Tobi Akinwumi (not real name) set out to see his parents who live in the Badagry area of Lagos State on a sunny Saturday afternoon. His thought was that the journey would not amount to more than a two-hour drive from FESTAC Town. Two hours, putting into account expected traffic as a result of the very terrible condition of the Lagos-Badagry expressway. Turned out his estimation was wrong. Very wrong!
He ended up spending no less than 6 hours to arrive at his parents’ home.
Nnamdi Udoka (not real name), a final year student of Hill-City University, Benin Republic (HCUB) had invited his Ghanaian girlfriend, Sarah, to Nigeria for the Easter holidays. Sarah, who was still in school trying to wrap up a few things, decided to use road transportation since Nigeria was just a border away from the French-speaking country.
It was Sarah’s first visit to Nigeria and her excitement and anticipation could only be imagined. Arriving Lagos via the Seme border, Sarah could not believe the state of the supposedly international road connecting the country and neighbouring West African countries.
“This has got to be one of the most terrible roads,” she thought staring bewilderedly out of the window at a community that seemed like it was still trying to catch up with the 21st century, as the bus galloped along the bumpy road.
“So this is Nigeria?” Sarah blurted out to Nnamdi after alighting from her taxi. “I must say your road is a national disgrace.”
Indeed, the Lagos-Badagry expressway is an embarrassment and that is putting it mildly. Plying the long stretch of what should have been an expressway, Nigeria’s gateway to the West African coast, is nothing short of a nightmare. To successfully ply the road, motorists have to possess special driving skills to enable them manoeuvre past the huge potholes in a zigzag motion.
Economic activities in Badagry have no doubt been affected by the deplorable state of the road. Badagry used to be a tourist attraction in the past but today, a tourist would think twice before venturing on a trip in that direction. Many traders who used to make daily trips to the border towns and even Cotonou to buy goods and bring back to Lagos to sell have been discouraged by the stress of plying the road.
About the Lagos-Badagry expressway
The Lagos-Badagry expressway, also known as the Nigerian section of the Trans-West African Coastal Highway, was conceptualised by the Lagos State government in 1974, and in 1977, the Federal Government got involved in the construction to connect the sub-region as agreed upon at an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit. Given its strategic importance for the integration of the ECOWAS Region, the road was extended to Benin Republic.
In 2008, the Babatunde Fashola government conceptualised the construction of a 64-kilometre 10-lane Lagos-Badagry Expressway which would stretch the road from Iganmu to Seme Border to ease traffic in the region and upgrade the infrastructure.
According to the proposed design, the expressway would be widened from four lanes to ten lanes for road vehicles and would incorporate Light Rail Transport (LRT) on the median and also the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
The road reconstruction was designed to be carried out in three phases – from Iganmu to Seme Border. The first phase, Iganmu to Mile 2, was awarded to Julius Berger Nigeria. The second phase from Mile 2 down to Okomaiko was awarded to China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), while the third phase from Agbara to Seme was awarded to CGC Nigeria Ltd.
The first two phases have seen an appreciable level of completion, while the work on the third phase has been less than encouraging, as only skeletal portions of the expressway are motorable.
Lost glory and diminished opportunities
Beyond habiting a large population, the Lagos-Badagry road hosts a number of prime establishments including the Volkswagen Automobile Company, Alaba International Market, Lagos State University Main Campus, the International Trade Fair Complex, Alaba Rago Livestock market, etc.
“There’s no doubt the bad road has affected the patronage we used to enjoy,” says Nduka Chukwuma, an electronics trader at Alaba International Market. “Many customers have told me how they are often discouraged to come to the market because of what they have to go through to get here.”
Badagry town itself boasts of numerous cultural and historical endowments that used to be of huge interest to tourists, endowments such as the Badagry Beach, Agiya Tree Monument, First Storey Building, Badagry Slave and Black History Museum - all showing slave trade relics at many historical sites.
With the ongoing construction of the Badagry MegaPort and Free Zone project proposed to be Africa’s biggest and most advanced seaport when it starts operations, it is inconceivable how successive governments have left the road in its deplorable state.
Residents continue to groan in pain
The Badagry economy was largely based on tourism and trade in goods coming from the border. However, the terrible condition of the road and last year’s border closure have affected business and the economic growth of Badagry and its environs.
“Those who come to Badagry markets to buy goods from us now find it difficult to transport their wares without incurring losses,” Grace Babalola, a trader said.
The hospitality business has also taken a hit in recent times and tourism are now at their lowest ebb. Bukola Pedro, the manager of a popular resort said that business had not been good in recent times.
“The low patronage is not peculiar to us,” he said. “Badagry economy isn’t too good right now and not many people are coming from out of town these days.”
A resident in the Aradagun area informed Nairametrics that several families had to sell their homes and move out of Badagry to more comfortable areas.
“Two families on my street have had to sell their homes and move to other parts of Lagos. They obviously got fed up with the stress of the road. They can’t carry their houses, so they have to sell,” Ayo Olawale said.
Even property developers are quite sceptical about investing in properties in the area, not being sure of when the government will finally complete the road construction. Lateef Adeojo, a real estate agent however thinks differently, insisting that the best time to buy property is now.
“The scepticism is quite understandable,” Adeojo said. “But I believe when the road is completed, prices of properties will skyrocket just like it happened in Ajah.”
A case of insufficient funding and poor commitment?
There’s no doubt that the project has taken an awfully long time to complete, and there seems to be no definite date for when the residents’ groaning will turn to smiles. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a construction worker with CGC Nigeria, the project contractor handling the Agbara-Badagry axis of the road, told Nairametrics that insufficient funding and the intense work the road is undergoing are part of the reasons for the slow pace of work.
“We are not just rehabilitating, we are doing a whole reconstruction of the road. We are talking about a 10-lane expressway. That’s why it seems like the progress is slow.
And then there is also the issue of funding from the government, according to what my superiors have often complained about in the last few years.
Even though our equipment have long been on ground, the actual work on this axis of the road started not too long ago, as we had to carry out some sort of survey first before commencing work. Hopefully, before the end of the year, we would have attained up to 70% completion,” he said.
A Lagos State Government official who chose to remain anonymous told Nairametrics that the Agbara-Seme stretch of the road is supposed to be handled by the Federal Government. He said that the state government has reached out to the FG on the speedy completion of the road.
“I can tell you that the Lagos State Government is not happy that the road has since not been completed. I’m aware of a 7-man ad-hoc committee to be headed by the Deputy Governor of the state, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, with a mandate to have a dialogue with the Federal Government and secure a guarantee for quick completion of ongoing work on the Okokomaiko-Seme Border stretch of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway,” he said.
And so, the waiting game continues…
While the residents continue to lament, Governor Sanwo-Olu insists that his government will complete the ongoing construction of the road. The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, on the part of the federal government, assured that the ongoing rehabilitation/reconstruction of the road was not forgotten but was on the 2021 Sukuk funding priority list.
The nexus between adequate road infrastructure and the economy cannot be overemphasized. Badagry residents hope and wait to see whether the government will keep its promise in the nearest future.