If there was competition for bad roads in Lagos, the Lagos-Badagry expressway would most likely dwarf several others across the state. But the large gaps between the Trade Fair Under Bridge bus stop and the Barracks along the road are the worst of the horrific fate that has befallen the road, Saturday PUNCH findings revealed.
On days when that part of the road is flooded as a result of rain, traffic stops at the flooded spot, leaving many passengers stranded for hours.
For those who cannot wait for the flood to recede before continuing their journey, they find themselves between two dire options: walk on a very narrow pavement to connect to the flood-free site or ask the crooks, popularly known as "area boys" ", to carry them on his back over the great pool of water.
In most cases, travelers choose the service of crooks for fear of falling off the pavement into muddy water.
Our correspondent said that in those days the whole place was often in a frenzy during floods as "area boys" come and go to pick up helpless passengers from one place to another.
In such cases, many women have a scornful look as they rest pitifully on the dirty back of linen. Those who can't bear the hassle of handing over their 'precious bodies' to criminals prepare on the pavement at the risk of falling into a puddle of murky water.
“Thank you Lord,” exclaimed a traveller, Mrs Esther Chukwu, after walking down the narrow pavement a few weeks ago when it was raining heavily.
"I came back from my job at Mile 2 that day around 7 p.m.," she continued, recounting the daily horror she and many others go through on the road.
"This place (pointing to an area between the mess under the bridge and the barracks) was flooded that night. The 'area boys' started putting people on their backs to carry them through the flood waters for N100 each. Most of them have not bathed for days, and yet they put married women on their backs.
"Some of them would even stylishly caress the women in the process as their breasts will rest on their backs. There was a boy from the area who put a beautiful young woman on his back that night. He carried it back and forth twice before he dropped the one on the other end. That lady looked so beautiful there was no way he would have had a chance to touch her except in that situation," he said.
During our correspondent's visit, it was observed that the youths had turned a stretch of road in bad condition into a kind of "tollgate". Rocks were placed along the sidewalk along the median to help motorists cross over to the other side of the road and drive against traffic. The 'area boys' were reported to charge from N50 to N100 for the service rendered. Dozens of vehicles took turns navigating the winding road that day to the delight of "toll collectors" who were busy stuffing cash into their dirty hands and pockets.
One of the “boys from the area”, who spoke to our correspondent and gave his name as Ganiu, said that on rainy days, which he described as “good morning”, he takes home between 5,000 and 10,000 naira a day. This is done with the money he gets from pedestrians he puts in his back to help cross the flood waters and his share of what is generated from the 'mini tax'.
On the allegation that they liked to carry women on their backs and that they pressed their breasts against their backs, Lawal described money as the main benefit and everything else as added "fun".
“No money is important to me or; I can't take a woman just to touch the breasts na but for money na funny sha because we take very good girls crossing the water here (money is what's important to me as I can't take any woman across simply because there will be an opportunity to touch her breasts. But besides making money from this, it's also fun because many beautiful women come here and request our service), he said in pidgin English.
Another 'area boy' there, Lukman Alatise, also pointed out that the area turned into a mini-carnival for them whenever it rained because of the money they earned.
"Some days when it rains here, I earn up to N5,000 from the 'barrier fee' just carrying people on my back. The road is very bad and the flood water has collected there. It has been like this for a long time but it is getting worse .
"We also get the chance to 'enjoy' when we carry beautiful and 'blessed' (gifted) women," he said.
Residents move, avoid houses for days
Five years ago, Chuwku got a job in an information technology team at Mile 2 with a monthly salary of about N60,000. Although the salary was far from what she dreamed of earning as a graduate, she accepted the job. good faith. , as he waits for a better opportunity to cross his path. By supporting her husband in supporting their three children and spending an average of 15,000 naira every month on commuting to and from her workplace, the Ijanikin resident managed to save 10,000 naira at the end of the month. But for some months now his savings and well-being have been under constant threat; no thanks to the bad condition of the road.
