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Lagos-Badagry Expressway: A highway to hell - BUSINESSDAY

JUNE 25, 2019

The euphoria and high expectations that greeted the reconstruction and expansion of Lagos-Badagry Expressway project have died. Work has literally stopped on the light rail with a five-lane expressway on either side. The expressway has become a metaphor for pain, stress and frustration. It has turned into a highway to hell with its contortions, craters and ditches.

When the contract was awarded in 2009 nothing could equal the joy of Lagos residents, particularly motorists, property owners and those who have business along the expressway.

The project raised much hope. The expectation was that it would  not only open up the West African market to Nigerian businesses and tourists, but also affect positively property values, and the economic, commercial and social activities of people along that axis.

But today, the story is different.

Hours spent in gridlock, wear and tear on vehicles and loss of personal effects to hoodlums and armed bandits are the daily harrowing experiences of both motorists and commuters. People spend upwards of three hours between Mile 2 and Okokomaiko a commute that should, ordinarily, take between 30-40 minutes. This has both social and health implications, and the economic loss in terms of man-hours can hardly be quantified in monetary terms.

There’s no gain saying that the completion of this project will impact positively on the economy of the state government because apart from the regional trade that will be boosted, many companies have positioned themselves to take advantage of the expressway and many more will relocate to this axis.

Besides these, many Lagosians have invested in property on this corridor in anticipation of the expressway. Once it is completed, they will move in. From all these prospective residents and businesses, state government can generate enormous revenue that will enable it to provide more roads infrastructure and other social amenities for its citizens.

Unarguably, the redevelopment of that expressway will open up trade across the West Coast. Annual trade volume on this route is said to run into billions of naira.  Apart from trade facilitation, the human element should also be given serious consideration.

Yet, a project that was scheduled to be completed in four years has scarcely attained 50 percent completion in 10 years. And has, therefore, instead of being a blessing to the residents of the state, become a curse to both life and living. A similar light rail project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that was started two years after that of Lagos has been operating since 2015

It is heart-warming however, that the new governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has promised to complete the Lagos light rail. A few days ago, the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) flagged off the maintenance of the expressway, beginning from Igbo-Eleri Junction to Badagry. That is commendable, but piecemeal. Both the federal and Lagos State governments should see the reconstruction and expansion of the expressway for its strategic and economic importance.

For these reasons and the fact that the project is part of the development blue-print for Lagos, Sanwo-Olu must muster the will to complete this project. Otherwise it remains a road to perdition for residents, businesses, motorists and commuters who should be the ultimate beneficiaries of the project in the first place.

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