First inter-change bridge in Ondo, freedom from all death knells

For decades, residents and travellers moving towards the four-junctions intersection at Ore, used to be gripped by some awful fears, either as drivers or passengers in the vehicle, even passersby who walked beside the road or crossing to other side, of being knocked down by oncoming vehicles.In vain Nigerians wait anxiously for reprieve on their roads across the country, expecting the full implementation of the United Nations (UN) Decade of Action for Road Safety from 2011 to 2020. It is still a wistful dream.

It became so worse that the International Road Federation, Geneva Programme Centre, reported that approximately 2.4 million people die in road accidents globally with an annual record of 1.3 deaths and daily record of 3,000 deaths, especially in low income countries like Nigeria.Sadly enough, Nigeria is ranked second-highest in the rate of road accidents among 193 countries of the world. There are assertions that three-quarters of all accidents on Nigerian roads involve fatalities and have the youths as the highest victims.

It was argued that aside Boko Haram casualties, accidents are currently by far the main cause of violent death in Nigeria. The World Health Organisation (WHO) tagged Nigeria as the most dangerous country to live in Africa with 33.7 deaths per 100,000 population annually.Without mincing words, WHO claimed that one in every four road accident deaths in Africa occurs in Nigeria. The WHO survey and the FRSC reported of 5,693 fatal road accidents in 2009 and lamented the dangerous situations of Nigerian roads.

Since the transformation of Ore, which is the headquarters of Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo State and gateway to other parts of the country, to a commercial city, there have been increase in the influx of vehicular movements and activities on the road.Like a Yoruba adage that says “Three junctions that confuse a stranger,” Ore has four junctions leading to Shagamu and Lagos in the West; Benin, Niger Delta and the entire East region in the East Pole; Akure and up north in the northern zone; Okitipupa and entire coastal areas in the South Pole.

Beside the busy commercial activities and vehicle movements, which often caused hours of heavy traffic gridlock and jam on the road, it was also notorious for its perennial accidents, which has the highest rate in the state.Recounting his experience and haunting fears, as experienced by thousands of road-users for years, a civil servant, Mr. Gbenga Boro, who had been driving around Okitipupa and environs, said the first time he would drive to Akure was with a nightmarish experience.

“I brooded over it till daybreak. I had been to Akure and beyond several times, in fact, I enjoyed going to Lagos through Ore; but in commercial cars. Even as a passenger, the sight of Ore Expressway is the beginning of wisdom: everybody becomes an emergency driver to caution the real driver.“I woke up that day with confidence of my agelong driving experience in the suburb, and I hit the road. The moment I drove into Ore town, my courage began to dissolve and I revved closer to the Expressway shivering. It was like walking through the valley and shadow of death.”

This, according to him, was due to the heavy traffic from all parts of the road, waiting for no one and had claimed several lives despite efforts made by government agencies like Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) to control it.A hawker of soft drinks, who simply introduced himself as Gbooseewo, described Ore Expressway as “a place for cheap death,” complementing what many people used to call the road: “Highway to death and death trap.”

Unconfirmed report puts death record at Ore Expressway from 2000 to date, to over 1500, with over 10,000 casualties from more than 25,000 accidents. All efforts to get reliable data from the FRSC Sector Command, Akure proved abortive due to some red-tapism and bottleneck bureaucracy.But in a well-researched survey by Nwankwo Ukoji on “Trends and patterns of fatal road accidents in Nigeria from 2006 to 2014,” severity index of fatal road accident per state ranked Ondo as one with high rate alongside other 17 states in the nation.

Ondo State, with much emphasis on Ore/Benin/Sagamu Expressway, is rated 6.00 -8.99 percent high. Sad to recall a fatal accident along Ore/Benin expressway on April 3, 2013, that involved a haulage truck, a petrol tanker and a double-decker bus, killing 70 people on the spot.

Consequent upon the aforementioned, stakeholders, alongside the UN Assembly, adopted the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety on May 11, 2011 to curb road fatalities, with special focus on Africa.The major thrust of the global programme is to harness and synergize all efforts on stabilizing and reducing global road traffic fatalities by 2020.

Former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, massively mobilized world leaders to save lives through this decade of action.Sequel to the 2011 UN declaration, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) also mobilized to adopt and domesticate the UN action plan by developing a number of programmes suitable for every road user across the 36 states of the Federation.