A trip to the office that until now took less than 45 minutes for Chukwu, 34, now takes about four hours due to the bad condition of the highway. You also have to pay more than N30,000 in transport charges per month as a result of price increase.
Saturday PUNCH has learned that the buses, most of which have been terribly worn due to the continuous impact of the deplorable road, are running at a snail's pace, forcing many commuters to patronize commercial motorcyclists (popularly known as okada riders) with a higher fee and risk. .
“All the main bus stops along the road have big holes,” Chukwu lamented as she waited at the Trade Fair Under Bridge on a motorbike to take her to 2.2km after the vehicle she had boarded broke down.
She continued: "There is always traffic here because the road is bad. Many homeowners, renters and business owners have moved from this place. People leave home very early in the morning and come back very late. They do not sleep well.
"Those who haven't moved find a place to squat and come home at the weekend. You can't imagine what people go through every day. I spend at least N1,500 every day on transport. How much do I earn?
"I usually take a bus from my house to Iyana Iba. From there I take a motorbike to Mile 2 on the N600. To reduce the fee, I have to sit on the motorcycle with a stranger who may have body odor. This is how I have suffered daily on this road.
"Coming home from work, the speed is usually faster because many people are rushing home. I usually take a bus from mile 2 to Okokomaiko because okada passengers will charge between N800 and N1,000 for the same distance. If if I kept taking motorcycles every day, I would have spent my entire salary on transportation at the end of the month.
“I was on a bicycle one day with an old man. He shouted 'national calamity, national calamity'. The man said he had two houses and had put them up for sale. He said that his strength could no longer withstand the stress of going on the road and that he wanted to return to the East."
Chukwu's situation is a representation of the grim reality thousands of residents, businesses and students face daily along the highway with little or no solace in sight.
Since the path has become almost impassable, Mrs. Peace Oladele devised a new means of lightening the burden by crossing it regularly.
The mother of two, who is an accountant in a company in FESTAC Town and lives in Oko-Afo towards Badagry's hinterland, now stays at her elder brother's house around his workplace and spends the weekend at home.
Peace's husband, a NIPOST official in Apapa, has also used the same tactic and the couple stays together on weekends.
"Our saving grace is that our children are in a boarding school. When they are on vacation, we take them to our relatives in the neighborhood and pick them up at the weekend," adds Oladele.
Although they go home once a week, the couple also deal with their own discomfort that the road brings. "I don't know how to describe the trail," he lamented.
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“If there is anything worse than the worst; as I would call it. I left home on a Monday morning around 7 but didn't get to the office until 12. The traffic was very terrible that day. Since then I have stopped leaving the house to go to the office on Mondays. I leave on Sunday so I can get back to work on time on Monday.
“I live at my little brother's house from Sunday to Friday. My husband doesn't come home until the weekend either. One will simply collapse due to stress and pass this route every day. The government should do something about it."
A nightmare for businesses, merchants
As a transnational highway linking Nigeria with other West African countries such as the Republic of Benin, the Lagos-Badagry highway is undoubtedly a gateway to the economy of Lagos and Nigeria in general. Large markets such as the fair complex, Alaba International Market and small businesses line the road.
It was in recognition of these invaluable roles that the Lagos State government started the reconstruction of the expressway in 2010 during the administration of former Governor Babatunde Fashola. Unfortunately, nine years later, the road has become an eyesore that takes a toll on business owners and residents alike.
Oluchi, as she identified herself, is among the businessmen counting the losses caused by the deplorable road. The owner of a country house in the Volks area has lost a fortune on the road since the crisis worsened at the end of last year.
“I have to leave my two cars behind because they have been damaged on the road,” Oluchi, who was a passenger on one of the commercial buses stuck in potholes around the Barracks bus stop, told our correspondent during the visit.
He continued: “Now I have to use public transport, but I can't get to my workplace on time because the road is in bad shape. It's a nightmare, I dread coming here to do business every day. I have reduced the number of days I come here to once or twice a week.
