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Lagos: Roads of discord

By Olusegun Olanrewaju
Who exactly is responsible for the construction and rehabilitation of what roads in Lagos State? This is the poser being thrown by residents in the wake of recent happenings in the Ikorodu axis of the state, over the ‘perfection’ of some dilapidated roads in the federal constituency, especially in the predominantly northern ethnic nationality residential and commercial area, Sabo.

The Lagos State Government, it seems, is now entangled in a war of claims over the resurfacing of some roads in the neighbourhood of Sabo, particularly at Adeniran Ogunsanya Street, Kas Lane, Sagamu Road, Wole Ajeboriogbon, Ajoke Oduyebo, Ogunshe, Along Sabo Road (Lawal Street) and other adjoining streets to Itokin Road by the state polytechnic road which leads to Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State. There has been a decades-long battle as to which authority -state or federal controls the huge networks of a state that has dual status as the nation’s former political and economic capital, and the capital of one of the component states of the federation.

Ikorodu is one of the five main divisions of Lagos State. During the administration of former state governor, Bola Tinubu, between 1999 and 2007, Lagos State was at daggers-drawn with the federal government over who is responsible for the worsening state of roads in the now downgraded political capital. The crux of the new engagement in the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration is an apparent brewing face-off in the Hausa-dominated-but other-ethnic-nationality-adjoining settlers as roads are being rehabilitated and asphalted in the area hitherto dense with bad roads.

The confusion is not only about highways; the inner roads are affected too. Residents of inner streets, Ogunshi, Oremeji, Kas avenue (by Allahu Akbar Shopping Complex), and Federal Low-Cost Housing Estate, are upbeat and jubilations at the dawn of the new lease of life on bad roads.

The initial widely held feeling was that the roads are being constructed by the Lagos State government, in a state juxtaposed with the federal might, which had allegedly been long-awaited in communities in the state. But this perception is changing, in line with new developments. An online post on the social media platform, Facebook, had recently credited the state government with new road construction engagements. However, last weekend, an investigation unearthed a new dimension to the issue.

Signage at the intersection between Adeniran Ogunsanya Street, Kas Avenue, Along Sabo Road, and the shopping complex flags the Federal Government as the authority behind the rehabilitation work.
Decked with insignia and coat-of-arms of the ‘Federal Government of Nigeria’, it lays claim to the ‘fact’ that the works are the efforts of the federal lawmaker representing the Ikorodu Constituency in the National Assembly, House of Representatives member, Babajimi Johnson.

The claim attracts some credibility because Benson was an acolyte of the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on his route to the federal legislature in Abuja, and they are both chieftains of the ruling party, the All-Progressives Congress (APC) at both the state and federal levels. There are buttressing facts on the streets of Sabo. The rehabilitation work is being undertaken by the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI) in Abuja.

Marked “Construction of Internal Roads (in) Ikorodu Federal Constituency”, the contractor to the project is GRB Investment Ltd, a resident firm at House CB2, Valley View Estate, Apo, Abuja. The facilitator is advertised as Hon. Jimi Johnson. Most federal legislators live in Apo.

It has not been overtly unearthed whether there had been undercurrents that triggered the erection of the ‘information board’. But ThisNigeria investigations last weekend showed that no sooner had the roads been rehabilitated than suspected fifth columnists started defacing structures on the road, sometimes with the dumping of refuse.

The trend forced the area branch of community development association (CDA) to place notices at some spots in the English language and in vernacular, “No dumping of refuse here. Defaulters will be severely dealt with”. Notice had to be put at sensitive spots to stave off the spate of defacement.

The history as to the authority to maintain roads in Lagos, especially in the metropolitan areas has always been a shared responsibility. But the state government has always accused its federal counterpart of not doing its obligations by maintaining federal roads in the state.

Ordinarily, experts say, only federally owned highways and those lining two or more states are supposed to be taken care of by the Federal Government. These are called ‘Trunk ‘A’ roads. Other roads within the states that are not under the purview of federal administration, but states, are called ‘Trunk ‘B’ roads. The local ones that are meant to open up life at the grassroots are called ‘Trunk ‘C’ roads and are constructed and maintained by the local government.

One of the crucial issues at the heart of the perennial demands of Lagos State for ‘special status, with one per cent federal allocation from the collective treasury, is the maintenance of federal infrastructure in the largest metropolitan state.

Feelers suggest that the situation in Ikorodu is not novel in the ‘state of aquatic splendour’. It replicates in other areas,” a resident offers, adding, “The problem is that when propaganda does not match with action, the problem is a deficit of integrity.” Neighbours say the Sabo axis of the Ikorodu Federal Constituency had been long neglected by subsequent administrations in Lagos. That may have prompted federal intervention in the area to bridge an intervening gap.

