Nightmare of Benin-Ore road
By P. N. Obidike
Friday January 27, 2012
A section of the Benin–Ore– Shagamu Expressway is dreaded by most Nigerians every rainy season since the road was constructed. The problem occurs every year like Igwe’s Ofalla. As a young civil engineer in the Federal Ministry of Works in 1964, I led a survey team that carried out a survey through Onigbongbo bush and swamp that started at the present Maryland Junction in front of the Catholic Church in Lagos.
The route passed through very thick swamp where, in most cases, we could not find firm ground to stand the Theodolite. We were always in rain boots and other bush navigation equipment. We were to provide cross section levels at 100 ft. intervals and 100ft. wide cross-sections, 50ft. on each side of the centre line. The assignment was to connect two known points through an unknown route.
We completed the assignment and submitted the plotted centre-line and cross-sections to the boss- I do not now remember whether in the Design or Planning Department of the Ministry. Our work turned out to be one of the preliminary works that produced the Lagos Ibadan Express Way several years later. Similary, Ijora Cause Way in Lagos, from Railway Terminus at Ebutte Metta to 7-up factor in Ijora was under constant leveling, carried out about four time a year. The levels were plotted on a chart.
The objective of the work was to determine when the settlement of the soil would stop and the construction of a permanent road would be done. Meanwhile the road surface was on temporary interlocking blocks. It became obvious that the settlement would not stop in the foreseeable future. The road was eventually constructed as “deck-on pile” which means that the entire length of the road of about two kilometre was built on piles.
However, the road level lies on the ground level so that later visitors think it is a normal road at the ground level. Similarly, as you leave Lagos going towards Ibadan you see a section of the road as a very long bridge on dry land where no river exists. That is another deck on pile with the road surface well above the ground level. In this case, like the Ijora Causeway, the soil was found to be unsuitable to carry a road. The normal practice of cutting away top soil and replacing with good quality laterite imported from somewhere else could not be done.
That was because the depth of the unsuitable material for the entire distance involved was very high and it would be very uneconomical to replace it. Piling and heavy pile caps on them with the follow up piers to carry the Deck Road were seen as the best alternative. I think at that time, the government listened more to the professionals than is the case today. The suggestion of the Director Federal Highways, Federal Ministry of Works, was taken and we have no problem driving on that section of the road today.
Necessity is said to be the mother of invention. The 3rd Mainland Bridge in Lagos is today the longest bridge in Nigeria. It is about 6 or 7 kilometers long and wholly in water except for the three ends where it hits the ground at Lagos Island, Ebute Metta and Oworonshoki. It was built as a necessary road out of congested Lagos Island where there was terrible bottleneck in trying to get out and heavy loss of man -hours. The Benin-Ore-Shagamu Road is similar to it. However, a 4th landing is necessary now beside the University of Lagos to decongest traffic between Ebutte Metta and the road to Lagos University. Lagos State Government should consider this.
Let the experience gained from Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ijora Causeway and Third Mainland Bridge be applied on Benin-Ore Road.