadan-Oyo-Ogbomosho-Ilorin Road is basically a corridor that links Southern and Northern parts of the country, which is very strategic in the movement of goods and services, particularly from Lagos ports and industrial complexes, to Northern Nigeria.
Over the years, the road had deteriorated to a level where maintenance was no longer feasible, having outlived its design life and the road becoming very dangerous to motorists and pedestrians, as well as to harness the waste of man-hours on the old road due to traffic bottle necks, particularly as a result of incessant accidents.
Meanwhile, residents and commuters alike have decried the slow pace of ongoing work on the Oyo-Ogbomosho expressway and the attendant suffering and risk encountered by those who daily ply the route.
Residents and drivers who spoke with The Guardian lamented the increased cases of accidents on the road and appealed to the government to step up the project.
“We are always praying that we do not record fatalities. And God has been faithful. But how long can we stretch that luck? The tanker drivers are usually careless in their manner of driving. Many of them actually get tired after getting choked up in the massive traffic jam that goes on for hours in the town. Hundreds of such tankers invade the town on a daily basis, as they try to avoid the bad portions of the road leading. We are praying that the road will be completed soon so that the influx of these vehicles into the town will be reduced drastically and we can have some peace.”
A driver who identified himself as Kilanko said, “until the government completes the Oyo-Ogbomosho road, we will continue to experience these problems. We drivers have complained long enough but it seems that the government does not want to assist us. Or how can you explain the fact that the road has remained in this deplorable condition for so long.”
He equally stated that the police have used the opportunity to fleece the drivers as they usually set up blockades at such bad portions of the road to demand for ‘settlement.’ The drivers have no option but to stop for such unscrupulous officers as they have to halt their vehicles to avoid hitting ubiquitous potholes along the road.
He said many of the drivers have been brutalised for not complying with such entreaties. “Apart from the police who daily harass us for bribes, we also have problems with hoodlums, who make use of such bad portions to deprive us and our passengers of valuables. Many of our drivers have dreadful tales to share of their travails in the hands of the police and armed robbers. We believe that if the dualisation is eventually completed and the bad portions rehabilitated, we will not experience such consistent harassments from these people,” Kilanko said.
Efforts to get the reactions of controller of works in the zone, E Omorekpe, proved abortive, as he declined comments and directed The Guardian to his superior.
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