Deadlock on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as Muslims, Others Travel for Sallah

It was a tough day for motorists and commuters as both ends of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway were grounded to traffic on Saturday.

While it is not unusual for the highway to look this way since reconstruction of the highway’s Long Bridge axis began in 2021, Sunday PUNCH gathered that the situation was aggravated by travelers traveling to different cities to celebrate Sallah.

Wary faces, hungry women, crying children and walking feet lined the sidewalks as the sun shone on the summit.

A young mother, wearing a headscarf and tying a baby to her bag, dragged her two children across the bridge from the Berger bus stop to the other side in search of a bus going to the Mowe-Ibafo axis.

For hours, our correspondent who monitored the situation at the bus stop saw with his own eyes that no bus was heading in that direction due to the terrible traffic situation.

The mother, who only gave her name when Halima said she was from Ojota and was on her way to Ibadan to celebrate Sallah.

“I am exhausted. I have been standing at Berger for over two hours and have not yet seen a bus that will take me and my children to Mowe so that we can make our way to Ibadan from there. Those who have come charge exorbitant amounts and end up leaving not when they see the traffic in front of them.

“My daughters cried. I’m frustrated. I feel like going back home, but even the other side of the road is blocked because people are taking ‘one way’ (driving against traffic).”

She also lamented that transportation fares have tripled, saying motorists have increased prices to make more profits.

“Yesterday I went to Arepo to visit my younger sister who is sick and I paid N300 from Berger. Today (Saturday), the bus drivers are demanding N1,500. “That is more than 300 percent more than yesterday’s rate, and I am not even prepared for that.

“I have budgeted for myself how much I will bring to Ibadan and I cannot spend it all on Berger to Mowe alone. “I’m honestly tired,” she said.

Another woman who looked pregnant was sitting on the sidewalk of the Berger bus stop. She had her left hand on her chin and she looked very tired.

When asked how long she had been at the bus stop, she said: “I got here at 2.12pm and I am still here. Look at the time; it’s after 4pm. Every bus that comes says N1500 or N1200. Where am I going to get that money from? I’m just going to Warewa.’

She said she went to church in Obalende and took the bus to Iyana Oworo. Her problems started when she couldn’t get a bus from Iyana Oworo directly to Wawa and she decided to break the journey by going to Berger first.

She still couldn’t get a bus to Berger because traffic on the Expressway had somehow reached parts of the Third Mainland Bridge.

“I had to trek to the 7Up bus stop in my condition. You can imagine that distance. Look at the road; many people are walking. It’s frustrating,” she complained.

Cause

The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, a crucial artery that connects Lagos, Nigeria’s bustling commercial hub, to the rest of the country, has become synonymous with irritating traffic.

This vital 127.6km route, crucial for commerce and daily commuting, regularly comes to a standstill, causing significant delays and frustrations for motorists and commuters alike.

Several factors contribute to the chronic traffic congestion on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

First, ongoing road reconstruction and expansion projects, while necessary for long-term improvement, are a major cause of current delays.

Construction work has resulted in narrowed lanes and occasional closures, significantly slowing traffic flow.

Secondly, the sheer number of vehicles that travel the route every day is overwhelming. This was the reason traffic brought the road to a complete standstill on Saturday.

The highway not only serves as a link between Lagos and Ibadan, but also as a major route for travelers to other parts of Nigeria.

High traffic volumes, especially during rush hours and holidays, exacerbate congestion.

Third, frequent accidents and breakdowns contribute to traffic problems.

Car accidents are common on the highway, often leading to lane blockages and long traffic jams.

Inadequate emergency response times further exacerbate the problem.

Stuck for hours

Our correspondent, who had taken a 7Up motorcycle on his way to Berger, was stuck in traffic for over an hour when a truck broke down around Otedola Bridge, worsening the traffic situation.

The truck, loaded with a caravan, malfunctioned while driving and, according to eyewitnesses, came to a screeching halt.

“The incident happened around 2.42pm or so. I was sitting behind a bus when we saw that the truck could no longer move. It just got stuck. It blocked a significant portion of the road and motorists had to use only one lane,” a passenger in a bus, Mrs. Agnes Tobechukwu, told our correspondent.

Another passenger, who lamented the situation, said he had been stuck in traffic for more than two hours and stressed that he regrets making the journey.

“I am going to Abeokuta, Ogun State, for the Sallah holiday and I am already exhausted. My journey hasn’t even started yet.

