Grappling with the transportation challenges of Lagos State with a growing population of over 21 million people who depend on an overstretched road network, the perennial problem of gridlock on Lagos roads is yet to abate, leading Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to kick start an ambitious light rail mass transit project, write Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha

It is not an uncommon sight to see Lagosians queuing up at bus stops or running after commercial vehicles on their way to and from work. Neither is the sight of vehicles meandering their way through hellish traffic like a beeline while drivers curse one another a strange view. It is even a common saying that Lagos traffic is an enigma: unpredictable and tiring. If you can survive Lagos traffic, then you can survive anything, so the saying goes.

Road traffic is a major challenge of urban cities, particularly those with limited transportation options. In Lagos State, a sprawling metropolitan city of area land size 999.6 km2 (385.9 sq mi) with one of the largest extensive road networks in West Africa, road traffic is an age-long conundrum that has befuddled different administrations such that their successes are often measured by their intervention in the transportation infrastructure. For instance, the late governor of Lagos State Lateef Jakande is credited for his various interventions in alleviating traffic congestions in his time.

Owing largely to its increasing population and the associated challenges, the success or otherwise of governance in Lagos State may be pegged on a few broad factors including, but not limited to security, waste management, traffic management and transportation.
A governor of Lagos may be adjudged a success or failure going by how well he handles these issues.

It was Jakande who introduced the odd-even traffic restriction policy in the city centre. Back in the 80s when he ruled, he devised a system where vehicles with registration numbers that began with an even and odd number are assigned alternate days of the week to access the city. For example, a vehicle with a plate number startng with an odd number such as 3 can only access the city centre on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. To further solve the traffic jams on Lagos roads, Jakande was responsible for the construction and rehabilitation of inner roads in the city such as Epe/Ijebu-Ode Road, Oba Akran Avenue, Town Planning Way, Alimosho-Idimu-Egbe Road, Idimu-Iba-LASU Road and Victoria Island/Epe Road. He also inaugurated the first State Traffic Management Authority known as Road Marshals.

Subsequent governors followed a similar line, launching different projects to overcome the traffic congestion in the growing city. The first democratic governor of Lagos State in the Fourth Republic, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu conceived the idea of a state-owned agency to ensure free flow of traffic and also reduce road accidents. It was established on July 15, 2000 to transform transportation system. LASTMA is a success story which has been copied by other states . The Tinubu administrator was in its twilight when it sought to implement the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in 2007. By the time his successor Babatunde Fashola, came into power, BRT became a regular sight on Lagos roads with a dedicated lane.

Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode , who became Governor of Lagos State in 2015, on the other hand dedicated his time in office to building modern bus terminals like the Oshodi, Obalende, Tafawa Balewa Square and Ikeja bus terminals, as well as the creation of 5000 new BRT project under the Bus Reform Initiative (BRI).

But with a growing population of over 21 million people in Lagos who depend on the road network, the perennial problem of road traffic is yet to abate. It is no news that Lagos is one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa. Therefore, having an organised transportation that will help in the easy movement of people and goods is too relevant to ignore. Calls to consider other alternatives of transportation such as waterways and railways have been louder over the years.

Grappling with the transport challenges of the state led to the establishment of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) which was assigned the Lagos Rail Mass Transit (LRMT) project. The agency was saddled with the responsibility to build the first modern rail-based public transport in the state. The LRMT network comprises six light rail transit (LRT) lines — red, blue, yellow, purple, green and orange — land one monorail (Victoria Island).

To be sure, the late Jakande was the first to propose a Lagos Metroline Project but the idea suffered a set-back as the government at the centre then, the Shehu Shagari-led National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was in a serious conflict with the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), which controlled Lagos State and refused to guarantee the external loan needed for the project. The idea was dumped in the dustbin of history when Jakande left the administrative seat as governor of Lagos.

History indicated that the Lagos tramway was one of the earliest public transport systems built within Lagos, carrying travellers, traders and workers from the train station at Iddo going to Lagos Island. It ran from 1902 to 1933 out of which 12 years (1902-1914) were utilized by passengers travelling from one place to another.

Tinubu in the early 2000s proposed developing a light rail network. After much consultations, it was formally announced in 2003 that a rail network would be constructed.

Despite the proposals, the railway dream would begin to take shape finally in 2008 when the Lagos State Government approved ₦70 billion for construction of the Okokomaiko-Iddo-Marina Blue Line, with an estimated completion date of 2011. Almost a decade later, the railway is yet to become a reality. While work is still in progress, the construction was derailed over the years for a myriad of reasons such as political interests and funding.

Fortunately, the rail network is about to come into fruition as the present governor of Lagos State Babajide Sanwo-Olu recently launched the commencement of the Red Line project. The 37km North-South rail route would run from Agbado to Marina with 12 proposed stations at Agbado, Iju, Agege, Ikeja, Oshodi, Mushin, Yaba, Ebute Metta (EBJ), Iddo, Ebute Ero and Marina.