"It's a horror that a federal highway connecting another country can be in this state for a long time. It's amazing what we have in a place called the Center of Excellence. it's terrible I've tried to use the Ikotun-Iyana Iba hub to connect my workplace but it is also a nightmare.
“There were times when I had to go home because the road was in total chaos. Last December, he transported live and cooked chickens to Mile 2 for supply. I was held up in traffic at the Trade Fair Under Bridge until I lost N50,000 on live chickens that night.
"All the spicy chickens were spoiled because the ice cream I used to preserve them was thawed. They lasted two hours in traffic, but I spent almost eight hours in traffic. It was my most unpleasant experience. Now I'm considering close the business."
The manager of Optimal Device Technology, a mobile phone shop at the fair, Mrs. Obiora Ogachukwu, also lamented that the bad road condition had seriously affected her business.
"The last time a trailer fell here, it was difficult for me to get into my shop. The business does not move again. We come to buy without doing anything tangible. We hardly see customers because the road is bad,” he said.
At a protest in August 2018, the Deputy Chairman of the National Road Transport Workers Union, Oloyede Edun, said many lives had been lost in road accidents.
"Some passengers and drivers have also lost their lives during the robberies. When motorists slow down due to potholes, the thieves shoot at the tires and cause accidents,” he said.
In May 2019, residents and students from some tertiary institutions along the highway protested the poor condition of the road, describing it as a road of "agony and pain".
The protesters blocked the Badagry roundabout for a few hours and carried banners with various inscriptions such as “Fix the Lagos-Badagry expressway”, “Our businesses are dying”, “Bad road: our pregnant women miscarry”.
The President of the Nigerian Gunuvi Rights Initiative, Mr. Bokoh Oluwole, who participated in the protest, said two children were recently killed at a bus stop by a vehicle that ran against the traffic.
“How long will we continue to suffer like this while the government pretends everything is fine? We simply cannot continue like this,” Oluwole had lamented.
The suffering continues amid endless promises
The construction of the expressway is being jointly undertaken by the Lagos State Government and the Federal Government with each responsible for some parts. On the part of the state government, Fashola handed over the project to the immediately preceding administration led by former governor Akinwunmi Ambode. The new governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, also inherited the incomplete project.
During the road inspection at his accession, Sanwo-Olu assured residents that rehabilitation work will start on the Mazamaza-Okokomaiko expressway in June.
He had said: "In June we will move to the site. Work will start on this road so all T and I will be finished this week to move to the site immediately. We will be sure to confirm the discussion with CCECC and move to the site because work has been abandoned here for nearly four years."
Ahead of the 2019 general election, just this January, the Senator representing Lagos West Senatorial District, Olamilekan Adeola, assured Badagry residents during his campaign that he would ensure that adequate funds were allocated to complete the expressway if re-elected. He won the election.
In October 2018, the Federal Executive Committee revealed via the Nigerian government's Twitter handle @Asorock that it had been awarded a contract to repair the Lagos Badagry Expressway.
The Federal Government said the contract will focus on the 46 kilometer section of the road from Agbara to Badagry-Seme border together with the repair of the section from Eric Moore to Okokomaiko being carried out by the Lagos State Government.
Fashola, who is the former Minister of Public Works, Power and Housing, was unable to deliver the section under the Federal Government.
On June 19, 2019, the Executive Director of the Federal Highway Maintenance Agency, Mr. Nurudeen Rafindadi, motorists that the repairs on Lagos-Badagry Expressway will be completed soon.
He said the government allocated N3.6 billion. for general maintenance of the highway in May covering the section from Igbo-Elerin to Agbara Junction.
He promised to ensure close monitoring of the rehabilitation and said the contractor was on site to complete the work on time.
“For the next 12 km, FERMA will carry out repair maintenance work on the road and we should complete it within the next six months to a year,” he said.
If Rafindadi's promise is anything to go by, it means commuters and motorists on the highway will still have to endure months of agony before respite comes.
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