Charles Ajunwa writes that the ongoing construction of a light rail line by the Lagos State government may have reached its advanced stage, but not without its hardships on the business owners along the designated rail routes, just as residents are looking forward to a relief from the daily crushing traffic snarl in the route
The ongoing construction of a light rail line by the Lagos State government to decongest traffic jam in most parts of the state, no doubt, has forced many Lagos residents to lose their valuable properties and means of livelihood, but residents say they are looking forward to the new life it will bring.
Florence Akeju, a resident of Okokomaiko said, “It has not been a good time for us all with the on-going construction, but I am happy to see the level of progress and in particular the new life it will offer Lagosians. We will all be able to step in and step off the train as if we are in London.”
Before the commencement of work on the designated rail routes in 2010, the State government sensitised the entire public, especially owners of marked buildings on why such structures should give way for the expansion of the roads along the rail routes.
The business owners along the designated rail routes, especially the major bus transporters at the popular Maza Maza and the dealers of building materials in Orile-Iganmu were duly relocated to another place by the State government. The government also was said to have paid monetary compensation to those whose properties and businesses were affected.
So, when the state government eventually mobilised contractors to the site, their caterpillars and bulldozers only went after structures marked for demolition along the designated rail routes.
The road expansion contract was awarded to Construction Company with long time commitment to road rehabilitation and construction in Nigeria, Julius Berger Construction Company while the rail line contract was given to China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC). Other sub-contractors to CCECC on the rail line construction are DAR AL-Handasah Shair and Partners and NEXANT Consulting Limited.
The construction of the Lagos rail line is going to be in phases. The first phase of the rail line (Blue Line) route starts from Marina and terminates at Okokomaiko. The Blue rail line which starts from Marina will pass through Orile-Iganmu, Mile Two, Maza Maza, Alakija, Agboju, Satelite Town, Lagos State University along the Badagry Expressway before terminating at the Okokomaiko end.
In areas where construction works have started on the rail line, all the marked structures for demolition have been pulled down by the bulldozers while in places where construction work is yet to commence the marked structures for demolition are still standing.
When THISDAY visited the construction sites last weekend, the marked structures for demolition at places like Maza Maza and Agboju along the Badagry Expressway areas were being pulled down by the bulldozers.
THISDAY investigation revealed that many of the marked structures for demolition had long been abandoned by the owners, while a few people who were still hopeful remained in their houses.
Many of those affected by the construction work are still agonising over the loss of their properties and daily means of livelihood.
Although, in the popular Maza Maza motor park directly opposite FESTAC Town, many of the displaced artisans, bus loaders, drivers, motor mechanics, traders and food vendors still are still at their business points making brisk business in order to fend for their families, but thousands of passengers that used to patronise the transporters have abandoned them for other conducive and secured places within the state. The drastic reduction of passengers at the Maza Maza Motor Park also directly affected those operating restaurants and those engaged in petty trading along the route.
A driver with Okeyson Transport, Emeka Agu, said many of their passengers have stopped patronising them since the construction work started two months ago. “After destroying our office they came back again to destroy what remained of it. You can see the level of destruction here, what they are doing is very bad. All our passengers have abandoned us because of the heavy construction work going on here. In fact, the intention of government is to drive us out from here completely,” he lamented.
Kenneth Okechukwu, a mechanic with one of the transporters said since the rail line construction work started his business has been badly affected.
“There is no space again for us to work on the vehicles from my clients especially the transporters who do business in this place. You can see that I have no work doing now. I cannot fend for my family again because business has stopped coming. We still want to stay here because this place is a business area, government should find a way of accommodating us. There is no place we will go to that will be like this area. We know that government is doing a good thing because when the whole work is completed it will be good for everybody. But, we are begging the government to allow us to stay here to do our work,” he pleaded.
Mr. Austin Okafor, a communication consultant said that the ongoing road construction in Maza Maza, is badly affecting his business. “Since the demolition exercise started two months ago there is nothing going on here again. You can see that nothing is going on, everything is a standstill. So, nothing is moving and it’s really affecting our business.
We are waiting any time the construction work is over, may be business will come back as usual. But as at now nothing is happening, it’s difficult for me to pay my children’s school fees because there is no business going on here,”he said.
The rail line, THISDAY observed has reached advanced stages in places like Mile 2 and Orile-Iganmu areas where the terminal buildings for passengers have been erected. Also from the Orile end, a modern suspended bridge for the rail line that will connect Marina is being constructed by CCECC engineers. One of the engineers, who preferred anonymity, told THISDAY that the Blue line would be completed towards the end of next year.
There is no doubt that when the Lagos rail line is completed those whose businesses were affected will have cause to be happy as their businesses will bounce back again. Also, the bad traffic situation known with Lagos will become a thing of the past.