In pursuit of same global vision, Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, set out to reduce fatal accident on this notorious spot, Ore, which was a national menace for many road users for decades. It was awarded to Craneburg Construction, and he tagged it: “Freedom Bridge.”As said by many public analysts and transport experts, the Akeredolu-led administration has eventually “tamed death” on the notorious road by building the first flyover bridge in the state, though many neigbouring states that are not oil producing states can boast of two or more.

The fly-over bridge, which is first of its kind in the state and to ease core national transportation problems, has three spans 15m, 30m and 15m with pre stressed concrete and covers a length of 60m,13m carriage width with 1.5m walkway on both sides.There are numerous piles of 800mm diameter embedded also in the bridge to a depth of not less than 10m, with regards to the piers and abutments. The bridge is a partial cloverleaf design with 167m and 182m length on either side.

The interchange has carriage width of 8m with 1.5m walkway on both sides and a fill embankment average height of 4m, while the approach road to the bridge is a length of 1km, with 13m carriage width and 1.5m walkway on both sides.This, as specially designed by Craneburg Construction to make it unique in the region, is also inclusive of 12m of fill embankment with the technically apt slope and protection.

While flagging off the N5 billion interchange bridge on February 20, 2018, many people, especially the opposition, believed it was one of the cosmetic and political propaganda to hoodwink the people like other past administrations.According to Ondo Governor, it is high time the state moved away from the crass of under development and embrace the reality of maximally utilize the potentials and resources available in the state for development.

Shortly after his inauguration on February 24, 2017, Akeredolu unveiled the blueprint of his administration, tagged: “Platforms for Change,” chronicling it with the JMPPR mantra for modern revolution.

“Job creation through agriculture, entrepreneurship and industrialisation. Massive infrastructural development and maintenance. Provision of functional education and technological growth. Provision of accessible and qualitative health care and social service delivery. Rural development and community extension services.”

There were series of outcries from some quarters against the propriety of the bridge, but the Governor explained that “one of the reasons why we decided to embark on this project is to put an end to the constant carnage experienced on this road intersection which often led to loss of lives and materials.” Though he disclosed that he had earlier entertained some fears on the reliability of the bridge and justification for the high cos, he noted that the consultants were able to convince him on the unique materials used, especially the tendon cables and the pillarless structure.

Speaking much more, ritually at several occasions, on the economic development of the state, Akeredolu always emphasized that there is dire need for massive infrastructural development to complement the growth envisioned for the people.He believed that the South Senatorial District, which has the coastal area, is the “Hidden Treasure” of the state and country at large, thereby hinging his vision on massive infrastructural development of the area to adequately exploit the resources.

Articulating his vision and verve for the exploitation of bitumen and deep sea port, he said his projects across the 203 wards and 18 councils are generation-driven. He likened himself to a man who is planting a tree and may not likely eat from the fruits nor sit under the shade, but for the benefits of the unborn generations of the state.

“Our policy on massive infrastructural development will seek to open up the hinterland through our roads and waterways. Our state has the longest coastline in the country. It is unthinkable that all economic activities are restricted to land while our waterways are abandoned.

“Aside from putting an end to preventable accidents, the aesthetic value of the city will also be enhanced,” he said, stressing that the flyover bridge is the fulfillment of his campaign promise at Ore, which also served as the kick-off venue in 2016.Reminiscing on his inauguration speech three years ago, Akeredolu affirmed that “I come to you this day, with a message of hope, a clear agenda of prosperity and a vision of life abundant. The hour is here and our Journey to Redemption commences now.

“We can rise out of this dust and build a new Ondo state where honesty, prosperity and confidence can once again be our self-identity. We can pull ourselves by the bootstraps and shake off our current frustrations and disappointments.“We are determined to make the difference with the specific mandate of redemption liberally handed over to us. Those who expressed other preferences are no less patriotic. Before long their anxieties will be addressed, realistically. All of us will be involved in the reconstruction project. The collective interest of the state must be our
paramount focus.”

Intimidating the people of the state with his redemption song to revive the lost glory of the state, he said: “We intend to help rebuild our economy, resuscitate damaged infrastructure, restore hope and return our state to a prosperous land.“We are determined as an administration to break down the barriers that have made stagnation possible. We will break down the barriers to honest leadership, to comprehensive development, to physical growth and social security.”

