The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola has advised the two companies, Julius Berger and RCC, handling the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to speedup work and to prepare for the heavy traffic envisaged during the forthcoming Eid-el-Kabir, Christmas and New Year festivities.
The minister gave the advice at the weekend when he stopped over on his way from the 5th National Council on Land, Housing and Urban Development, held in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Fashola, who also inspected the on-going dualisation of the Oyo-Ogbomosho road, said although the contractors had some constraints, such as unpredictable weather and the fact that they have to work while also managing traffic, but that they should plan their work to ensure a more tolerable driving experience during the festivities and for general safety on the road.
“You must plan your work in such a way that you’re able to accommodate that traffic and also help to make the journey time of commuters better during that period. They will be travelling home and coming back, and I also will like you to improve the safety signs on this highway,” Fashola said.
He said, “Start calibrating your activities to prepare to take in that traffic, it will come, but the big one will come I think sometime in the end of the year when everybody is moving back from home. The target is to make that experience better than last year’s.”
On safety, the minister said, “I need to see more safety signs, if you have to put reflective stickers especially for night time and lighting, please do so. We just want to reduce first, the number of casualties and accidents on the road, especially at night and during the day as well, and we want to see how this can translate to better motoring experience during the Eid festival which is around the 12th of September plus or minus.”
Fashola said the government was doing all that was necessary to rid the right-of-way of the road of illegal occupation to enable the contractors work faster.
He warned all such illegal occupiers of right-of-way along federal highways to voluntarily quit as government was now set to retake all of these spaces across the country.
The Minister, who frowned at the current situation where some people have seized portions of the roads across the country for doing business or other purposes, pointed out that such practice had not only slowed down work on the roads but that it was also detrimental to the smooth and unhindered vehicular traffic and safety of road users.
He appealed to those concerned across the country to voluntarily vacate the right of ways or be forced to do so by government adding that government was already developing strategies for repossessing all the right of way, which, according to him, is 45 meters from the central line. “That is the law. I am through this medium appealing to all those who are occupying our right of ways to voluntarily vacate them or we will take it by force or compulsion,” he said.
Fashola said the government was planning a meeting with all the Controllers across the 36 states to agree on new guidelines in managing the nation’s highways, saying such guidelines would include those that would promote safety and clearing of the right of way.
To guard against future illegal occupation of the right of ways, Fashola announced plans to also set guidelines for state controllers of works to take ownership of the roads in their states and to work with state governments and their commissioners for work in order to ensure holistic control and maintenance of the roads.
“We will set guidelines for state controllers to take ownership of the federal roads in their states and to work with the State governments and their commissioners for work so that we can build this partnership and have motorable roads,” he said, adding, “This country is such a beautiful country from the much that I have seen and Nigerians don’t seem to know that because they can’t travel.”
Noting that the Lagos- Ibadan and Oyo – Ogbomosho road takes vehicular traffic for transportation of fuel and other heavy Cargo from the south to the North of the country, bringing in yams, cattle, tomatoes and other produce from the North and south east, Fashola expressed joy that the North bound section of the road, the Ilorin -Jebba road where people used to sleep for four days was now getting better as could be seen when he inspected the road during the week.
“People feel included in the economic activity on the Ilorin- Jebba Road. I went there on Wednesday and it has improved in the last four months, the Governor of Kwara State also confirmed it. So, slowly, we will get to where we are going, journey time is gradually improving and as journey time improves, it means that people will buy less fuel, less diesel and they will save more money to do other things. Cost of goods and services will come down and there will be public relief down the line and that is the objective.”
Appealing to members of the public to be patient, Fashola pointed out that what they were complaining about before was bad road which resulted from contractors abandoning the projects as a result of nonpayment adding, “Now they are back to site and working. You cannot get the good road you want without experiencing some inconveniences.”