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Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta Expressway: Three months after FEC approval…For Ogun Govt, it’s motion without movement

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Gradually, the patience and expectations of road users plying the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway are turning to anger and frustration, as there seems to be no solution yet in sight to the untold hardship faced by motorists and citizens daily.

The road, awarded to Julius Berger Plc by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 had suffered perennial setbacks over the years due to paucity of fund, forcing the contractor to abandon the road. Even, the government organ responsible for its maintenance, the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), has also completely neglected it.

It is unfortunate that 20 years after, the road, a major artery, which runs through Lagos and Ogun states, has become worse than the contractors met it.

Indeed, the whole stretch from the Brewery bus stop, Abeokuta through Sango to Ile-Epo market, Lagos, is currently in a state of comatose as the road becomes death traps and albatross to all road users.

When the news broke last October that the Federal Government had approved the request of the Ogun State government to take over the construction of the road, there was a wild jubilation across the state that at least in a matter of months, their nightmare on the road would soon be a thing of the past.

The approval was announced by the Minister of Works, David Umahi, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Aso Villa, Abuja, where it was announced that the state government can embark on the reconstruction of the dilapidated road and toll it, but alas, four months after, there is no sign that the state is ready for the task.

Before this period, Governor Abiodun in conjunction with his Lagos State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu had pleaded to take over the construction of the road but the requests were rebuffed by the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.

The minister said, “On permission to build federal roads, when such requests are made, we give approval within 24 hours but then there are conditions to be met – they must have to use the Federal Ministry of Works standard designs.”

The state Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Ade Akinsanya, who commended the governor for his resilience, declared that the state was ready to take on the project and end the many years of suffering of her people.

“The work will be accelerated so that delivery will be swift. We will give the best standard in the shortest time possible. We appreciate the minister for supporting our quest all along. Governor Abiodun is still working hard for more of this,” he added.

It is sad to note that between October last year and now, the road has further degenerated, especially with the torrential rainfall of last year, turning some of the potholes to craters and ditches of different sizes and depth.

Driving from Sango-Ota to Abeokuta, which normally takes about an hour, now takes about three to four hours depending on the day of the week and the time of the day. The Guardian investigations showed that many of the motorists now prefer driving through the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, to avoid the pain and agony of the stretch.

While this has led to series of robbery incidents that were either underreported or non-reported, especially in the night, investigations showed that between October and now scores of lives have been lost via auto crashes, attributed to the bad state of the road.

For instance, on September 10, 2023, two passengers died, while one person was injured in an accident at Ayedere, in Ewekoro Local Council. On December 29, a female adult was crushed to death by a truck at the Dalemo bus stop, Sango. Also, on January 13, 2024, one person died with three others injured in a devastating accident at the old tollgate, Sango, and many more.

When The Guardian went on the tour of the stretch from Abule-Egba, Lagos to Abeokuta last Thursday, observation showed that it is extremely sad times for motorists and other road users on the Sango end and Abeokuta stretch, which has degenerated beyond comprehension.

Passing through the deplorable road has become a source of great distress, as motorists now resort to driving against traffic once they are at the most deplorable axis.

Driving from the old tollgate through Joju to Iyana-Ilogbo is currently smooth. But from Onihale through Ilepa, Bosun Sawyer, Pakoto, Vulcaniser, Bungalow, Ewekoro to Abeokuta, the road is in a sorry state.

The stretch between Ilepa to Ifo, which shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, now takes over one hour, 30 minutes. While the portion between the Apostolic Church convention ground, Ilepa junction to Ilepa second bus stop has deteriorated alarmingly in the last one year, the 45-metre stretch at the Bosun bus stop, inward Ifo, has worsened in the last seven months. The crater at the centre of the road is about 23 feet deep, covering the entire lanes.

The Pakoto axis is the worst hit. The stretch immediately after Ayede bus stop, to Folam bus stop, spanning about 1km, has been dotted with craters and potholes. The entire stretch is in a serious state of disrepair, precipitating gridlocks. The area is ridden with potholes and ditches that have taken over significant chunk of the road.

