Nigeria: Oshodi-Apapa - I Won't Surrender to Hydra-Headed Gridlock - - Sanwo-Olu

17 May 2021

It will be exactly two years that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu took over the reins of governance in Lagos on May 29.

Two weeks to the time, like a brilliant scholar, who is in a hurry to show his parents his report card, the governor reeled out his achievements after 714 days in office, saying he would have done more but for the COVID-19 pandemic. He also spoke on the challenges of governing the centre of excellence and why Lagos must get it right

On what he has done and the challenges since he became governor

I count our mandate by the days. For me, I know what it means to sleep and wake up every day and you have that huge challenge on you. It is a challenge of honour, of immense trust and a sense of belief that people have given to you. So, as tough as the job is and looking for that job and asking God to give you that job, it is also a very difficult job. So, two years into it, how would I with all sense of humility rate and rank myself?

I would say that we have actually not disappointed the people that gave us this mandate. We started this government with an economic agenda, which I'm sure you all know under the THEMES programme. And we all went into it with full sense of purpose, that we would work, break barriers, make audacious decisions and we would raise the level of governance.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 came in about 15 months ago, slowed us down in some areas extensively, because Lagos, all throughout, even up to now, continues to remain the epicentre. But it has actually not stopped us from achieving a lot of the things we had wanted to achieve because we realise that stories and excuses cannot be a thing that we're going to put forward.

So, if I take each of the pillars in the THEMES agenda, we have intervened extensively in each and every one of them.

The very first one which is traffic management and transportation was something borne out of what we asked our citizens during all of these times that what would you want us to do first for you and they said, just solve the traffic challenge for us. They said we should give them means of moving from one area to another very quickly and efficiently.

So, what have we done? We have in the last two years created, on an ongoing basis, an opportunity where we can utilise the three modes of transportation that is available for us in Lagos-rail, roads and waterways. For the rail, we have not completed it, but we are certain that before the end of our four years tenure, rail will move in Lagos.

Why do we say so? We have spent more money in the last two years than what we did in the last six years and we are confident now that we will take that project, two of them - the Blue Line, and the Red Line, to completion because we have seen what we called the financial closure. We have direct throughputs into how we can raise money to complete it. We have ordered rolling stock, especially for the blue line, which is the one coming on phase one from Mile 2 to Marina.

The two terminals that are remaining are the Mile 2 terminal and the Marina terminal. When you are driving in, immediately after Marina, you see that there is a big hole that they have started excavating, that is actually the construction for the terminal for Marina. And you can see that it is extended to right in front of the State House, Marina. That will be the last parking point for the Blue Line. So, we are convinced that we would see rail.

What about the Red Line?

The Red Line is even the most audacious. We are certain that in the remaining two years, we would have completed 10 stations. We have approved to build four overpasses; Federal Government is supposed to build another four for us but we are convinced because we have raised finance to build our own four overpasses, and the plan around the rolling stock is completed and is finalised. So, what are we saying, we're saying that in two years time, we believe that Lagosians will be moving on rail.

How about the Bus Rapid Transport system?

For buses, which is the BRT, we've commissioned over 600 buses in the course of two years and before the end of this month, we are also launching another 100 new high capacity buses. We are introducing what we call the Last Mile buses and we are starting with the first 350 buses. Almost 500 are around but we are starting with the first 350. They are small eight to nine-seater buses and they are called First Mile and Last Mile.

So, we are intervening in the three components of road infrastructure- the high capacity, the medium capacity and the tactics. We do not say that we have all of the money, but we want to continue to be an enabler in all of these things. So, we believe that before the end of these two years, by the time we add another 100 to it, we would have about 700 high capacity buses. On the Lagos Ride, we are actually building a small assembly to it where they will be producing because the plan is to have about 5000 at the end of the day and the work-plan is out.

The third component of transportation is the waterways. We are currently building 15 terminals concurrently in different parts of the state. We have in Liverpool, Ebute Ero, Ibeshe, Ita Omu, Okun-Aja, we have two in Badagry and so on. Six or seven should be completed before the end of the year.

So, what do we see? We see an integrated mass transportation system where our citizens will have options; options of we want to go on a bus, we want to go on the rail, or we want to go on the waterways. On the waterways as well, we are dredging, we are putting balls on the navigational system so that people will know how to navigate.

We are also building a command and control centre for the waterways because we know that is important. We have actually bought what we call search and rescue boats for LASWA. Our command and control is going to have cameras in some strategic places on the waterways. So that, indeed, people can be safe and be sure that we are not just throwing people into the big body of water

We are also looking at a single payment system for all our transportation system where a single card can take you on a bus, rail and waterways

You have done well in rehabilitating the Trade Fair Road along the Lagos/Badagry expressway, when are you taking it to Badagry and when do you plan to resolve the Apapa issue?

The problem in Apapa is not the roads but the gridlock. Let's be fair. Between Lagos State and Federal Government, a lot has been done on the roads. But to assure you that Badagry and Ojo are also not forgotten, we will start work on Buba Marwa that takes you to Ijegun jetty and we are also starting Ojo, Navy Town. Both of them have been awarded and I am sure if they are not there now, they will be there very soon. Straight to Badagry, we are doing four roads inside Badagry. But that carriage way, let's say it the way it is. Lagos state chewed more than itself.

