11 May 2012

Nigeria: Lagos Residents to Protect State Roads

Road damage has been a source of concern for Lagos State government. With the launch of road protection advocacy society and road star comics, Chairman of the State Public Works Corporation, Mr. GbengaAkintola says the state will benefit hugely. Gboyega Akinsanmi writes

Only last week, a community-based campaign against road damage was launched in Lagos. Behind the campaign is the Oniju of Iju, Oba Elijah Olanire, his traditional rulers and the Iju Community Development Association among others. Christened Lagos State Road Protection Advocacy Society, the campaign was floated with a mission to stem the cases of road damage in the community and beyond.

The initiative was no doubt a new chapter in a series of road advocacy campaigns, which the Lagos State Public Works Corporation (LSPWC) has been carrying out through its strategic partnership with the community development associations (CDAs), community development committees (CDCs), professional bodies, informal sectors, religious bodies, transport operators and the media across the state.

The rationale behind the initiative was clear in the address of Olanire, who linked it to the need for the communities in the state to stand against what he described as the abused use of public roads and installations. He cited an instance of how Ajuwon was almost cut off from Iju before the corporation intervened. But, according to him, "we all experienced nightmares on the road before it was finally repaired."

He explained how the communities were cut off; what the residents faced before getting home daily; and how those who have cars could no longer go out with their vehicles, a situation which left a good number of residents with no choice than seeking relocation. Now that the state government has come to our aid, Olanire said the Iju community "will assume a duty of protecting the roads from untimely damage".

The monarch said the community "hopes to achieve this through Lagos State Road Protection Advocacy Society," which he said, was set up to respond to all the habits and practices that always cause damage to roads. He said the society "will ensure all the habits and practices which the corporation had identified as the main causes of road damage are discouraged in our communities.

"The society will complement the state government's effort on road maintenance by ensuring that residents desist from some habits that can cause premature damage to roads and other public installations," the monarch said. This suggests, according to him, "we must take necessary steps to protect our roads from being damaged and save ourselves from what our communities went through few months back.

The initiative, no doubt, excites Chairman of the corporation, Mr. GbengaAkintola, who said the community response was an outcome of intensive road advocacy campaigns that the corporation had been carrying out in the last two years. He said the response "shows that Lagos residents are gradually coming to terms with the need to take ownership of public roads and installations and protect them for their usage".

He commended leadership and residents of Iju for the initiative. According to the chairman, the decision of Iju people to protect the public road and infrastructure should be emulated and encouraged by residents of other communities in the state.

He said the corporation "has been organising series of advocacy campaigns for different categories of people residing in the state. And our campaigns centre mostly on soliciting public support in order to complement the efforts of the state government in the area of road maintenance. This campaign has started yielding fruits, at least given the response we have recently been getting.

"We are really excited at what the residents of Iju and Ajuwon among others did. The state government has spent huge sums in maintaining and repairing public roads and installations. In 2012 alone, for instance, the corporation has maintained 400 roads and will always require the cooperation of Lagos residents to ensure that those maintained across the state are used properly so that they last longer.

"We are seeking every resident to desist from habits that include dumping of refuse in drains, burning of tyres on roads, indiscriminate cutting of roads and a number of other harmful habits. If Lagos residents desist from all these habits, it will ensure that more roads are repaired and that funds spent to repair roads that damaged prematurely will be used to provide other important infrastructure," Akintola said.

The chairman also explained other efforts, which he said the corporation had taken to ensure the state roads "are free from potholes". He revealed that the corporation "has stock-pilled road repair materials in preparation for the rainy season as incompatibility of asphalt with water makes the use of lean concrete mix and interlocking paving stones the preferred options during rainy season.

At the state public corporation, the chairman said, "our team always plans ahead so that we will not be cut unawares. We also explore modern maintenance methods to meet our day-to-day road maintenance challenges. In spite of this, we urge Lagos residents to emulate the action of the Iju-Ajuwon people and champion campaign against road damage in various neighbourhood and communities. We also urge the residents to be alert to report defaulting residents to appropriate authorities.

Different from the community-based approach, Akintola said the corporation had started working with the office of Senior Special Assistant on Transport Education, Dr. Miriam Masha to develop programme on road usage and maintenance culture among pupils and students at the state primary and secondary schools, a programme which he said, was necessary to discourage the habits leading to road damage.

He said the corporation had designed road star comics, a programme developed to deepen knowledge of road usage and maintenance among pupils and students in the state primary and secondary schools. According to him, "this is to ensure our children imbibe a positive approach to good road usage from their youth. This explains why we organised competition for them and 15 finalists emerged the 2012 Be Road Friendly, one of the programme designed to educate young people."

Masha gave insight into the road star project, which she said; the corporation "has put together to the action and inaction that cause road damage. This complements our mission to involve pupils and students in understanding traffic safety and rules from earlier age. This is similar to the road star project of the corporation. About 15 finalists were selected strictly on merit through a keenly contested competition organised for primary and secondary schools in the state.

Masha said the knowledge of proper road usage "will assist children and finalists of the competition which involves preparation of a bill board on the use of traffic signs. A number of schools that participate include St. Peters Anglican Primary School, Ikeja, United African Church Central Nursery and Primary School, Isheri-Oke, Ojodu Primary School One, Ojodu and Beehive School, Ikeja among others".

Akintola added that the road star comics "are an innovation to reinforce the road advocacy programme of the corporation for school children. The initiative is deliberately designed with the use of comical expressions to ensure that the message in it is understood by the recipients. The essence of the initiative is to educate the younger generation on certain bad habits that contribute to devastation of roads and also the need for them to inculcate the right habit from a tender age.

"We do this by publishing comic materials. We also distribute them to schools quarterly. But the publication, our children will be opportune to join a road star club in their schools. It is better to inculcate a culture of proper road usage among pupils and students so that they will understand to comport themselves properly at all times. This will promote our mission of discouraging the habits that cause road damage".

He added that if residents desist from such habits as dumping wastes in drainage channels and pouring petroleum products on roads amongst others, the repaired roads "will last for more than five years. Our children must not be left out in the campaign". He urged them to present themselves as road ambassadors in their schools and partner with the state government in the campaign on good road usage.

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