At the moment, only trucks, tippers, few cars and other bigger vehicles dare brave the road. Daily, precious man-hours are wasted on the axis. Beyond the stretch, from Arigbajo rail line through Apomu, Papalanto, Ewekoro, Itori, Wasinmi, Abule Mecho, Olomoore to Brewery junction, ditches of various sizes and depth are the common sight.

As a result, hapless motorists heading to either Ifo or Abeokuta often crawl for more than four hours or more, depending on the time of the day, for a journey that shouldn’t take more than one hour, 20 minutes.

To make the matter worse, almost on daily basis, trucks and heavy-duty vehicles crash at the bad spots. Many innocent lives have been taken in the last few months, while some who survive the accidents are living with scars.

Sadly too, between the Sango garage and Folam bus stop, countless number of pedestrians have been knocked down and killed by erring motorists who have resorted to driving against traffic to avoid the bad portions.

To say a lot of motorists have deserted the axis for the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, is to say the least as the road has not only become a death trap, but a shame to the Federal Government, that has left the road to degenerate to that level.

In October, before the FEC approval, the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, after a grueling experience on the stretch, while on a visit to Ilaro, had promised to give necessary support to the state government on the reconstruction of federal roads in the state.
Akpabio, who said he insisted on driving to Ilaro to experience what people go through on the road every day, regretted that the trip took his team more than two hours to drive to Ilaro from Lagos.

Towards the end of last year, the Chairmen of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Lagos and Ogun states cried out on the deplorable condition of the expressway, calling on the Federal Government to revisit the road.

The chairmen, Dr. Busari Jamiu Muhammad Ademola and Alhaji Jimoh Tajudeen Alao, in a joint statement, described the condition of the expressway as worrisome, dangerous, and inaccessible.

A commuter driver, Kazeem Ayepe, who lamented the current state of the road, said even if the state is not ready to embark on the project, the governor should have ensured the rehabilitation of the worst portions.

“Prior to commencement of the 2023 general elections, the terrible old tollgate stretch that was abandoned for close to a year was fixed in a matter of weeks. The governor extended the rehabilitation work through the Sango Motor Park, Joju bus stop, Conoil junction, to Ijako market. If that kind of drive is adopted as temporary measure, we’ll be better off than what we are facing now.”

A resident of Pakoto, Mr. Kunle Pedro, who works at the Apapa Wharf, said he was forced to squat with a friend till weekend when there was no respite in sight on the rehabilitation of the road.

He appealed to Governor Abiodun to make true his promise and start work on the road. “After all, he has been asked to toll it, this is not a matter of ‘we don’t have money’, whatever they spend, the state will recoup it. If this is the only dividend of democracy you can give us, please, do it now to stop the untimely death of the road users.”

The Guardian made several phone calls across to the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Akinsanya on his mobile number 08147293211 on Thursday, to get update on plans to commence work on the road, but the calls were not picked. A text message was also sent across to him, but yet to reply as of the time of filing this report.

  • The Guardian

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NASRE Advises FG On Food Crisis, Forex Shortage Amid Calls To Suspend Import Ban

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As Nigeria finds itself at a critical crossroads, grappling with simultaneous challenges of a food crisis and a foreign exchange (forex) shortage.

 

This is even as the nation seeks solutions to mitigate these pressing issues, the debate over whether to open its borders for importation has intensified.

 

The food crisis gripping Nigeria has raised concerns about food security and access to essential nutrition for millions of citizens.

 

Adverse weather conditions, supply chain disruptions, and other factors have contributed to dwindling food supplies and soaring prices, placing a significant strain on households and exacerbating the vulnerability of already marginalized communities.

 

Meanwhile, the forex shortage has hampered Nigeria’s ability to import essential goods and raw materials, further exacerbating supply chain disruptions and exacerbating inflationary pressures.

 

Industries reliant on imported inputs, including agriculture, manufacturing, and healthcare, have been particularly hard hit, impeding economic growth and development.