This is a federal government highway, a transnational West African road corridor. Two weeks ago I was still in a meeting with the Honourable Minister of Works and Housing. Lagos State does not have the responsibility to carry that burden all through to the end. I was here when that decision was taken to move that road from Iganmu from two lanes on each side to five lanes. That's more than 100 per cent what we currently have. A lot of people don't know we are building ten lanes. The Badagry expressway is 10 lanes from four. That's what we are building. It's massive. What the Federal Government now says is that from Okokomaiko, they have awarded it up to Agbara. Even for them, it's a big embarrassment because on the West African route, there's meant to be a commitment around it.

They assured us that the contractor is there, but I don't know how their own numbers work. Sometimes, they spread it within, they could be there for as long. That's what I said earlier. People don't know whose responsibility it is. All they know is that they don't fix the roads and it's your name alone they know. So we will continue to carry that burden and have that conversation with the federal government to see what can be done.

But inside Badagry itself, we are doing great. And we have not stopped on the Badagry expressway. We are pushing it. We are in front of LASU now. While we appear to be slow is because there's a bridge that we are doing now. A massive bridge in front of Ojo Cantonment and LASU. It's a massive bridge because they need to do connections and all sorts. The bridge is there. That's what has slowed the work. So from there they will move to Okokomaiko. They have done the drainage. We have pleaded with them, two weeks ago, that the rainy season is coming, let them do the necessary palliative so that people can have relief while we look for money to do this. We are also coming to Alaba and Trade Fair. The road that leads from inside Trade Fair into the market, we are going to do it. And I will charge my Igbo brothers to do it for them.

Containers are the issues in Apapa. I will be the first to say that we were looking at that problem from one angle. it's more than one angle. There's a second angle that is equally as tough as the first angle. So we all said that it is the containers whether Apapa Port, or Tincan Port that's causing the problem. Not only are they the problem which we are attempting to solve but the tankers are the ones that nobody usually talks about. All of the pictures that have come out in the last three months are all tanker drivers that are mostly on the roads. Eighty per cent of those pictures are tanker drivers and what is the problem? Seventy per cent of PMS, in this country come from that axis. That's where the water is, the tank farms are, that's where the infrastructure has been built. Seventy per cent that goes to every part of this country, they take their products from that place.

So on a daily basis, you have about 3,000 to 4000 tankers or trailers that need to be loaded or something. From an engineering perspective, It's a major infrastructural problem. From the fact that we are not producing the oil to the fact that the tank farms are built around the same corridor that we have the ports. That's where all of them are. Before you say Jack Robinson, they NUPENG will say they are going on strike.

And nobody wants to hear there's no fuel in this country. It's a sabotage. Consistently, I have had that conversation to say that the same way we are controlling the flatbed that are carrying the containers if they don't have this or that... they are very strong unions. Calls will come from everywhere. So, we ask the DPR and NNPC, how do you give approval? Are they not meant to have enough parking space inside the tank farms which is what is supposed to have been done? If you have the capacity to be able to take 500 trailers or tankers, you should at least have 400 parking spaces but they don't have any. So everybody is now on the road.

The Call-Up system that we introduced with NPA is only for the flatbeds. There is no Call-Up for tankers. All the things that we have been talking about are containers, whether Tincan Port or Apapa Port. Once any of the ports does the Call-Up for 200 trucks, you must have a means to keep the 200 inside because once the Call-Up is done, that 200 trucks must leave and enter the premises not that they will get to your gate and you start telling a long story. And that's what happens. It's supposed to be electronic. It's supposed to be on your phone.. just scan it and boom.

But our typical Nigerians, we bombard them with questions. Even the fact that you are having a five-minute conversation with that trailer driver is queue because you've called all of them. And it is based on the call up that the security operatives and LASTMA allow them. So when they get there, they get stuck. They cannot go back, then the gridlock starts. So once you do your Call-Up, you must have the capacity to take that number inside of your premises.

What are the solutions?

It's you and I that will review it. I'm not throwing in the towel but I'm being fair. It's a hydra-headed problem. Nigeria's problem is pretty much complex because we are not even producing refined oil. So my take is this, a fairly short to medium term solution. Dangote is building a refinery, he's saying that half of the things he can help us distribute. We don't need to come into the refinery, he's building pipes to take it to different locations, so it's just plug and play so wherever it's taking it along the waterways.

Secondly, we are also building Lekki ports. Lekki ports for us will do two things, it will take bigger vessels than we currently have. The Apapa Port currently has 4000 MTU, Lekki port will do 18000 MTU, meaning it will take four times the vessel that currently passes Apapa now. Bigger vessels will drop these things quicker, but the idea is that it turns to a container terminal so that it can also supply and hold.

And we are progressively doing the road from Eleko Junction to Epe, we are turning it to six lanes from two lanes. And from Epe we have done the road. Ogun State is also doing its own from Ijebu-Ode to Epe. So right from Eleko Junction, you make a right, you can get out of Benin Express road in no time. Epe residents are my greatest friends now.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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