The effect of dilapidated road network on businesses around Lagos and Ogun states cannot be overemphasid. in this piece, Funmilayo Fabunmi looks at how businesses in these two states suffer due to poor road network
Many roads in Nigeria are in a deplorable state, serving as death traps, regardless of whether they are funded by federal or state governments.
But the case of Ogun and Lagos states are peculiar due to their economic importance.
In Ogun State alone, Agbara-Igbesa axis hosts several companies such as Unilever, Phama Deko, Beloxxi Biscuits, Flour Mills of Nigeria and GreenTech, among others. For many years, operators along that axis complained about the past governments’ abandonment of the road despite its economic importance.
Work later commenced on the road, but some business owners are lamenting the slow pace of the project.
A director in a food manufacturing outfit in Agbara said his company’s trucks broke down from time to time, noting that it was raising the firm’s logistics costs through constant vehicle maintenance, which he estimated at over N300,000 monthly.
The Ogijo-Sagamu Road is also one road that seems to have been abandoned. The axis hosts Lafarge Africa, African Foundries and many other firms, but the connecting road has remained in a deplorable condition for years.
An accountant in one of the companies along the axis, who gave her name as Gbemi Kolawale, told The PUNCH that customers were often reluctant to move their vehicles to his company, noting that the workers themselves were spending a lot of money on commercial motorcycles while coming to work.
“Then, there is a security risk there. The road can be lonely and someone can easily be attacked while going home from work.
“Also, the trucks are breaking down and getting beyond repair every now and again,” she said.
The Sango-Ojodu Berger Road is also another important road, hosting firms such as Nascon and Sunak.
A small business owner along that axis, Samuel Ogundele, lamented low patronage, saying that the road was making it impossible for him to meet set targets.
A recent trip by our correspondent to some states, including Ogun and Lagos, revealed that roads in the hinterlands, unlike those in the metropolis, had been completely abandoned.
Some roads in Lagos State such as the ones in Alagbado, Ikotun, Ijegun, Alagbole, down to Akute, Arepo, Magboro, among others, were testaments to government’s negligence.
Angry residents who ply these roads are more or less on their own as they continue to live with the sad experience of plying the bad roads, whose conditions are usually aggravated during the rainy season. Residents often struggle on the water logged areas and roads that are not motorable.
During the dry season, residents in these communities struggle with dusty roads which can lead to a major public health challenge, such as upper respiratory tract infection caused by exposure to dust.
Lagos is one of the smallest states in Nigeria in terms of land mass. It is about 21 times smaller than Niger State, the largest state by landmass in Nigeria.
This geographical conundrum is further compounded by the fact that 21 per cent of Lagos consists of wetlands with creeks, lagoons and rivers. The implication is that human activity has to make do with the 79 per cent of what is left.
A realtor based in Arepo, Ogun State, who simply gave his name as Ahmed, said, “Arepo is now hot cake. We have people staying here who work on the Island in Lagos but the bad roads pose a huge disadvantage as people have to suffer unending traffic on their way to and from work. Here it is even better than those in Alagbole and environs.
“For a person who works in Ikeja, for instance, from Arepo to Ikeja is not up to 15 minutes, but the bad roads will make you spend up to two hours or more.
“Though construction is ongoing, it is not the first time. By the next rainy season, everything will be bad again and they will come and construct again. Why can’t they do something that will last, at least we are paying our taxes?”
A car owner and resident of Magboro, Ogun State, who only gave out his first name as Femi, said, “We want the government to intervene; we can’t continue like this. Since the beginning of the rainy season, plying the road has become a huge problem and in the dry season it is a bit better, even though the dust is so much.
“Now, any little rainfall and the potholes will become bigger to the point that some of them will turn into ditches. Vehicles get stuck here every day, bikes keep falling down with their passengers too, we can’t continue like this.”
An estate agent, who also gave out his first name as Ismaila, said most people liked the environment but avoided living there because of the traffic on the roads.
“Most of my clients keep complaining of bad roads. Some who have cars are unable to move around freely as much as they want because of the bad roads. Most car owners are always in and out of mechanic workshops,” he stated.
This, he said, was always an issue especially during rainy seasons.
A commercial bus driver in the Oshodi area of Lagos State, who was heading for the Ikotun axis, expressed pain and anger with the poor state of roads in Lagos, while speaking with our correspondent.
The driver, who spoke in Yoruba and gave his name only as Saheed, said, “We are tired of these roads, especially the NNPC side of the road, which is very bad. You can follow me now and see for yourself. There is no time when you get there that there won’t be traffic.
“There is water everywhere, the potholes are many and deep, you just have to slow down. There is nowhere to escape to as the holes are everywhere. Ejigbo too is there, and I don’t even know what they are doing over there.
“These people seem not to know what they are doing, they are just there collecting our money and enjoying their lives. We are the ones suffering.”
He added, “Before, I could go three months without fixing anything on my car, but now almost every day I must go to the mechanic over issues like shock absorber or shaft. Everything breaks down every day, which is a lot of cost for me.
“How do they expect us to make profit or feed? My bus is full. If you follow me, you will sleep on the road or go and stay with somebody you know around there because of the traffic situation caused by the state of the roads.”
A roadside mechanic in the Magboro Area of Ogun State, Abraham Francis, said trucks and vehicles often got stuck there, thereby causing gridlocks.
“If you had come earlier, you would have met a truck that broke down while trying to force its way out of that big pothole. It was just recently that Mountain of Fire Ministries filled that particular portion, but the rain has affected it,” Francis stated.
Another driver, who was at the mechanic workshop, said, “I dread the rainy season. I ought to be at work now but here I am fixing my car. The roads are horrible and motor parts are very expensive.
“I spend my weekends at the mechanic and it is on my bank account. When you enter potholes such as the ones on this road, your vehicles will feel the pinch. It is really tiring and annoying.
“Is it that the government cannot see all of these? They will just blow sirens while moving up and down. Yet, they will not do their job. Go to Ghana, Cotonou, they have better roads than we do.”
In Ifo, a local government area to the Berger axis of Lagos State, a driver who did not want to be named, said the rainy season had exposed the true state of Nigerian roads.
He said, “One drop of water like this. and the roads will be terrible. Every day that I leave my house to go carry passengers, I pray to God that it will not be my last.
“There was a day I went to ‘drop’ some passengers and on my way back to Ifo through the same road, the rain fell for about four hours and I fell inside a ditch. Thank God the rain did not ‘sweep’ us away that day. It was terrible. I dropped my passengers and just went home and for two days I did not work.
“What would have happened if I had died that day? My family would still have been crying by now. What about the families of my passengers? A lot of people would have died that day because the government refused to do its job. I just thank God.
“Since that incident, anytime it rains heavily, I just park. I cannot die because of work. If I die, there is nobody to feed my children and wife.”
When contacted to speak on the matter, the Ogun State Commissioner for Information, Waheed Odusile, said some of the roads connecting the state to neighbouring states were priority projects of the government.
He said some of the identified roads in Ogun had been deplorable even before the current administration in the state took over.
Odusile said, “We have fixed some of such roads in Akute, Sango-Ota and Iju areas. So, we want a smooth transition for people moving in and out of the state. Some of these roads have been there for years before this government came on board, but that does not mean we won’t fix them.
“Some of them actually need reconstruction, and some need palliatives. The government cannot do everything at a time. So, we are doing these roads one after the other.”
Attempts to get the reaction of the Lagos State Government were not successful.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, did not pick or return calls when contacted.