THE traffic jam along Lekki-Epe Expressway is notorious. From Law School on Victoria Island to Ajah, a distance of about 21 kilometres, which ordinarily should take less than 30 minutes, could take as much as two to three hours on a very bad day.
For many years, commuters and motorists plying this route lamented and groaned under the stress of gridlocks that would often spring up and then render all the major and inner roads impassable. Like most Lagosians, they devised and adopted different methods to tackle the problem, many of which compounded it.
So, when in 2006 Lagos State government engaged the services of the Lekki Concession Company Ltd. (LCC) to embark on an expansion project along the Lekki-Epe Expressway, everyone that had anything to do along that corridor heaved a sigh of relief, believing the solution to the traffic gridlock that daily paralysed businesses and movement was in sight. But this was not to be. The much-awaited respite was not forthcoming, as the snail-speed at which the project was executed not only became a nightmare, but also brought untold hardship to commuters and residents alike.
Today, the story is still the same, as the traffic situation along that axis has not improved in the least. Commuters and motorists still experience a lot of frustration, while plying the route. This is despite the fact that the roads have been somewhat expanded.
Several factors are believed to be responsible for this problem. While some attribute it to the haphazard manner in which the LCC carried out the project, which was abandoned halfway; others are of the view that the activities of commercial bus drivers, which constitute a major nuisance, is the real problem.
Some others are pointing accusing fingers at the larger-than-life roundabouts, which are located in four areas along the corridor.
Some of the problem spots include Jakande, Chevron roundabout and Ajah, where large motor parks are located. Motorists are often forced to crawl around these areas because of the activities of commercial bus drivers, who park their vehicles carelessly anywhere for passengers to alight.
Business operators and commercial bus drivers that spoke to The Guardian during a visit to the area, said that the traffic is a major set back to their businesses, as it prevents them from planning and managing their time properly. They said the ordeal of commuting along the expanded expressway is tortuous, especially when navigating through the Ajah roundabout.
Residents said the activities of commercial bus and taxi operators, who have converted the fringes of the roundabout into bus and taxi garages is the major cause of the traffic. The residents added that best solution to ease the traffic is for government to construct flyover bridges at those places where there are roundabouts on the road.
Said Yusuf Adeyemi, a motorist: "The activities of commercial bus and taxi operators, who have converted road shoulders and other available space into parks, is a major cause of the traffic jam. It is faster to travel from Lagos to Benin City, Edo State capital, than for one to pass through Ajah roundabout congestion. Setting out for my daily activities in the mornings always puts me in a terrible mood. And really, I'm tired of waking up at 4am and hitting the road at 4:30am everyday. Many residents along the Addo-Badore road in Ajah have no option than to abandon our cars at home and take commercial motorcycles to Ajah roundabout before taking commercial vehicles, because that is the only way we can reach our workplaces before 8am.
"That is the only way we have been beating the traffic, which usually stretches two kilometres or more and takes not less than one hour. It is very sad. The traffic is pronounced around the Olympic-size Ajah roundabout, but this was not the case before it was constructed."
Another resident, Adetutu Oluwale, while narrating the ordeal residents go through daily, said, "our worst nightmare in the last one decade has been the Lekki-Epe expressway, the road that connects us to other parts of Lagos. The relief we thought we would have, when in 2006 the Lekki Concession Company (LCC), rolled out its equipment to commence the project, has since disappeared.
"For instance, we were not experiencing traffic on Ajah-Addo-Badore road before the construction of the Ajah roundabout. Now, connecting Ajah through Addo road takes up to one hour during peak periods, especially from 6am to 9am. This is something that should not take more than 10 minutes, as was the case before the construction of that roundabout."
Tosin Alaba was of the view that there is need for the construction of flyovers to ease the traffic around the roundabouts.
"Common wisdom calls for the construction of a route that connects to the expressway, not at the roundabout, but further down. And the solution to the problem is a flyover and a pedestrian bridge to reduce congestion at the roundabout," he said.
But while some residents are lamenting the poor state of the roads, others are choosing to look at the positive aspect and new development going on along the axis.
Ikechukwu Duru, a Lekki resident, said since Dangote Group commenced construction of oil refinery and 600,000 tonnes polypropylene plant, Lekki and its environs have never been the same again.
"The area, which used to have a narrow single lane road and was notorious for traffic congestion, is fast becoming a global business haven. It now boasts of a new dual carriageway with three lanes on both sides. The new attracting features of the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LKFTZ) are enormous. Added to these are the state-of-the-art tollgates and well-structured estates and beautiful architectural landscapes. The presence of Dangote alone has attracted other related businesses such as Progress Maritime limited, OBAT Oil and Eko Resort to the area.
"For instance, Progress Maritime Ltd., a shipping company that bought hundreds of hectares of land in the area, has constructed its Tank Farm. The presence of giant investors such as, Dangote Group and Progress Maritime limited has transformed Lekki/Epe Expressway from a mere backwater settlement on the outskirts of Lagos into a sprawling, modern settlement, one of the fastest growing areas in Lagos. To many, the Lekki corridor is the 'New Lagos,' judging by its booming real estate, massive construction and noticeable government presence in the planned Lekki Free Trade Zone. To real estate professionals, these areas are now a goldmine. For instance, both foreign and Nigerian professionals whose offices are in Ikoyi and Victoria Island are relocating to the LFTZ.
Musa Abubakar, a businessman in Ikoyi, explained that because of the non-availability of land in Ikoyi and Victoria Island, and the attendant rising rents, more prospective homeowners are also looking towards the Lekki-Epe axis and are erecting structures comparable to those in developed countries.
And of course, all this is compounding the traffic problem in the area, as it brings in its trail increased vehicular traffic.
Source: The Guardian