The Red Line will be constructed in two phases. The first phase from Oyingbo to Agbado will be a 28km rail that shares track with the Federal Government’s Lagos-Ibadan Railway Modernisation Project and will have a dedicated track from Ebute Metta to Oyingbo. It will have nine stations, out of which three will be constructed within the Lagos Ibadan corridor by the Federal Government at Agbado, Agege and Ebute Metta. The remaining six will be constructed as independent stations at Iju, Ikeja, Oshodi, Mushin Yaba and Oyingbo. Phase Two, which will be mostly elevated like the blue line will have stations at Iddo, Ebute Ero and terminate at Marina where there will be an interchange to manage commuters from the red line, blue line and green lines. There will also be a BRT interchange at Marina.

A unique feature of the Red Line is the integration with the Ikeja Bus Terminal as well as a link to the local and international airports in Lagos. The proposed Ikeja Train Centre will have a skywalk that will connect commuters to the local airport as well as other bus terminals such as Oshodi. There will be adequate parking and commercial spaces. The red line concourse will be elevated for proper alignment of passengers. The rail line is expected to carry around 500,000 passengers a day at inception and over one million after completion. The duration of the journey is estimated at 35 minutes.

To facilitate smooth operations of the Red Line, the state will be constructing overpasses in different parts of the state. This it said will help eliminate interactions between the rail systems, vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The implementation of the overpasses will make it possible to remove all the existing manually operated level crossings, thereby providing grade-separated crossings that will enhance safety for both the rail systems and road users. During the construction of the overpasses, there will be road closures and diversions which may span 18 months. The government is putting in place adequate signage to help motorist as well as deploy Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) officers to direct traffic.

“We are ensuring that the alternative routes are motorable and putting in place adequate signage to help motorist. LASTMA are also in place to help in ensuring free flow of traffic. Before we close a a level crossing, we ensure there is a viable alternative in collaboration with Public Works Corporation (PWC),” explained Mr. Gbenga Omotosho, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lagos State.

The overpasses will be at Oyingbo, Yaba, Mushin and Ikeja and three extra at Illupeju, Jibowu and Fagba will be built by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

The Red Line is expected to start operations in the last quarter of 2022. The first phase of the Blue Line is projected to also be ready within that time frame. The project is concessioned to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Ltd.

A total of 263 owners of residential and business premises owners are so far affected by the railway construction. As such the state is compensating landlords and in a first move, tenants too. Some of them were recently issued with cheques as high as N70 million for their losses. Sanwo-Olu in his remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony which also doubled as a platform to pay compensation emphasised that Lagosians are not supposed to suffer for the development of the state.

Transportation and traffic management was one of the campaign promises of Sanwo-Olu, under an acronym, T.H.E.M.E.S., the six strategic development agenda of the Sanwo-Olu administration. This includes Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, making Lagos a 21st Century Economy delivering Entertainment and Tourism as well as Security and Good Governance.
The Lagos State Governor reiterated this at the official launch of the project, stating that his administration is committed to developing an efficient and sustainable transportation system that will improve mobility, promote economic growth, and enhance the living condition of Lagosians.

“It is without any doubt that we need to continue to invest in our transport infrastructure so that our people can meet their daily targets, and the economic aspiration,” he said.

By kick-starting the Red Line project, Sanwo-Olu demonstrated in practical terms that he understood the role, efficient transportation system plays in enhancing people’s quality of life as a major driver for social and economic development. The ultimate goal for the governor is to increase transportation choices for citizens. This he said will make the transport system an integrated one, “which we believe will be attractive, convenient, affordable, accessible and will reduce urban transportation challenges, and by extension reduce emission, will improve the quality of life, reduce pressure on our road networks, and integrate our land use development, our urban planning, and secure a long term financing for all of our investment plans.

“Our desire is to achieve and improve connectivity, amongst various transportation modes, making commuting within Lagos easy, as well as a business-like framework for every Lagosian and for our visitors. We believe it will reduce congestion, have more predictable travel journey, and improve the total GDP of our state.”

Indeed, the governor must increase transportation options for Lagosians as well as investors who troop into the state known as the financial hub of Nigeria, and to an extent Africa. As he rightly noted, transportation is the backbone of any economy and if Lagos is to shine as the megacity it advertises, it must nip traffic congestion in the bud.
Responding to a question, Mr. Glenga Omotosho, Lagos State Commissioner ofr Information and Strategy, was quick to emphasise that transportation is not all that is on the cards for Sanwo-Olu. The Lagos Governor, according to him, is set to leave other landmarks. He said, “In the next few days, as part of the administration’s anniversary, the Governor will be announcing new projects- the new Massey St. Hospital, which will be the largest in Africa; the Research Centre at the IDH, Yaba; the Mental Health Centre, Epe; Doctors Hostel, regional road, Lekki-Epe Expressway, Imota Rice Mill, biggest in Africa, housing projects and new schools.”

