Since 1979 when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo listed the Ibadan-Ilorin expressway as a priority in his handover note as military head of state to his successor, the late President Shehu Shagari, it is yet to be completed.
At a time, the Ibadan-Ilorin road was the only road linking northern Nigeria to the South; hence it was a commercial nerve of the country. It also forms part of the trans-Saharan highway, starting from Badagry in Lagos, through Sokoto, to Niger Republic.
Our correspondent who toured the Ibadan-Oyo-Ogbomoso road reports that after Obasanjo’s regime in 1979, the road was abandoned by successive governments until he returned to power as a civilian president in 1999.
In 2001, the Federal Government divided the project into three sections, to be given to three different construction firms. Section one took off from Ojoo in Ibadan and terminated at Irepo market in Oyo town. This section is approximately 44.5 kilometres. Section two linked Oyo town with Ogbomoso, while section three started from Ogbomoso and ended at the Gerin-Alimi roundabout in Ilorin.
Subsequently, the Ibadan-Oyo segment of the road was awarded to PW Construction Company at N15 billion. Oyo to Ogbomoso, another 45 kilometres, was awarded jointly to PW and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) Limited at N15.2bn, while the 45-kilometre Ogbomoso-Ilorin was awarded to the RCC in 2001 at N15.7 bn.
Two years later, PW and RCC asked for 37 per cent variation in cost. The Federal Government, however, conceded 15 per cent variation, which was rejected by the joint partners. This led to the cancellation of the contract. But six months later, the RCC alone got the same contract (Oyo-Ogbomosho section) at N47.5bn.
A British firm of quantity surveyors reportedly submitted that about N32.5bn was inflated on the middle section of the road; hence the cost of the contract for the entire road became N78.4bn.
The construction firms were given 36 months to complete the road and hand over to the Federal Government. While two sections, Ibadan-Oyo and Ogbomosho-Ilorin were completed after several years of delay, the Oyo-Ogbomosho axis is still left undone.
Over the years, the 43.25-kilometre Ibadan-Oyo road has deteriorated to a level where maintenance is no longer feasible, having outlived its designed life. It has, therefore, become very dangerous to motorists and pedestrians, even as man-hours are wasted on a daily basis due to traffic gridlocks. Incessant accidents are also recorded on the road.
Residents of communities located along the road and commercial drivers told Daily Trust Saturday that many lives had been lost on the road.
A commercial motorist plying the Ibadan-Ogbomoso road, Kazeem Adeniyi, told our correspondent that, apart from being a deathtrap, the state of the road makes life unbearable for the people of the area.
“The road is bad already – no drainage, no gutter. We decided to increase the fare because of the bad road. I wish government could complete it soon,’’ he said.
A resident of Ogbomosho, David Oladejo, said it was always a nightmare to travel on the road, adding that heavy trucks compound their woes.
“Just last month, a truck killed my younger brother. This is because government refused to complete the new bypass. Trailers can only pass through the main town because there is no alternative for them. We appeal to the government to kindly come to our rescue,’’ he said.
Also, an indigene of Ogbomosho who works in Ibadan, Remi Oladoye, said his younger brother, Wale, died on a bad portion of the road few years ago while going back to Ibadan to meet his wife and children.
“My brother was a victim of this bad road. He was killed in an accident on the bad portion of the road. Many people have been killed on this road. I pray government sees this as a problem,’’ he said.
But the state controller of works, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Mr Kayode Ibrahim, said the 52-kilometer Oyo-Ogbomosho highway project was on course and would soon be completed.
Daily Trust Saturday recalls that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) last month increased the initially contract sum of the road from N47.504bn to N105.041bn.
The change in the contract sum, according to Mr Ibrahim, was a result of adjustment in the scope of work, such as the thickness of the pavement from 500mm to 560mm, changing the asphalt to polymer-modified bitumen and the shoulders from surface dressing to fully asphalted inside and outside shoulder of the road.
He said the project, which was awarded to Reynolds Construction Company since 2010, would soon be completed. According to him, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to the completion of the road and other projects across the country.
“Work never stopped on the road. We were waiting for augmentation because Sukuk funding was on the project.
“Extensive work is ongoing on the bridges and the interchange at the entrance of Oyo town. Earthwork is generally ongoing,’’ he said.
Ibrahim, who put the level of completion of the road project at 79 per cent, based on the old contract, said the approval for the augmentation would fast-track action.
He said the headquarters of the ministry in Abuja would work out the timeline for the completion once they get the details of the argumentation.
He revealed that work had gradually started on the Ibadan-Ilesha dual carriage way reconstruction project.
On September 25, 2019, the FEC approved the reconstruction of the expressway, which covers a distance of 112 kilometres at a cost of N79bn.
According to Ibrahim, palliative work is ongoing at the kilometer 7 of the road, where a culvert is being constructed to address flooding challenges.
“Government is also mindful of this coming festive period and has mandated the contractor – KOPEK Construction, handling the reconstruction of the road to carry out general palliative work on it from Ibadan to Ilesha,’’ he said.
He noted that the palliative work on the road would enhance smooth vehicular movement during the festive period, stressing that the Ibadan-Ilesha road is a major route for travellers going to Ekiti, Ondo, Kogi, Abuja and northern parts of the country.
He implored motorists plying the road to be patient and cautious, particularly when approaching construction zones.
Ibrahim further disclosed that palliative work on Iseyin-Oyo road would commence this week, adding that major contract work on it is slated for 2021. He also said the project had been captured in the 2021 budget.
“Hopefully, the National Assembly will give approval for the contract. Before then, the minister, Mr Raji Fashola, has graciously approved palliative work on the road to ease the challenges facing users,’’ he said.
He also notified the general public to desist from developing illegal structures within the right-of-way of federal roads. He described the right-of way as spaces on both sides of the roads covering 45.72 meters on either side. He directed owners of structures within the right-of-way of federal roads across the state to remove them, threatening that failure to comply with the ministry’s directive would lead to demolition of such structures.
According to him, the Ministry of Works and Housing is concerned over the development of commercial structures, especially filling stations within the right-of-way of federal roads and bridges across the country.
He said, “The development is not only illegal, it creates unsafe conditions for road users and the public. Many accidents leading to loss of lives and property, with negative socio-economic consequences to the country have occurred on some of these locations.
“This illegal action impedes the development, management and maintenance of federal roads as the structures and activities they generate are dangerous.
“These unauthorised structures within the right-of-way also eliminate safety buffers and diversions, which are needed during road works.
“Furthermore, some of the structures deface the environment and create public health challenges.’’
Reacting to the number of road accidents on the Ibadan-Ilorin road, a sector commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Oyo State, Mrs Uche Chukwurah, said no fewer than 70 people were killed in the state as a result of road crashes in the third quarter of this year.
Chukwurah said the FRSC in the state recorded more road crashes in the third quarter (July and September) than the 112 recorded in the second quarter of the year under review.
She said more crashes were recorded during the period because it was during the rainy season, and the fact that most people were in a hurry to engage in business activities as the ban on movement due to COVID-19 was lifted.
“We recorded 142 road crashes. The number of vehicles involved was 230, number killed was 70 and the number injured was 389. We were able to rescue 364 people alive. The total number of people involved was 823.
“Overspending was the major cause of road crashes during the period, followed by wrong overtaking and tyre burst,’’ Mrs Chukwurah stated.