Though the state, like many other state is battling with the drastically low allocation from the Federation account, he said, “We remain undeterred by the huge cost of this gigantic project and we promise that we shall complete and commission it in no distant time.”He specifically appealed to the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, to facilitate the approval of the President, for the funds expended on all Federal Government projects in Ondo State, including the interchange totaling about N10.89bn.

The projects include Aboto-Olokola Road Project, Ore-Okitipupa Road Project, Construction of the Interchange Flyover across Benin-Ore-Lagos Expressway among others.While the Special Adviser to the Governor on Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Aminu Raimi, who supervised the project, confirmed that it is a 60 metres length bridge with 5 metres each abutments, totalling 70 metres.

“The bridge is a post-tensioning; it has post-tensioning beams because the middle span is 20m,and anything above 20m is not advisable to be normal conventional concrete whereby you use reinforcement. This one we use the tendon inside the beam; that’s why it is post-tensioning beam.“And the advantage is that at the middle span, you can’t see any column on the median like it is applicable to most of the bridges. At the middle of the road, especially dual carriageways, you will see columns. We believe it is risky.”

He said the consortium deployed modern technology to deviate from the norms so as to achieve more efficient and aesthetics in the construction of the bridge with no negative implications to road users.Raimi, who spoke with The Guardian during commissioning on Tuesday, revealed that “Apart from that, the adjoining road is 1.34km  aside the bridge; together with the bridge it is about 1.4km length. The base is not ordinary but about 300mm concrete base; and other things, they will stand the test of time.

“Every other thing was certified and tested, not only supervised by Ondo State government we have the consultants, Ondo State Government representatives and the Federal Ministry of Works representatives. They were certified by all these parties, including the certificates too before any payment could be effected.”Reacting on the pockets of criticism against the N5b for the bridge, he said, “the people that are talking about the price don’t know the aspects that were involved and the parameters. We paid a lot for demolition of buildings.

“We have adjoining buildings there, location of electricity facilities there and other things. If you go to some of the bridges in South West that they are comparing with, just that I don’t want to mention names, you will see there are barriers.

“You will notice that any vehicle with high volumes are not allowed to ply the bridge. This one is not like that. No professional will talk the way those critics are talking. We are in democracy and criticism is welcomed, when you are criticized, you tighten your belt; that is it.”

President Muhammadu Buhari, who was in the state to commission the Interchange Flyover and Ondo-Linyi Industrial Hub on Tuesday, both located in Ore, gave the assurance that the Federal Government would sustain massive investments in the provision of infrastructure across the country.Buhari, who added that the Federal Government would meet its obligations to the state on the construction of the interchange in due course, affirmed that the Interchange will boost economic activities in the state, ease traffic congestion as well as reduce accidents often
experienced on the major road.

Appraising the work done so far, he recounted his experience on the road, “During the civil war and during my campaigns since 2002, I have become familiar with the terrain of Ore which is a connecting city between the Southwest and the Eastern parts of our country.‘’As a result of this, the city has a cosmopolitan population that is in the neighbourhood of 300,000. This is a city that can be described as a mini-Nigeria as almost all ethnic groups of our country are happily represented here.

‘’Let me commend Governor Akeredolu and his team for their great efforts and professionalism in putting this project in place. This project is executed in line with the spirit and drive of the Federal Government which puts great emphasis on infrastructural development across our country, especially in the area of transportation.”

The President also lauded the consortium of Nigerian Engineers for the design and supervision of the impressive-flyover, saying it is of international standards. ‘’We are proud of you and we want to assure our people that we would continue to utilise the expertise and experience of local consultants who are competing favourably with their counterparts globally.” He, however, advised that a maintenance system should be put in place to safeguard road users throughout the lifetime of the very impressive fly-over, reaffirming the resolve of the FG to continue to invest heavily in the provision of infrastructure,

‘’We are confronting the infrastructure deficit head on. At the inception of our administration, we were faced with decayed infrastructure on our road network and railways, because of long years of neglect and lack of investment.

‘’However, our administration, as a result of our commitment to bridge this deficit, decided to source funds and address the issue. Let me commend the collaborative efforts between the Federal Government and Ondo State Government in respect of this project.‘’I commend this type of collaboration between the Federal Government and other State Governments.No one tier of government can on its own achieve the overall development of our dear country, ‘’ he said.

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