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Special Report: Hazards Of Daylight Road Construction

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Construction workers at a site

Construction workers at a site

 

Lukmon Akintola
Lagos

Good road is an essential part of any organised society. The importance can hardly be overestimated, as it is one social amenity which not only helps people migrate from one place to another, but also for movement of goods.
Third world countries including Nigeria can hardly downplay the value of good roads especially when the train system and other means of transporting goods are almost grounded.
Unlike years back when most Nigerian states enjoyed relatively good roads same cannot be said of today. It is safe to say that most of the Federal roads in the country have seen better days with occasional and strategic maintenance work taking place intermittently to make it pliable.
However, most recently major repairs have been taking place on these roads. From Lagos to Kaduna States, Oyo and even as far as Katsina, Benue and Taraba States, new roads are currently being constructed, while older ones get refurbished.
It is safe to assume that a lot of people would attribute this to the handiwork of the current Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola. While the minister’s achievements thus far is a good development especially knowing how bad the state of the Nigerian road can be, it is the decision of the contractors to repair, maintain and sometime construct these roads during the day that has elicited concern from a lot of people.
In Nigeria, it is common to find sign post such as “Slowdown”, “Construction Site”, “Diversion”, “Road Manager”, and several others basically informing road users that work is ongoing on the road. At times, these constructions have been known to last days and even months before they are finally sorted. During this period, the fate of the road users is hardly considered, as they are left to go through pain all day. Basically, they simply make do with whatever provision the road contractor makes, often times a nightmarish solution.
That the alternative roads which would have provided succour for road users are bad or at times not even available makes the situation worse. This situation sees lives and goods continue to perish due to the road condition, while drivers sit for hours in holdup, hoping and praying to no avail that something miraculous will take away the traffic.
Perhaps, this suffering was what Fashola noticed when he appealed to motorists to bear with contractors and the government, stressing the need for patience, orderliness and the cooperation of citizens throughout the duration of the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway project.
The nightmare of road users due to daylight construction of roads is not limited to any particular state, as the experience of road users prior to the repair of the Benin/Ore Express Road is better imagined than relived.
Sometimes, road users have had the misfortune of passing the night on the road simply because a road is being constructed when in the real sense of it the journey would have naturally lasted only hours.
Months back, travellers went through hell to move from Lagos to other southern and eastern states all because of the attendant gridlock due to rehabilitation and reconstruction work on the long bridge used to access Lagos/Ibadan Express Road. So bad was the situation that one half of the Lagos bound section of the bridge was blocked to traffic with the use of median crash barriers which allows for only two normal vehicles to pass at the same time.
Having ran out of patience, this saddening experience has seen the Nigerian masses scattered around the country asking questions pertaining to the idea of daylight road constructed, especially when it affects road users
Such questions include why can’t these roads be constructed or maintained at night when less traffic is on the road? Why must Nigerians be subjected to such wicked treatment; among others?.
It is now common place to find gridlock of traffic on a road and having spent hours in the holdup suddenly realise that it was simply because some road maintenance work was being carried out on a portion of the road in broad daylight with the contractor giving little or no regard to the fact that people have to get to their destinations on time.
While the accident rate due to drivers over speeding in an attempt to make up for lost time in traffic is general knowledge, another scary implication of daylight road construction is the health hazard from the fumes emitted by the cars and trucks on the road due to consistent exposure to heavy traffic.
New public-health studies and laboratory experiments suggest that, at every stage of life, traffic fumes exact a measurable toll on mental capacity, intelligence and emotional stability. “There are more and more scientists trying to find out whether and why exposure to traffic exhaust can damage the human brain,” says medical epidemiologist Jiu-Chiuan Chen at the University of Southern California who analysed the effects of traffic pollution on the brain health of 7,500 women in 22 states in America.
It is common knowledge that in developed countries roads are constructed at night with the aid of lights so that people plying the road don’t feel the brunt of the construction. In some cases, road users are well pre-informed of sudden developments or bad roads and provided alternative measure. Sometimes when drivers even get to the spot expected to be bad they realise that it had been repaired the night before. Why can’t we borrow a leaf from these countries, why can’t it be as such in Nigeria?
In the past, accidents of all sorts have occurred on several roads simply because of daylight road constructions. In 2016 specifically Sunday, June 5, no fewer than 18 passengers of a commercial bus and the driver lost their lives as their bus had a head-on collision with a tanker on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, towards the Fidiwo/Ajebo area. The accident happened at a section of the road where there was a diversion of traffic to a single lane, due to construction work on the road.
Asides the accidents that happen periodically cutting the life of many construction workers short, the life expectancy ratio of individuals who are known to undergo stress from daylight road construction is known to be very low. Medical Practitioners and production experts have argued that such stress not only lead to low productivity, but slow death. However, amidst this poser is the nonchalant attitude of the contractors in charge of these projects.
The need to meet the speculated period to deliver the project being constructed is of more priority to them than any stress the situation can bring to those subjected to a life of nightmare.
Reacting to a vox pop with Independent Akinyemi Olaitan, a student of Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ogun State berated the federal government for its carefree attitude. In his words “It is not the fault of the contractors constructing the roads, but that of the government which has given them the contract. They simply give out contracts without caring about how they are executed. When they do come for site inspection they are concerned about the project and hardly ask about how road users manage or if an alternative road has been made available. A people friendly government would not operate like that, but because most of these guys at the top don’t use these roads they don’t know what we are going through, he said.”

On her part, Titi Ajanaku commended Fashola for the road construction, saying it has been long due. However, she emphasised the need for more alternative roads.
According to her, if there are several alternative roads drivers won’t be subjected to the experience that have become a nightmare in recent times. While confirming the fact that road construction is a major project, she urged the government to endeavour to construct more roads to ease the suffering of its citizens.“Nigerians should see their current situation as the sacrifice that they have to make to get to the promise land. I am a Christian and like the Israelites suffered to get to the promise land we have to make sacrifices to get whatever we want. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The government is trying and we should encourage them, Tony Ikenga said.”

Ikenga’s point of view is buttressed by Akinyemi Olanrewaju who is of the opinion that Nigerians will have to wait for their country to develop before seeking to reap the fruit of their labour.
According to him, most people ignorantly compare Nigeria to other European countries forgetting that we are not as old as they are. “We will definitely get there, but with patience. We all know how old America is and that is why when we go there and subsequently return home we wish that our country could look like that, but we have to ask ourselves what are the sacrifices that the Americans have made and what are the ones our leader have made? We also have to compare the corruption level of our country to that of America. These are factors we must consider before criticizing,” he said.As it is, the need to abolish daylight road construction where possible is inevitable, as its continuance can only be likened to an epidemic waiting to engulf the nation.

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