Residents in Lagos are angry that President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday evaded the notorious Lagos-Badagry-Seme Road, flying instead on an aircraft to Seme for the official handover of the new Economic Community of West African States border posts in Badagry to his Republic of Benin counterpart, Patrice Talon.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Buhari, accompanied by Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and other officials, touched down on a Nigerian Air Force helicopter around 11:25 a.m.
The symbolism of his mode of transportation was, however, not lost on some residents who expressed disappointment at his alleged refusal to travel by road and experience their painful reality.
The road, a major artery in West Africa’s largest economic hub, Lagos State, has been notorious for its decades of neglect by the Federal Government and half-hearted rehabilitations. It has also remained the subject of persistent complaints, accidents and deaths.
At the event, a traditional ruler, Akran of Badagry, Aholu Menu Toyi I, described the road as an embarrassment, saying: “We are appealing to our amiable president to, as a matter of urgency, start reconstruction of the road. As a father of all traditional rulers in Badagry Division, I have written a request to President Buhari on the repair of the road and I’m hopeful that he will read it.”
Also, the Aholu of Kweme Kingdom, Badagry, Oba Sejiro Olalekan, said it would have been better appreciated had the president come by road to see what Badagry indigenes were passing through.“You cannot build this kind of gigantic building here and our roads will not be in order. Seme is the most lucrative border we have but the road leading to Badagry and Seme is bad. We spent more than four to five hours coming from Lagos to Badagry, which is supposed to be 45 minutes. We are pleading that our president would look into major roads leading to the gigantic building. This road is our major concern now,” he said.
On his part, the Ajagun of Imeke Kingdom, Oba Abraham Olatunji, urged the president to treat the reconstruction as a matter of urgency. According to him, “The country is generating a lot of revenue here, so we should be compensated with the road. We the host communities are not benefitting without the road.”
A clearing agent at Seme, Lekan Hassan, said: “We are disappointed that Mr. President could not come by road and seize the opportunity to assess the state of the roads. This is an international route. But it is so embarrassing that Nigeria, as the giant of Africa, could have such a road leading to its border when our neighbouring country has about a 10-lane dual-carriageway in Cotonou.”
One importer, John Osanga, said despite the commissioning of the border post, trade inflow would face difficulties if the road remains in disrepair. Its deplorable state has contributed largely to the high cost of importation through the Seme border, he said.
Some residents also took to Twitter in reaction. Olomu Ayodele Cephas@CephasOlomu said: “Really wish that Mr. President would travel through by road to connect Seme border, to see what people in this axis are facing on a daily basis. His men should also do a comparison of the two sides of the border post…to Benin and to Nigeria. Hope they will notice the difference. Please, make sure you access the border through the beautiful road of Badagry expressway, starting from Mile2 through Alakija, Ojo Barracks, Okoko and Okokomaiko. You will be glad you did.”
Alaka ibrahim@ibim91 said: “I wish he (could) come by road and see what we are going through on an international road…Opening a border without a good road…”.Ajayi Michael@titanium_mind said: “I really hope @mbuhari plies that route though. If the road is free of traffic, it can never be free of potholes. Potholes are an understatement. Death holes would be better.”
Lyor Johnson Akinbobola@JohnsonLyor said: “You still haven’t got what we are saying. There’s no road from Mile2 to the said border. FG needs to be more proactive. FG must rise to the task.” Buhari meanwhile pledged that Nigeria would work closely with the Republic of Benin to ensure the success of the border post.
He described the project, aimed at enhancing the free movement of persons and goods in the region, as “a symbol of integration that brings together the peoples of Nigeria and Benin.”He said given the fact that both countries “share many things in common,” setting up of the post would “certainly promote our brotherliness and emphasise our common interest.”