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Tunde Leye: Lekki-Epe Expressway And Our Lack Of Foresight

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In October this year, some school children were knocked down by a speeding car while trying to cross the road to get to their school. The school in question was Ikota Primary School, and the road in question was the Lekki-Epe expressway. The questions that arise from this are obvious and the main one is this – why were pupils crossing an expressway at 5:30AM in the dark? The answer reveals a government failure that we as Nigerians have become all too accustomed to, so much that it numbs us from acting.

The Lekki-Epe expressway is a 49.8KM road running from the end of Ozumba Mbadiwe road in Victoria Island to Epe. It was initially a dual carriageway with two lanes on each side, built by Alhaji Lateef Jakande. Perhaps recognizing the quick expansion of the city towards the axis, the Lagos State Government concessioned the road to the Lekki Concession Company. About one third of the length of the road has been constructed, and two toll plazas to collect the controversial tariff from drivers have been built.

The positives from the road construction are evident. It is a well maintained road. Street lights work. When there is a need, repairs and maintenance are done promptly. When there are accidents or spillages on the road, they are cleared quickly and efficiently. There are dedicated towing vehicles patrolling the road.

But the shortcomings of the road are just as many, and as serious. What makes these shortcomings worse is that they are avoidable with proper planning and foresight coupled with a government that actually puts the people’s interest ahead of that of the vested interests. But as it is with our country, we are expected to be grateful and not complain about this our very expensive road which does not compare to its counterparts in other climes.

First, the road is too narrow for its purpose. The whole construction added a third lane to the existing Jakande era two lanes and made the road quality better. This is in spite of adequate space on the sides of the road to have made it at least a five lane road on both sides. When we consider that the road is the only way into the axis where one the most rapid population increase is being experienced in Lagos, plus the fact that there are plans to build an airport and a free trade zone in the axis, it becomes clear that not enough thought was given to constructing a road that would adequately meet the purpose. Therefore, even before the airport and free trade zone, the road has become a traffic nightmare for the commuters. Compare this to an Ikorodu Road for example where we have a three lane dual carriage express, along with a two lane service lane. Yet, this road is clearly inadequate as traffic on it is a perennial problem.

This is when one considers the presence of alternate routes, side roads and other ways commuters can get to places along the road. Yet, for a new area, the government makes the mistake of building a three lane road with no service lanes. The only places where the road widens to its potential are at the toll plazas. This perhaps shows the focus of the builders of the road – tolls over adequacy.

Back to the story at my opening – the crossing school kids. Along the whole length of Lekki-Epe expressway, in spite of the numerous residential areas and estates off the road, there are a grand total of two pedestrian bridges. Compare that again to Ikorodu road where there is a pedestrian bridge at every major bus-stop.

This makes sense, considering that people trooping out of the residential area to catch buses have to cross the road at these major bus-stops. Hence if you get hit while crossing the express, you are to blame as the government has provided a safe means to cross for you. But on the Lekki-Epe expressway, the government has failed in this. In January this year, youths from the Ajah area barricaded the road at the Ikota Primary school because school kids were killed while crossing a point where there should have been a pedestrian bridge. A commissioner came and promised them a bridge at the location.

Nothing was done and a couple of months later, children were killed at that spot again. It is not only a failure but wickedness that a government subjects its people daily to the danger of crossing that Lekki-Epe expressway without providing pedestrian bridges. Rather, they have built countless humongous, useless and unnecessary roundabouts along the road. Rather than build flyovers for those going forward, leaving those turning off to pass below it, everyone bunches at the roundabouts that narrow the already small road further and causes bottlenecks spawning nightmarish traffic. I wonder what it would have cost to do the right thing.

How many modern road designs the world over neglect pedestrian bridges and flyover and build roundabouts along the only thoroughfare into one of its fastest growing residential areas which will also house a free trade zone and airport? It is a sad commentary on our lack of foresight in government. So what will happen? Some other government will come in and award contracts for the building of pedestrian bridges and flyovers and for the expansion of the Lekki-Epe Expressway. We will hail this person as a great governor for delivering us from the hellish traffic that would have become the norm. Something that should have been part of the plan from the very beginning.

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Article written by Tunde Leye

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