From Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State came a passionate appeal to the Federal Government to help fix the dilapidated Lagos-Badagry Expressway. The governor said this when receiving members of the House of Representatives Committee on Works who visited him at the Lagos House in Ikeja. The delegation was led by the committee’s chairman, Abubakar Kabir Abubakar.
We understand the governor’s worry: even though the road belongs to the Federal Government, not many commuters remember this while travelling on it, because of the attendant pains that they experience on the road. Even many of those who know that the road belongs to the Federal Government would be wondering why the state cannot work on it, as is the practice in some states, including Lagos, which has had to fix some federal roads, to reduce the barrage of criticisms against the state governments by hapless commuters.
A good example of this is the new Airport Road in Lagos, that the state government expanded during the immediate past Akinwunmi Ambode administration. Indeed, in the past, state governments were usually refunded by the Federal Government for fixing federal roads. But this was stopped when corruption crept in, with the Federal Government alleging overinflation of the contract sums by many state governments.
Perhaps it was in the same spirit of averting criticisms by Lagosians that the Lagos State government decided to give a facelift to the Lagos-Badagry Expressway in 2010. The intention was not just to fix the road to make it motorable, but to also expand it to enable it cope with the influx of vehicles that it takes daily, being an international gateway into five neighbouring countries. It was supposed to be transformed from its four-lane structure to 10 lanes, with two of the lanes reserved exclusively for Lagos Bus Rapid Transfer (BRT) system and a mass transit line in the median.
This, no doubt, is a win-win situation for everyone. As a matter of fact, the expressway does not deserve less, given its international status. It would however appear that the Lagos State government can no longer bear the financial responsibility alone, given the scope of work required and its attendant cost, especially in the face of several other competing demands. Governor Sanwo-Olu hinted at this during the House of Representatives’ committee members’ visit. “Lagos-Badagry Expressway is one that I am aware of that doesn’t have sufficient funding. This is an international gateway. We heard that Ghana, Republic of Benin and Togo have done their own; it is trans West Africa corridor which five countries pass through. But it is only the Nigerian part of it that has not been fully fixed, which is from Seme border into Lagos and to the port,” he told the visitors.
So far, the state government, according to the governor, has worked on 18 kilometres of the highway. He wants the Federal Government to continue from there. As Sanwo-Olu noted, roads are not necessarily built for the present; future considerations play an important role, especially when constructing a significant highway like the Lagos-Badagry Expressway. “Our desire”, the governor noted, “is for them to make it 10 lanes highway. We are building for the future and we can put a rail in the middle of the corridor. It is an international road and it has capacity to take high level of traffic.”
We agree with him. And indeed join in urging the Federal Government to favourably consider the proposal. This is especially so when it is claimed that our neighbours have done their own bit. We cannot afford to be the cog in the wheel of the subregion’s progress.
One truth that the neglect of federal roads in several parts of the country has shown is that the Federal Government lacks the capacity to maintain these roads. Federalising them would therefore not be a bad idea, with appropriate considerations to the states’ revenue from the distributable pool, to enable them take care of the roads. Abuja is too far to monitor federal roads in a vast country like ours. Not even the creation of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has done much to ameliorate the situation.
All said, a point that is being underplayed all the time is the fact that Badagry could be a huge foreign exchange earner for the country because of its tourism potential. It is a money-spinner waiting to be tapped. Indeed, successive administrations in Lagos State seem to have recognised the historic town as a potential tourism and industrial hub and have been taking steps to actualise this dream. But, no matter how big the dreams are, they will continue to remain in the pipeline if the Lagos-Badagry Expressway remains in its present parlous state.