Sanwo-Olu’s pledge on road and rail projects
One very significant way in which the Lagos State Government differs from other states of the federation is continuity in governance. We believe that this has been taken to another level by the Babajide Sanwo-Olu (BOS) administration.
Though it remains to be fully consummated, major infrastructural projects have since been embarked on by this Administration. The net consequence is that the governor has succeeded in turning Lagos into a huge construction site through the attempts to complete some of the projects which he inherited from previous administrations.
Of the many ongoing projects in the state, the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, the 27km blue line, and 37km red line rail projects stand out for reasons bordering on strategic socio-economic importance and the sheer scale of the projects.
The Lagos-Badagry Expressway is an old story—a road reconstruction and expansion from four lanes to 10 lanes with dedicated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes and light rail tracks. Contract to do this critical road was awarded way back in 2009 by a former governor of the state, Babatunde Fashola. But to date and until the accession of BOS to the office, we have been fed only on a diet of hope and expectations.
The completion of the Blue Line, for instance, will usher in a new lease of life for the residents along that corridor; there will be growth of businesses and sundry economic activities
Both the Blue Line and Red Line rail projects may not have been In the pipeline for long; still, we cannot but recall that a kindred-like metro project was initiated way back by the then Jakande Administration, only to be aborted by myopic elements. Today, however, it is gladdening to note that there is no activity on these rail Projects.
Unlike before, especially during the four-year tenure of the immediate past governor of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode, work is currently upbeat on these project sites. But for us this is not even the good news.
The good news for us and for any other Lagos resident is that after several adjustments and postponements of the completion dates for these projects by the state government, Sanwo-Olu has assured and pledged that these projects would be completed this year, 2022.
The governor, who gave this assurance at the 23rd New Year Thanksgiving service organised by the state government and held at the State House, Ikeja, also assured that other on-going projects in the state like the Imota Rice Mill in Ikorodu would be completed this year. Moreover, he also pledged that work would begin on the Fourth Mainland Bridge that will connect the Lagos mainland to the island.
We commend the governor, not just for the assurance to complete the three projects this year, but also for the other projects he has completed and delivered, especially housing projects such as the 492-unit Lateef Jakande Estate in Igando, the 744-unit LagosHOMS housing estate in Sangotedo, the 480-unit estate in Ibeshe, among others.
We are, however, very particular and passionate about the governor’s assurance on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway and the Blue Line and Red Line rail projects. This is because, without being told, we feel that the government should know that Lagos residents are emotionally and spiritually attached to these projects. This is not to talk of the practical dimension which will guarantee more life abundant as preached and practised by the sage, the great Obafemi Awolowo.
In advanced economies like those Lagos wants to align with as a megacity, rail transportation is a normal way of life. And in Lagos, it should be the way to go, given its ever-expanding population, which is cramped in a small land-mass bounded by large water bodies.
In our view, transportation infrastructure, whether road or rail or even water, is the fulcrum around which an economy revolves. They do not only boost economic activities but also open up and link communities, which in turn encourages investment in such areas as agriculture and real estate. In the process, more and more employment opportunities will be guaranteed.
The Lagos-Badagry Expressway, for instance, is strategic in many ways. It is a major gateway to Nigeria’s West Coast neighbours such as Benin Republic, Ghana, Togo, and others. Apart from facilitating trade and commerce between Nigeria and these neighbours, the expressway will also cause developments along that route. The road also holds the promise of unlocking the huge tourism potentials in a historic place like Badagry. It is instructive to mention here that African-Americans are desperate to reconnect with the continent, and for them, Badagry for obvious reasons is the place to visit and possibly put down roots.
It is also our belief that the completion of this project will impact positively on the economy of the state because many Lagos citizens have invested in property and other businesses in this corridor, only waiting for the expressway to be completed so they can move in. Property and company taxes that will come from here can be imagined. They will be huge.
By its nature, rail transportation is a mass transit system which explains why the goal of the Blue Line is to reduce traffic gridlock in the metropolis, particularly along the Okokomaiko to Marina corridor. Besides, the project is also aimed to facilitate the development of economic activities.
In the estimation of Lagos residents and other keen-watchers of the project like us, the completion of the Blue Line, for instance, will usher in a new lease of life for the residents along that corridor; there will be the growth of businesses and sundry economic activities, improved standard of living and increased government revenue.
For these reasons coupled with the fact that the project is in the Lagos blueprint, we hold Governor Sanwo-Olu to his word and urge him to muster all the willpower to complete these projects by December 2022.
We are not unmindful of what 2022 means to an average politician in Nigeria. It is a pre-election year full of position alignment and re-alignment, deft political moves, horse-trading, etc. All these have the capacity to distract and divert attention and contest for available resources.
But, in the midst of all these and other conflicting needs of the state, we urge the governor not to renege on this social contract with the people. Critical infrastructure like these, anywhere in the world, is about the people; they are also about the economy. Lagos cannot afford to be different. And of course, we want to urge Babajide Sanwo Olu to know and note that History is waiting to judge him as regards how he has fared in relation to the pledged indices.
Will he succeed? This is the question whose answer will surely unravel in the fullness of time. This is precisely why we urge the Governor to keep his eyes on the ball; such that by the end of 2022, he will be able to beat his chest and say that: I have conquered!