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However, unlike in many areas of the state, intervention works in this axis are being spearheaded by federal agencies, including the Jimi Benson-inspired Road construction projects. Lending credence to Benson’s claim, a female trader told ThisNigeria on inquiry at Wole Ajeboriogbon Street last week, “The road was constructed (rehabilitated) by Honourable Jimi Benson, and not the state government. We hope you will help us sound that loud and clear.”

Meanwhile, the investigation also showed that the road improvement work by way of installation of ‘matrix’ solar-powered street lights is being conducted in the area by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and not the Lagos State Government.

This is noticeable in areas around Nike Olabosun Street and Lawal Street by Shams-el-Deen Junior/Senior Grammar Grammar School at Ogunshi. This development is throwing up more questions on other areas of Lagos. An instance that trails is the situation on the over 50-kilometre-long stretch of road spanning Ita Maga area to Ijede, also in the old Ikorodu Division of Lagos.

The road is being rehabilitated in two phases, with the first completed. But who is repairing hazy conditions because citizens appear to be in the dark as to ‘sponsorship’?
A resident told ThisNigeria, “The Lagos State government is doing the road. They have finished the first phase, but we don’t know when the second phase will be completed.”

But further checks showed that the contractor rehabilitating the road is Messrs Arab Contractors, one of the leading construction companies in the Middle East of Egyptian origin that have been discovered to have built most of the roads in the Ikorodu Federal Constituency.

The company is associated with prominent businessmen and one of the leading figures in the Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Action Group (AG) in the First and Second Republics. Evidence of the company’s involvement is everywhere in the Ikorodu metropolis, with landmarks showing its activities splattered everywhere the nooks and crannies of the city.

The Federal connection to the issue has been amplified by the recent intervention of the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly in road works in Lagos. The federal connection, in this case, was revealed recently when the Senate Committee on Works from Abuja embarked on an oversight function in Lagos.

Giving kudos to the construction of the rehab on Ikorodu-Shagamu road, the senate promised to investigate the inadequate funding of the project, even though it did commend the contractor, Arab Contractors Nigeria Ltd, for not abandoning it because of the paucity of funds.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Adamu Aliero, who led a delegation of committee members during an oversight inspection of roads in Lagos, expressed satisfaction with the quality of work “which is moving progressively.”

The committee, however, lamented the slow pace of work, saying although the contractor has about 11 certificates (approved) since 2018 raised by the Federal Ministry of Works and sent to the headquarters, “only one is paid, but they continued the work. They did not stop because of the importance of the road linking Lagos and Ogun states.”

Aliero commended the resilience of Arab Contractors Nigeria Ltd. While inspecting the reconstruction and Asphalt overlay of the Benin-Ofosu-Ore-Ajebandele-Sagamu dual carriageway project, the committee members raised various queries.

The lawmakers advised Reynolds Construction Company (RCC), the contractor on the project to speed up construction works and improve on its Corporate Social Responsibility to its host community.

While giving a brief on the project, the Director, Federal Highways, South-West, Mr Funso Adebiyi, said that Section four of the project was awarded in 2014.

Adebiyi explained that the project was 25.42 per cent completed, blaming the slow pace of the work on inadequate funding of the project.

As Lagos State governor in 2001, Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had urged the Federal Government to hand off federal roads and leave the maintenance of such roads and their budgets to the states.

According to him, if the Federal Government is serious about its anti-corruption war, “it should centralise the control of various projects that are better handled by state governments, while states should be given the budget to do the job.

It is hoped that the emergent issue being unearthed in Sabo, Ikorodu will not become a metaphor for another round of bitter exchanges between the state and federal government on a hotly contested ‘battleground’ like Lagos.

Findings at the seat of power in Alausa-Ikeja last week revealed a confounding tendency.

The Special Adviser to the state governor on Works and Infrastructure, Mrs Aramide Adeyoye, an engineer, was not available on Wednesday when the reporter called in her office. The officials were said to be working at a site.

Curiously, Lagos State does not have a supervising commissioner for works.

But officials maintained a weighted stand on the issue when accosted on the Sabo, Ikorodu issue. “We call them inner rods, not township roads,” one of them said.

The state official, however, told ThisNigeria that the state was engaging Arab Contractors on some of its inner roads. But asked why the Senate would be inspecting a federal road being supervised by the same construction company engaged by the state government, he retorted, “Some of the roads are done by the state government, some by the Federal Government. But it is between themselves that they know who is doing what.”

“Who is (Jimi) Benson?” a senior official who craved anonymity replied in fury. Yes, Itokin Road, Shagamu Road are being constructed by the Federal Government. The others are roads being implemented as junction improvement works (by whom was not stated).

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