 

In response to these challenges, some stakeholders advocate for opening Nigeria’s borders to facilitate the importation of food and other essential commodities.

 

Proponents argue that increased importation could help alleviate immediate food shortages, stabilize prices, and provide relief to vulnerable populations facing hunger and malnutrition.

 

However, others caution against the potential risks of opening borders amid a forex shortage. Critics raise concerns about the impact on domestic production and self-sufficiency, as well as the long-term consequences of relying heavily on imported goods. They emphasize the need to prioritize investments in domestic agriculture and infrastructure to build resilience against future crises.

 

As Nigeria navigates these complex issues, the government faces the daunting task of balancing short-term relief efforts with long-term strategies for sustainable development and economic resilience.

 

Proffering suggestion on how the government can address the unending inflationary pressures, Forex shortages, food prices hike and revitalise the nation’s economy, the Nigerian Association of Social and Resourceful Editors (NASRE), has advised the Nigerian government to adopt collaborative efforts involving policymakers, industry stakeholders, civil society organizations, and international partners to identify holistic solutions that address both immediate needs and underlying structural challenges.

 

On the debate over whether Nigeria should open its borders for importation amid the food crisis and forex shortage, the President of the advocacy group, Mr Femi Oyewale, underscores the urgency of coordinated action and innovative thinking.

 

According to him, now more than ever, solidarity, cooperation, and forward-thinking policies are needed to ensure the well-being and prosperity of all Nigerians.

 

“The question of whether Nigerian borders should be opened for food importation in the face of a food crisis is complex and multifaceted. However, there are factors to consider, which basically, Domestic Agricultural Capacity. Because opening borders for food importation could undermine domestic agricultural production by flooding the market with cheaper imported goods.

 

“However, if domestic production is insufficient to meet demand, importing food may be necessary to avoid shortages,” he said.

 

On the economic implications of borders opening, the President of NASRE, Oyewale, said: “Importing food can have economic ramifications, both positive and negative. On one hand, it can provide access to a wider variety of foods and potentially lower prices for consumers. On the other hand, it may negatively impact local farmers and exacerbate trade imbalances.”

 

The resourceful editors, while commenting on Food Security, pointed out that relying heavily on imported food leaves a country vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and price fluctuations in the global market. Therefore, it urged the federal government to develop a robust domestic agricultural sector, which is crucial for long-term food security.

 

According to Oyewale, the Nigerian government must consider its broader economic and agricultural policies when making decisions about food importation. This includes evaluating subsidies, tariffs, and investment in agricultural infrastructure.

 

“Importing food often involves long-distance transportation, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation. Promoting local production can help reduce the carbon footprint associated with food consumption.

 

“Food is not just a commodity; it is essential for human well-being. Government policies should prioritize ensuring access to nutritious and culturally appropriate food for all citizens, particularly those most vulnerable to food insecurity,” he added.

 

The Nigerian Association of Social and Resourceful Editors, NASRE, therefore, noted that the decision to open Nigerian borders for food importation during a food crisis should be approached cautiously, taking into account the country’s domestic agricultural capacity, economic implications, food security goals, environmental concerns, and social welfare considerations.

 

“A balanced approach that supports both domestic production and responsible trade practices may be necessary to address immediate food shortages while also promoting long-term food security and sustainability,” the Association stated.

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Lagos State Government to prosecute 11 suspects for extortion

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The Lagos State Government said 11 suspects arrested at the Ibeju-Lekki junction and Akodo area of the state will be prosecuted to serve as deterrents to others extorting residents and motorists in the state.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Olawale Musa, disclosed this while addressing journalists on Wednesday.

He added that the suspects parade themselves as enforcement officers to extort unsuspecting motorists and residents in the state.

Musa said, “Lagos State Government has declared zero tolerance for extortion of unsuspecting residents, especially motorists, by miscreants parading themselves as enforcement officers at the Ibeju-Lekki junction and Akodo area of the state.

