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Experts urge contractors handling various road projects in parts of Nigeria to take advantage of the onset of the dry season to fast-track work on them.

By Osaze Omoragbon

As the 2015 general elections gradually approach, many politicians, especially those vying for various public offices are making frantic efforts to persuade the electorate to vote for them. State governors, federal and state legislators as well as local council chairmen ramp-up investment in infrastructural projects, seemingly intended to ‘bribe’ the electorate into returning them or their political party candidates. A cursory look at on-going projects in the various states reveals infrastructural projects at various stages of completion even as the completion date of some projects have long elapsed.

Indeed, some of these projects have long been abandoned only for contractors to return to site few months before the electoral campaign begins. Some of the excuses given by contractors are non-release of funds by the authorities and the difficulty of operating in the wet season especially for small indigenous contractors among others. Major infrastructural projects are lying fallow across the country including the recurring East-west road, Lagos-Benin expressway and the 10 lanes Lagos-Badagry expressway among others.

Within the Lagos metropolis, plying the Ipaja-Ayobo road has become a nightmare as commuters lament the perpetual traffic gridlock. “It takes six hours to commute to and from work every day,” says Alexander Makinde, a resident of Jakande Estate in Ipaja. A visit by The Economy reveals a project that has been abandoned as big culverts and uncompleted drainages litter the road; posing serious risk to life and property. In 2012, the public relations officer, Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Biola Fagunwa blamed the delay in road construction on paucity of funds and the rainy season. “There are situations where projects are affected by the quantum of rainfall, which forces the contractor to slow down on the pace of work pending a more favourable climate,” he says. To be sure, analysts are of the view that wet season duly slows down some types of construction projects but reckon that it would not apply to companies with adequate capacity.

However, as the rain recedes, most contractors are yet to ramp up activities. Many residents in Lagos expect construction to begin in earnest and are worried that the dry season could be wasted yet again only for the contractors to complain of the rains once more. “The last few weeks have seen a significant drop in rainfall and I wish our government would make the most of this period,” says Augustine Babajide, a resident of Olodi Apapa in Lagos. Most worrisome to Lagosians is the on-going construction of the Oshodi-Apapa expressway which is the access road to the major sea ports in the country — Apapa Wharf and Tin Can Island ports.

In the past few months, many individuals and corporate organisations who operate at the ports have lost money due to the perennial traffic gridlock even as the contracting firm handling the project — Julius Berger Nigeria — makes frantic effort to deliver on time. The Apapa traffic gridlock has been likened to a maze; as drivers and pedestrians navigate through alleys and sidewalks in a bid to avoid the long queue of trucks waiting to be driven into the ports. The challenge is that the contractors are finding it difficult operating in an environment where they have to put up with reckless commercial bus drivers who often flout the directive of construction workers.

Observers believe the onset of the dry season provides ample opportunity for contractors to speed up construction work. They argue that contractors who are already mobilised have no excuse anymore since the wet season that they claim usually slows them down is over. The next six months will be relatively dry though with intermittent rainfall. Six months is ample time for relatively few kilometres of road to be completed. Contractors handling construction of minor road projects such as paving of streets with asphalt will have no qualms completing a significant portion of such roads before the onset of full-blown rainy season, particularly if funds are made available to them.


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