Lawyers under the aegis of the ‘Otu Oka Iwu’ (Law Society) have asked the Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) to immediately commence palliative measures to fix the failed portions of the Lagos-Benin-Onitsha Expressway.
Rising from their monthly meeting in Lagos, Otu Oka Iwu described several portions of the road as “death traps,” adding that travellers now spend valuable man-hours especially at the Benin-Asaba interchange and Onitsha-Awka-Enugu Expressway, “as those portions have become so dilapidated and impassable that they have been taken over by trucks and trailers as their parking lots. The Sagamu-Ore axis remains a traveller’s nightmare due to huge craters that litter most portions of that stretch. For starters, we call for an immediate removal of these trucks and trailers from the expressway.”
“It is highly worrisome that notwithstanding huge budgetary expenditure to improve the nation’s road infrastructure, the tales of woe and inhuman suffering by travellers are yet to abate,” said the association in a statement signed by its president, Chief Chuks Ikokwu. “In fact, it is doubtful that the supervising minister is fully briefed on the current state of these roads, making an on-the-spot assessment imperative.
“We urge the supervising minister to demonstrate his avowed competence and ensure that immediate steps are taken to remediate these roads to ameliorate the suffering of travellers especially during this yuletide season. No excuse is again tenable for the highly deplorable condition of these roads, moreso as the loss to the economy is incalculable.”
Turning to the surfeit of road-blocks manned by law enforcement agencies along the route, the lawyers condemned “in very strong terms the harassment, intimidation and extortion of travellers on the Lagos-Benin-Onitsha Expressway and other roads in the South East region.”
The association decried a situation where the stretch of road from Lagos to Onitsha “is invaded by all manner of security agencies including the Army, Police, Customs Service, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, and Federal Road Safety Commission operatives, creating countless road-blocks that engender extortion, delays and unacceptable hardships to travellers.”
“It is recalled that the respected and longstanding human rights group, Campaign for Democracy recently issued a three-day ultimatum to the Inspector-General of Police demanding removal of the innumerable road-blocks within the Onitsha metropolis. Sadly, this malaise is not restricted to Onitsha. It is widely believed that these road-blocks are designed to extort motorists and dampen their travel experience, causing them avoidable irritation and sundry losses both in man-hours and business opportunities,” the lawyers’ association said.
“We hereby call on the Inspector General of Police to arrest this unwholesome trend especially on the Lagos-Onitsha-Owerri Expressway and intra South East roads by implementing his self-imposed directive on dismantling of road-blocks. This has become urgent particularly during this yuletide season when these road-blocks tend to multiply exponentially. The Inspector-General of Police is advised to reintroduce mobile highway patrols than these stationary road-blocks that have turned to ‘toll gates’ of sorts.”
The Otu Oka Iwu also urged victims of extortions and abuse of law enforcement powers to report such experiences to the association, warning that it would “not hesitate to take immediate and appropriate action to bring the perpetrators to justice.”