FOR A SMARTER AND BETTER LAGOS

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The completion of the Lagos Light Rail project will open a new vista in commuting in Lagos, writes Bankole Salami

It is trite to say Lagos leads the way among Nigerian states. Yet, it is no fault of the state that it maintains the tempo of its growth. Given the turbulent 2020 and 2021 which saw the world hampered and recovering respectively from Covid-19, many have prayed 2022 to be a relief. And for Lagos, Nigeria’s economic heartbeat, news of a bumper year seems to have arrived early.

Speaking at the 2022 Lagos State New Year Thanksgiving Service themed, ‘Songs of Thanksgiving’, on Sunday at the Lagos House Sports Ground, Ikeja, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, reeled out projects in the state to be completed and those to be embarked on within the year.

“By the special Grace of God, the vision of having the largest Rice Mill in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the largest in the world will become a reality this year,” Sanwo-Olu said at the event which had in attendance dignitaries including the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, former Lagos State governors – Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola – and Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God.

“Also, this year 2022 will witness a milestone achievement in the rail transportation system in our State, as we expect the 37km Red and 27.5km Blue Line Rail projects to commence commercial operations between the last quarter of this year and first quarter of 2023.

“Equally, construction work on the 38km Fourth Mainland Bridge — which will be the longest in Africa — and the Opebi-Mende link bridge will commence this year.

Aside the feats of projects, Sanwo-Olu also said 2022 will see the “completion of the ongoing reconstruction work on the 18.75km Eleko to T-Junction in Epe, the 10km Lekki Regional Road, and the section of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway that the Lagos State Government is constructing with the permission of the federal government.”

But these projects that are guaranteed to impact development of infrastructure, technology, health, education and security of Lagosians is not all the government is up to.

“These are just a handful of the projects that will be completed or advanced this year,” Sanwo-Olu said.

While all the projects mentioned by the governor are impactful, personally, I’m happy that the trains are expected to start running by the last quarter of 2022. As someone that lives in the Agege axis, this project has been dear to me. Regularly, my commute to work in Mushin and back can be described in one word – hellish. This is because as the trains run by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) on that axis is epileptic and inefficient, the alternative is travelling via roads. And my major route, Agege Motor Road, is usually choked during rush hour.

But with the delivery of the dream initiated as far back as 1979 by the former and late governor of the state, Lateef Kayode Jakande, Lagosians are ready to start enjoying better transportation. While LKJ was only privileged to see a blueprint of his conception, it is nice that two years after his passing, the Blue and Red Lines of the Lagos Light Rail project would be up and running. I can’t wait to board the trains.

On Monday, January 3, 2022, Sanwo-Olu spent about four hours inspecting work at the Ikeja Train Station which has facilities for Park and Ride and commercial spaces before proceeding to Oyingbo Train Station and Marina Train Terminal.

“I’m happy to report as you all have seen that the constructions are going on as scheduled,” he said during the inspection tour.

“Despite today being a public holiday, all the contractors are on site.

“You can see where we are coming from, the Ikeja iconic station which will be the most iconic for the Red Line, almost the same size as that of Marina. We were able to see that the last time, they were just at the foundation level but they are now on the second floor before they will get to the fourth floor which will be the final.”

Managing Director of Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, LAMATA, Mrs Abimbola Akinajo, said the train project will “help to reduce congestion, have predictable travel time and improve the GDP of the state.”

According to her, the first phase of the Red Line project is expected to carry 500,000 passengers daily and once the second phase is implemented, it would commute one million passengers daily.

By considerably reducing travel time on peak periods on routes it passes, it is envisaged that the trains would be welcomed by residents and visitors whose route it passes. It would indeed open a new vista in commuting in Lagos and permanently change the tempo of life in the city-state.

Like many great cities, there is an interconnection of different transport modes and Lagos would not be different as the Red Line integrates the Bus Terminals at Oyingbo, Yaba, Oshodi, Ikeja and Iju. And with several stops along the route, it promises not just to serve on those at the extremes of the red line. For instance, someone living in Agbado and going to Ojota may simply hop on the train at Agbado and stop at Ikeja to continue their journey via bus. The same can apply for the Blue Line which runs from Okokomaiko to Marina. It is also great to know that following this, an Orange Line, which would go from Ikeja to Agbowa will happen.

Investment in transportation in a state like Lagos with over 20 million people is important. Hence, it warms my heart that Lagos will begin construction of the Fourth Mainland Bridge as well as the Opebi – Mende Link Bridge. These projects, when completed, will ease the transport needs of Lagosians.

But beyond its intervention in trains and roads, the state government is also taking enormous strides in the unexpected sector of agriculture. Take the Imota Rice Mill for instance. When completed later in the year, it would be the biggest of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a huge feat because despite having the smallest landmass among Nigerian states, Lagos is encouraging and investing in agriculture. As far back as the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, Lagos State has sought new frontiers for its agricultural prowess. It bought land in Osun State for farming. It also has an agreement with Kebbi State and one of the outcomes of that collaboration is LAKE Rice. With the completion of the Imota Rice Mill this year, the only way for Lagos to go will be forward.

Among Nigerian states, Lagos remains a trail blazer. However, because of its successes, it also attracts more Nigerians and foreigners, thereby increasing the burden of administering it. In December, Lagos raised a N137.328 billion bond from the capital market for key infrastructural projects. But the brilliant thing is that the projects are visible for all to see.

While the New Year gathering saw clergy, politicians, traditional leaders among others in attendance, the real people that the actions would impact are Lagosians. As the Lagos State government is striving to make the city state smarter and better, it needs the cooperation of all Lagos residents. Lagos can only thrive when Lagosians support it.