Sam Diala explains why the busy Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway and its fast-growing axis, have remained a source of gains, and pains to different people arising from the challenge of population explosion in the metropolis
About two decades ago, driving on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway beyond Iyana- Ipaja was like embarking on a journey to a remote countryside, akin to managing to evoke life from ‘lifeless’ residents on both sides of the expanse highway. Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, about 20 kilometres from the popular Ile-Zik Junction at Ikeja, was among the modern network of highways constructed by the erstwhile military government. Government had then established the need for the development of the nation’s road network as the rail sector continued in a steady decline while water transport had become virtually non-existent.
Today, the route has become one of the busiest in Nigeria because of its link with Ogun, a neighbouring state that has ‘offered’ to accommodate the overflow of population from Lagos where cost of living adjusts upwards rather frequently. Neighbouring Ogun towns like Otta, Ifo, Owode and Agbara, have become ‘hot’ centres because of the influx of people who have ‘besieged’ the areas. This means that a journey on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway is not one that guarantees comfort and convenience.
Interestingly, there are some factors that make the 20-kilometre road significant: It links two state capitals – Lagos and Abeokuta; secondly, it divides four Lagos local government areas at different points: Agege/ Ikeja; Agege/Alimosho; Ifako-Ijaiye/ Alimosho. It therefore provides a barrier to overzealous revenue collectors who would pretend not knowing the boundary of their territories.
Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway is experiencing property boom on both sides. Property owners along the road are reaping bountiful harvest in terms of high rent which they impose on their tenants at will. Those who could afford it, embark on extensive reconstruction of their houses for expansion, modification and conversion from residential to commercial. Undeveloped properties that attracted little or no attention in the past are today occupied with buildings that are massive in structure and attractive in appearance.
The proximity of these properties makes them hotcake for entrepreneurs who hire the premises for various businesses: private school, supermarket, chemist/patent medicine shop, church, cold room, eatry, fashion design, mechanic workshop, and others. As expected, banks have sprung up in the areas along the expressway ‘pursuing’ the people who are trying to run away from the expensive, over-crowded and noisy part of the metropolis.
From Dopemu interchange midway to Iyana-Ipaja from Ile-Zik, cluster of banks have re-configured the outlook of some areas along the route. For instance, United Bank for Africa, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, Wema Bank, Diomand Bank and First Bank before the ever busy Iyana-Ipaja Bus Stop.
The Ile-Epo Market, some 2 kilometres from Iyana-Ipaja, is one of the busiest in Lagos. It is famous for food items such as tomatoe, yam, fruits, grains, onions and others. Apart from the popular Mile 12 Market, Ile-Epo is destination for most Northern food dealers who offload their goods in large quantity every day.
The rehabilitation of the once notorious Oke-Odo Road, leading to Command Secondary School and traversing a long stretch of communities in Alimosho Local Government, has added to the bustling nature of Ile-Epo which occupies an adjoining location with the route.
Parking space which used to keep buyers away has been provided for by the market on the fringe of the expressway near the market proper. The Christ Apostolic Church and the Oando petrol station, both opposite the market, provide the much needed parking spaces at a fee.
The Kontagora second-hand textile market near the Abule-Egba crossroads dreaded for its impenetrable traffic hold-up at every time of the day, makes Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway a route of relief and anger. Kontagora is known for relatively cheap clothing items.
Beyond Abule-Egba, towards Sango-Ota, provides another segment of the busy road which developed (and is still developing) faster than had been expected.
A cluster of banks also exists on this part – offering services to a growing population of residents who are made up of petty-traders, office workers, teachers, motor vehicle operators, farmers and artisans. Property owners must be rejoicing and thanking their stars for the rapid development on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway. Cost of land has also increased to unimaginable point. A plot of land in the Alagbado area which cost between N100,000 and N150,000 two decades ago, now goes for about N3 million. Alagbado used to be a relatively unknown place until the premier private radio and television stations, Ray Power • Traffic and movement on Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway and AIT, were established in the area in the early 90s.
The route also provides job for transporters. Long and mini-buses, taxis, kabukabu, okada operators find Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway a lucrative route. During evening rush hours, some residents of Sango, Toll-Gate, Ajegunle, Alakuko, Ahmadiyya, Abule-Egba, ride on okada from Oshodi or Ikeja-Along to their various destinations. Local food sellers and caterers popularly called Mama-put, find ready and hungry customers at the motor parks, markets, mechanic workshops, and among bus drivers and a host of other customers.
Hotels dot many corners on the route and some distance from the Expressway. There is an army of street hawkers at major bus-stops known for heavy traffic. These are young men and girls who spend long hours hawking their wares amidst risk of being crushed by moving vehicles. Commercial drivers on this route is known to be rough and in uncontrolled state of madness.
The bad spots on the route also add to the pains and discomfort of those who use the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway. Apparently to expand its revenue base and tax penetration, several Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) have their offices along or near the route. These include Orile-Agege, Oke-Odo and Ojokoro LCDAs. Commuters and other road users on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway have different stories to tell.
Mr Lanre Aregbesola a motorist laments the difficulty he encounters on this route. According to him, due to the never-ending traffic, he doesn’t go home to stay with his family until weekend.
“I hate this road because all the time, especially at night, you can spend 2-3hrs from Oshodi to Sango while returning from work. I mean the traffic is crazy and that’s why I stay back at the Mainland on weekdays and go back to my family on Saturday morning. My wife understands.” Mrs Joyce Matthew, who lives in Ijaiye Ojokoro LCDA recounted tearfully how she lost her brother on that road.
“I lost my younger brother to that road. He was on his way to work trying to cross to the other side when a hit-and-run vehicle knocked him down and he died instantly.”
Another resident of Meiran, Miss Oluchi Dibia, had a terrible accident that almost claimed her life. She was involved in a near-fatal accident that almost claimed her life. She now walks on crutches as a result of severe injury on her legs at the Abule- Egba U-Turn while trying to cross over the road. “It was at night while returning from a friend’s place, I had successfully crossed the two lanes to the other side when a commercial bus just cleared me off the road. I broke my legs and I spent over three months receiving treatments at the hospital. Government should please build pedestrian bridges because this road is too busy,” she lamented. Her prayer is answered.
The pedestrian overhead bridges being erected by the Lagos State Government at strategic points on the route is a great relief to users of this busy route where hoodlums and city urchins popularly known as Area Boys operate unhindered. Being the major route to the popular Living Faith Church, a.k.a. Winners Chapel, and a number of bad forests in Ogun State, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway offers those who travel on it joy and pleasure; fear and irritation. Depending on where you are going, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway offers what you desire or what you dread; depending on the side of the divide one finds oneself.