For years, sections of the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway have failed repeatedly. And neither the halfhearted palliative works nor the efforts by a couple of construction firms that have worked on different sections have redressed the anomaly.
The result, for anyone who has to commute through any length of the road, is an almost always chaotic journey, signposted by terrible traffic gridlock and interspersed by meanders through potholes and, in some cases, craters. The effect of the gridlock on the expressway trickles to feeder roads in adjoining communities, occasionally bringing movement to a stop.
To bypass part of the hectic traffic along the Apapa-Oshodi route, motorists and residents in FESTAC area of Lagos State and its environs, heading towards CMS, Apapa and Oshodi, found succour in a route. They drive under the flyover that links Mazamaza with Mile 2 and connect their destination. Taking this route does not make them escape the logjam completely, but it lessens the pain and time spent in traffic.
Painfully, however, that succour has been short-lived. The army of motorists, who ply this route, now have new challenges to contend with every single time they attempt a drive-through. Members of the National Union of Roads Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) are taking advantage of the motorists by erecting illegal makeshift tollgates on parts of the route.
With two tollgates mounted about one hundred metres apart, drivers of both commercial and private vehicles are made to pay between N50 and N200 before being allowed passage at both points.
We gathered that members of the NURTW were the first to mount a tollgate and began the collection of toll from commercial vehicles. Not satisfied with their illicit accruals from just commercial vehicles, they soon extended it to cover private vehicles.
Interestingly, while it is compulsory for commercial drivers to pay toll at the tollgate managed by the NURTW, it is made somewhat optional for private motorists, especially when such drivers opt not to pay. Such drivers are often allowed the right of way after some delay, which often than not creates another needless traffic amidst deafening honking.
The OPC members, it is understood, initially began tolling the access at night, claiming that they provided security within the environs besides being the custodians of the gate of the sewage-discharging complex located beside the bridge. To drive under the flyover requires motorists driving through the sewage-discharging complex. But overtime, they extended paying of tolls to an all-day affair.
While the OPC members lay claim to the tolls as reward for providing security in the area, the NURTW members had no concrete explanation for their action.
Road users have called on the Lagos State government to intervene and save the day. Bayo Akintola, a motorist, narrated the ugly experience he once had at the ‘tollgate.’ “One of the boys almost broke my side mirror because I insisted on not paying the toll fee, except I was told what the money collected in the past years was used for.”
Another motorist, Paul Adebola, said it is only in a lawless society that fellow citizens would erect tollgates on a road they did not build or own.
“What will you call this? These boys will not only delay you for not paying at times, they rain abuses on you. At other times, they delay other motorists because a commercial driver, who refused to pay, would not leave the road for others to go. This, sometimes, leads to a physical exchange of blows. Government must just do something quickly to save the situation,” Adebola said.