QUICK FACTS

*Road traffic is a major challenge of urban cities, particularly those with limited transportation options
*In Lagos State, a sprawling metropolitan city of area land size 999.6 km2 (385.9 sq mi) with one of the largest extensive road networks in West Africa, road traffic is an age-long conundrum that has befuddled different administrations such that their successes are often measured by their intervention in the transportation infrastructure

*Transportation and traffic management was one of the campaign promises of Sanwo-Olu, under an acronym, T.H.E.M.E.S., the six strategic development agenda of the Sanwo-Olu administration; this includes Traffic Management and Transportation, Health and Environment, Education and Technology, making Lagos a 21st Century Economy delivering Entertainment and Tourism as well as Security and Good Governance.

*The first civilian governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande introduced the odd-even traffic restriction policy in the city centre
*Jakande was responsible for the construction and rehabilitation of inner roads in the city such as Epe/Ijebu-Ode Road, Oba Akran Avenue, Town Planning Way, Alimosho-Idimu-Egbe Road, Idimu-Iba-LASU Road and Victoria Island/Epe Road. He also inaugurated the first State Traffic Management Authority known as Road Marshals

*Jakande was the first to propose a Lagos Metroline Project but the idea suffered a set-back as the government at the centre then, the Shehu Shagari-led National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was in a serious conflict with the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), which controlled Lagos State and refused to guarantee the external loan needed for the project. The idea was dumped in the dustbin of history when Jakande left the administrative seat as governor of Lagos

*The first democratic governor of Lagos State in the Fourth Republic, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu conceived the idea of a state-owned agency to ensure free flow of traffic and also reduce road accidents. It was established on July 15, 2000 to transform transportation system. LASTMA, as it is called, is a success story which has been copied by other states
*The Tinubu administrator was in its twilight when it sought to implement the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in 2007. By the time his successor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) came into power, BRT became a regular sight on Lagos roads with a dedicated lane

*Tinubu, in the early 2000s proposed developing a light rail network. After much consultations, it was formally announced in 2003 that a rail network would be constructed

*The railway dream began to take shape finally in 2008 when the Lagos State Government approved ₦70 billion for construction of the Okokomaiko-Iddo-Marina Blue Line, with an estimated completion date of 2011

*Almost a decade later, the railway is yet to become a reality. While work is still in progress, the construction was derailed over the years for a myriad of reasons such as political interests and funding
*Fortunately, the rail network is about to come into fruition as the present governor of Lagos State Babajide Sanwo-Olu recently launched the commencement of the Red Line project

*The 37km North-South rail route would run from Agbado to Marina with 12 proposed stations at Agbado, Iju, Agege, Ikeja, Oshodi, Mushin, Yaba, Ebute Metta (EBJ), Iddo, Ebute Ero and Marina.

*The Red Line will be constructed in two phases. The first phase from Oyingbo to Agbado will be a 28km rail that shares track with the Federal Government’s Lagos-Ibadan Railway Modernisation Project and will have a dedicated track from Ebute Metta to Oyingbo
*It will have nine stations, out of which three will be constructed within the Lagos Ibadan corridor by the Federal Government at Agbado, Agege and Ebute Metta. The remaining six will be constructed as independent stations at Iju, Ikeja, Oshodi, Mushin Yaba and Oyingbo.

* A unique feature of the Red Line is the integration with the Ikeja Bus Terminal as well as a link to the local and international airports in Lagos. The proposed Ikeja Train Centre will have a skywalk that will connect commuters to the local airport as well as other bus terminals such as Oshodi
The rail line is expected to carry around 500,000 passengers a day at inception and over one million after completion. The duration of the journey is estimated at 35 minutes.

*The state will be constructing overpasses in different parts of the state. This it said will help eliminate interactions between the rail systems, vehicular and pedestrian traffic
*The implementation of the overpasses will make it possible to remove all the existing manually operated level crossings, thereby providing grade-separated crossings that will enhance safety for both the rail systems and road users

*During the construction of the overpasses, there will be road closures and diversions which may span 18 months.
*The overpasses will be at Oyingbo, Yaba, Mushin and Ikeja and three extra at Illupeju, Jibowu and Fagba will be built by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Transportation

*The Red Line is expected to start operations in the last quarter of 2022. The first phase of the Blue Line is projected to also be ready within that time frame
*The project is concessioned to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Ltd.
*A total of 263 owners of residential and business premises owners are so far affected by the railway construction
*The state is compensating landlords and in a first move, tenants too. Some of them were recently issued with cheques as high as N70 million for their losses

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