“The government should put traffic policemen on the road to help control the free flow of traffic on the road. It’s frustrating to watch everyone maneuver each other to get ahead.

Motorists groan

Several motorists who spoke to our correspondent lamented that they spent more on fuel because of the long drive.

A commercial motorcyclist, Mr Ndubuisi Iheanacho, told our correspondent that if his tank was half full, he would ride from Oshodi to Berger and even to Mowe and back to Berger before he would remember to refill his tank.

But because of traffic, he said he spent almost double that on fuel purchases.

“I had no choice but to increase transportation costs. I normally collect N200 from Berger. But I had to raise N500 because I couldn’t do anything else. I will have to buy fuel on the highway before traveling again. I’ve been in the specific spot for over 50 minutes and it’s fuel I’m burning. We have to understand that. Let the passenger also be patient with us,” he said.

Trekking galore

Our correspondent also noted that many people took their fate into their hands and left on foot.

Some carried bags on their heads and dragged children walking in a straight line across the highway.

A man who refused to give his name said he decided to trek to his home in Warewa when he heard that it would cost him N1,500 to reach there by bus.

“I usually go to the area around the New Garage in Berger and then take the bus to the N200 to my bus stop. How can I pay N1500? I am a construction worker. My full pay for today after work was N3700. Shall I not eat? My brother, I’m already tired,” he said, walking briskly with his bag of tools in his right hand.

A woman carrying a heavy load on her head and sweating profusely was also seen walking on the highway.

She said she was heading to the Opic Estate and there was no bus willing to go to the area.

‘I’ll be there soon. It’s just a minor inconvenience; I’m coming home. I can’t afford N500 to get to Opic from Berger. That journey with all the extra fuel is not worth more than N100,” she said.

Sallah

As Nigeria gears up for Sallah celebrations scheduled for Sunday, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, a key route for many travelers en route to their hometowns, has once again become a bottleneck, leaving thousands of passengers stranded and frustrated.

The festive rush has exacerbated the already notorious traffic situation on this vital arterial road, creating a logistical nightmare for commuters and highlighting the ongoing challenges associated with one of Nigeria’s busiest highways.

The Sallah celebrations, also known as Eid al-Adha, are a time for family reunions and communal festivities, prompting a mass exodus from major urban centers such as Lagos.

This year, the increase in the number of travelers has significantly increased traffic congestion on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

The route, already burdened by ongoing construction projects and high daily vehicle volume, has been overwhelmed by the sudden influx of travelers.

Reports indicate that many passengers have been stuck in gridlock for hours, with some journeys that would normally take a few hours now lasting into the night.

The situation is dire, with vehicles barely moving and long lines of frustrated commuters stretching for miles.

The gridlock has not only delayed travel plans but also exposed shortcomings in traffic management and infrastructure preparedness to accommodate such festive peaks.

For many travelers, the experience was nothing short of harrowing.

Families eager to celebrate Sallah with their loved ones found themselves stuck in endless traffic jams. The heat, lack of toilets and scarcity of food and water along the route have added to their misery.

Solutions

A social commentator, Mrs. Adetutu Sosore, said tackling the traffic problem on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway requires a multi-pronged approach.

She noted that the ongoing road expansion and construction projects are a step in the right direction aimed at increasing the highway’s capacity to handle more vehicles.

However, she said, the government must ensure that these projects are completed quickly to minimize disruption.

She said: “Improving traffic management is another crucial aspect. Improved traffic control measures, such as better signage, more traffic officers and the use of real-time traffic monitoring technology, can help manage the flow of vehicles more efficiently. The introduction of more rest stops and emergency response units along the highway can also help to ensure that breakdowns and accidents are dealt with more quickly.”

Another public commentator and expert sociologist, Dr. Tunji Akintoye, said: “The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway remains a critical infrastructure project for Nigeria, but the current state of incessant traffic congestion is unsustainable.

“While the government is taking steps to address the problem through road expansion and construction, more immediate measures are needed to effectively manage existing traffic.”

FRSC speaks

In response to the deteriorating traffic situation, the Federal Road Safety Corps said it had stepped up efforts to control the flow of vehicles.

Spokesperson Florence Okpe said additional traffic officers had been deployed along the highway to control the situation but their efforts were hampered by the sheer number of cars and limited road capacity.

She also blamed ram buyers on the Kara side of the highway for worsening the situation.

“We urge motorists to exercise patience and adhere to traffic rules to help reduce traffic congestion. Travelers should also consider alternative routes where possible,” she said.