At last, the Lagos metro rail kicks off, writes Ade Ajayi
Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre stood still on Monday, September 4 when Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu made the first historic trip on the iconic Blue Line Rail from the highbrow Marina to Mile 2.
It was a dream come through for the progressives’ government and the people of Lagos State. Late Lateef Jakande had envisioned the ambitious project to ease the gridlock of the ever growing Lagos population but the military junta of Muhammadu Buhari thwarted the plan. At the return of the fourth republic in 1999, Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the builder of modern Lagos, re-visited the botched project and put machinery in place which successive governments advanced.
Governor Sanwo-Olu who has been expanding the frontiers of development of Lagos State on many fronts made history when he delivered the multi-million dollar project for the benefit of all Lagosians. Lagos is the first sub-national government in Africa to solely undertake such a gigantic project without assistance from the national government.
At the flagoff of the commercial operations of the Blue Line Rail, Governor Sanwo-Olu, alongside some dignitaries, including government functionaries and Chieftains of the ruling party, welcomed other co-passengers on board.
On the ongoing Red Line Rail, the governor assured that the project will be commissioned by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in December, 2023.
In his remarks, Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu who was visibly elated about the historic feat, said, “Today is the 4th of September 2023, and we are excited because now we can start commercial operation; we can start real passenger operation and you can see all of our citizens are onboard. With our cowry cards, we’ve been able to embark. We just left the National Theatre station, and now we’re going to the Iganmu station.
“From the Iganmu station, we will be going to the Alaba station, and we will end at the Mile 2 station.
“We will all disembark at the Mile 2 station because we need to change the platform on our return journey if we’re going back to the Marina station. And, as you can see, everything is synchronised; it’s been timed.
“The amount of seconds or minutes we are going to stay at the station is not more than 90 seconds; that’s a minute and a half because it’s a mass movement. It has to move thousands upon thousands of people on both journeys”.
It took 40 years for the Lagos Blue Line to come to fruition. It was conceived by the first civilian governor of the state, Late Alhaji Lateef Jakande in 1983. The project became a reality 20 years after a former governor, now Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu, inaugurated it in 2003.
Recall that during the administration of former governor Babatunde Fashola, construction of the 27-kilometer rail started with the award of the contract, including the design and development of the rail infrastructure; the construction was to be done in phases.
Former governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who assumed office in 2015, promised that the project would be delivered in 2016. This, however, never happened.
Sanwo-Olu, during the electioneering campaign in 2019, assured Lagosians that the project would be delivered by his administration. In January 2023 former President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated its first phase, the Blue Line.
The first phase spans Marina to Mile 2, while the second phase covers Mile 2 to Okokomaiko. When completed, it will take about 35 minutes to complete an end-to-end trip on the blue line, with a total of 13 stops/stations.
The first phase spans 13 kilometres with five stops/stations, namely Marina, National Theatre, Iganmu, Alaba, and Mile 2; while phase two will double that distance to 27 kilometres, extending the tracks to Okokomaiko.
On completion, the entire 27km will convey roughly 500,000 passengers daily, with the initial phase taking an estimated number of 250,000 passengers daily.
Each train is made up of four coaches, which will comfortably accommodate about 180 passengers.
According to Lagos State officials, Nigeria’s maiden intra-state metro line, the light rail project is colour-coded.
There is the Blue Line (Marina to Okokomaiko); Red Line (Agbado to Marina); Purple Line (Redeemed to Ojo); Yellow Line (Otta to Iddo); Brown Line (Mile 12 to Marina); Orange Line (Redeemed to Marina) and Green Line (Marina to Lekki).
“We said we were going to start by the end of last quarter, but we also wanted it to coincide with our 100 days (in office). So, this is part of our 100-day celebration”, the governor assured.
This is yet another life impacting project that the administration of Mr Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu has delivered. In less than a week of inauguration, passengers who are boarding the Rail are full of gratitude to the vision and resilience of successive governments, particularly the administration of Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
In his first term, Governor Sanwo-Olu made significant investment in public mass transportation, using an intermodal transport system. The waterways transport became the choice of movements of many Lagosians living in coastal communities. High capacity passenger boats were added to the fleets of Lagos State Ferry Services to convey more Lagosians in a safe and decent manner.
Improvements were also seen in other sectors under the governor. Roads were constructed across the state, blocks of classrooms were also constructed in public schools, ditto for health and other sectors.
Obviously, governor Sanwo-Olu has started on a strong footing.
Ajayi writes from Lagos