The Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council, has joined their voice with other road users to appeal to the National Assembly to restore the funds appropriated for the ongoing Lagos-Ibadan Expressway reconstruction.
Both the union and the road users expressed serious concern over the suspension of work on the project by the contractors following an unsettled debt by the Federal Government.
The Pan-Yoruba Socio-cultural group, Afenifere and other well-meaning Nigerians including Chief Olu Falae, erstwhile Secretary to the Government of the Federation had called on the National Assembly to restore the funds appropriated in the 2017 budget for the project which was reportedly slashed by the lawmakers.
NUJ and the motorists said immediate intervention would save lives lost on daily basis in accidents on the road and bring relief to users on the hardships faced in the traffic.
Mr Deji Elumoye, the Chairman of NUJ said it was shocking that the budget for the project could slashed by the lawmakers, resulting in non-settling of the money owed the contractors.
“I appeal to the National Assembly to release funds meant for the road in the interest of road users so that contractors could go back to site.
“The suspension of work on the project is not good enough because this a route that is plied by several families from all parts of the country and thousands of road users.
“Commuters go through a lot of stress before and during the construction and spend hours in gridlock and it is unfair to stop the work because the project gives hope to individuals and businesses nationwide.
“It is unfortunate that such an ugly incident is happening in the eighth month of the year when the legislative and the executive arms should be getting ready for the 2018 budget,” he said.
“This the only road linking the South to the East and the North; if you are going to the East you ply the road, if you are going to the North, you also ply the road. It is a very busy road.
“To play politics with the road is uncalled for and unnecessary. And I think that they should come to a roundtable and revisit the issue.
“The legislators should reconsider the submissions of the executive and look at how they can increase what they have allocated to the Ministry of Works for the road and other ongoing road projects because commuters and Nigerians will continue to suffer.”
Elumoye warned against dashing the hope of Nigerians and road users, who had lauded the government over the project.
Also, Malam Usman Jega, a truck driver, who transports perishable food items from Lagos to Zaria, appealed to government to fund the project.
He added:“If the road is completed and we will all use it. I am begging the government to pay the contractors.”
Mrs Nkechi Oluri, a freight forwarder and a resident of Magboro on the expressway, said the suspension of work on the road would lead to more economic losses.
“I work at wharf, Lagos, and I can tell you that the stoppage of work on the road will affect businesses and that is why government must release enough money for the project.”
A retired civil servant living in Ibafo, Mr Stanley Nwosu, also said the road reconstruction offered a lot hope to communities on the axis and therefore, should not allowed to stop.
For a banker, Mrs Sarah Zakeri, the suspension of work will slow down the project and cause gridlock on the road particularly during the monthly religious programmes by Christians and Muslims.
The National Assembly had cut the vote for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway reconstruction/rehabilitation project in the 2017 budget from N31.5 billion to N10 billion.
This sparked reactions from the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) which resulted in the lawmakers summoning the minister for allegedly “offending their sensibilities”.
Among documents presented by former Lagos State Gov. Fashola at a meeting by the House of Representatives’ Investigative Committee on Breach of Privilege, Violation of Appropriation Act and Incitement of the Nigerian Public on July 28 were letters from the two contractors handling the project which had threatened to abandon site due to huge debts.
The separate letters from Julius Berger Plc handling Section One of the project — Lagos to Sagamu Interchange — and Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) working on Section Two — Sagamu to Ibadan — cited underfunding and debt of about N15 billion owed them.
A statement by the Special Adviser on Communications to the Minister, Mr Hakeem Bello, on July 30 said the two contractors had suspended work as a result of the delay in paying the agreed fees for work already done on the project.
(Edited By Olamide Michael)