Saturday, June 20, 2009

Who Owns Lagos Airport Road?

The road to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos is a big eyesore desperately begging for urgent remedy. This is even after the complaints of many well meaning Nigerians. So although whose responsibility it is to heal the festering eyesore is not in doubt, we repeat the question that has always been asked by some foreigners in Nigeria, “who owns the Lagos Airport Road?” That is a good question, considering the increasing beauty of the rest of Lagos.
Although Lagos has lost its status as the capital of Nigeria, it remains the nation’s commercial nerve centre. Besides, the MMIA is still the main gateway to Nigeria. Lagos is the first contact of many foreigners with Nigeria. Even Nigerians who habitually live and work in Abuja are compelled by pressing professional and family reasons to make frequent trips to Lagos. It is no doubt, the hub of business, political and social activities in Nigeria. That explains why the MMIA remains one of the busiest international airports in Africa.
It is therefore disheartening that the main access road to such an important airport has been left over the years to be overtaken by weeds, filth, beggars, street urchins, etc. It is riddled with potholes, some large enough to be called craters. This causes heavy vehicular traffic jam and facilitates the nefarious activities of armed robbers on the road. On both sides of the road are artisans’ workshops and showrooms, makeshift shades for all manner of vendors including those hawking pornographic materials. To make matters worse, rarely do the street lights work, making the route dark most nights.
The situation of the road is indeed a big embarrassment for a country that pretends to be rebranding itself. A first timer’s impression of any country is usually formed from what he or she sees while driving out of the port of entry. For instance, if the Airport road is dirty and unkempt, the visitor goes away with the impression that the country is a dirty one. Anyone passing through the MMIA Road will naturally think that we are a lousy nation because of the squalid state of the road.
We call for the immediate fixing and beautification of this important road. If the road to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja is a paved double carriage way beautified with trees and manicured green grass, why not the road to MMIA which links Nigeria with the rest of the world?
We recall with sadness that in 2004 when the Bola Tinubu administration tried to expand the road into four lanes on each side with one lane being the service lane, some FERMA officials quickly came in and stopped the project on the pretext that it was a federal government project. Since then most of the expanse of land along the road has either been encroached on or illegally sold.
This is completely unacceptable. The task of providing public utilities for the common good should transcend petty partisan politics. If the Fashola government has successfully re-constructed and beautified most Lagos roads within years, why is the MMIA Road in such a shameful state?
The Yar’Adua government should take immediate steps to fix it; and to keep that access corridor free of anything that tarnishes the image of the country. No tourist, after seeing the ugliness of the road, would be comfortable. It is clearly a bad signal! For us, rebranding Nigeria should start with such matters.