“We have announced severally that nobody is allowed to collect money for the local government on the street of Lagos, and the government has set up a team to ensure that anybody that does that is picked up and from that Lekki axis.

“They will be charged to court to explain themselves, and I want to sound a note of warning to others that do the same thing that we will not relent; the government is all out for them.”

He noted that it is unlawful for any local government area within the state to place personnel to conduct such operations on the highways.

“If you have any issues, you call us, and we will come and address them, but when you have people coming on the road on the guise that you want to have revenue at this hard time, collecting money from motorists on the road is not fair, and it is illegal in Lagos State to resist it.

“It is illegal for any local government area in the state to deploy people on the roads as it negates the Lagos State Road Traffic Law, Section 18, 2018, which empowers only the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority to carry out such operations on the roads,” he added.

In March 2023, The PUNCH reported that the Lagos State Government arrested four suspected hoodlums in some parts of the state over extortion.

The suspects were arrested in the Amuwo-Odofin area of the state while attempting to extort motorists.

 

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N10bn fraud: EFCC to arraign Abdulfattah Ahmed, ex-Kwara Governor Friday

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will arraign the immediate-past governor of Kwara State, Abdulfattah Ahmed, for alleged N10bn fraud on Friday, The PUNCH has learnt.

Credible sources in the anti-graft agency said the ex-governor would be dragged before the Federal High Court in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.

“He is going to be arraigned on Friday at the Federal High Court in Ilorin for diversion of funds, amounting to N10bn,” the source told our correspondent.

The ex-governor has been detained by the EFCC since Monday when he honoured an invitation for interrogation.

His Chief Press Secretary, Alhaji AbdulWahab Oba, confirmed his principal’s visit to the EFCC office on Monday, stating that it was only “procedural and routine”.

“Dr Ahmed’s visit to the EFCC is procedural and routine. He was invited and he honoured them as he’s always done. He’s always ready to respond to any query or question regarding his tenure as a governor of the state.”

On Tuesday night, Oba lamented that the EFCC was still holding on to Ahmed, saying he was given stringent bail conditions.

“Yes, he is still with the EFCC and we are now in a dilemma over the issue because they keep changing the goalpost during the match. The case is taking a new dimension, which we don’t really understand for now.

“Initially they said they wanted him to produce two sureties who are federal directors. The sureties came and were asked to provide landed properties in Abuja. We see this as a contradiction. The case was initially handled by the EFCC office in Abuja before it was transferred to Ilorin over the issue of jurisdiction. Additionally, he has been denied access to his doctors, medication and direct access to his cook,” Oba said.

Meanwhile, members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State on Wednesday staged a peaceful protest to the EFCC zonal office in Ilorin, where Ahmed was being detained.

The protesters, who carried placards with various inscriptions, expressed displeasure over Ahmed’s detention.

Led by the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olusegun Adewara, the party members alleged that the All Progressives Congress in the state was behind Ahmed’s troubles.

Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: “EFCC should stop being a tool in the hands of Abdulrazaq led-APC”, “Governor Ahmed was very transparent”, “EFCC is not a department in the APC, EFCC, stop the harassment”, “The opposition cannot be silenced”, “Maigida will not join the APC no matter the persecution”, “EFCC, don’t instigate political crisis in Kwara State”, “No to illegal detention. Respect the rule of law”, among others.

But addressing the protesters, the zonal commander of the EFCC, Michael Nzekwe, said Ahmed had been given an administration bail but he could not meet the conditions.

“We’re wrapping up. Once we wrap up, the law will take its course. The anti-graft agency, being a creation of law, would not go contrary to law.

“Everything we’ve done is within the ambit of the law. The former governor is cooperating with us and we’re making good progress following rules of law. As I speak, he’s with his lawyer, a SAN; he attends to everyone who comes to see him, and he has a doctor who has attended to him. He eats what he wants to eat. I urge us to allow the law take its course. We’re not partisan nor prompted by anybody. This body is solely sponsored by the Federal Government,” Nzekwe said.

 

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