Friday, 16 September 2022 06:54

How the Tinubu-Oluomo partnership underdeveloped Lagos transport sector - Justice Faloye

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Justice Faloye Justice Faloye

When one considers the statistics from Lagos Metro Area Transport Authority that 80% of the 22 million Lagosian commuters either walk (8.8m) or use ‘Danfo’ (9.9m) everyday, it becomes clear that the world's most populous Black city, Lagos has had its economic development arrested for 23yrs due to  Tinubu's failure in Lagos transportation development. The transport networks to an economic center are like veins carrying blood to and from the heart to all parts of the body, which when choked squeeze out life from the economic system, resulting in stunted growth.

With statistics showing that there are 6 ‘danfos’ to every kilometer, one can see why there is permanent traffic congestion on Lagos Roads, costing N4 trillion annually. To make matters worse for Lagos commuters that spend an unfair amount of their productive life in traffic, 14.2 miilon productive hours daily, Tinubu extorts billions through the MC Oluomo gang that muscles out levies on the danfos and other private operators.

To the casual observer, Lagbus are signs of a responsive modern transport policy, but their effectiveness in mass transportation of Lagosians are less than the single Federal government railway line resuscitated by Jonathan Goodluck. A Lagbus bus stop is 20 mins away from the average Lagos home. Unfortunately Tinubu and his APC governors have taken over a dozen years to build a simple 12 kilometer metroline from Mile 2 to Marina, at several times the standard cost and time that the same Chinese company built in other African countries. I

n Nigeria, where we need at least 5,000 extra kilometers of railways crisscrossing the land, at this rate it would take until the next century with leaders like Tinubu, the real ‘Baba Go Slow’.

Apart from the lure of extorting billions from Lagos commuters in the name of raising IGR, it is obvious that Tinubu and his boys don't know the importance of a functioning transport system in economic development. Despite not providing adequate public transportation for Lagosians, those that escape the trauma of danfo by using their private cars are subject to roads blocked by irresponsibly parked trailers.

For several months, the Sanwo-Olu government couldn't be bothered that two out of three trunk roads (Western Avenue and Oshodi expressway) were blocked by parked trailers and the urgent need for their forceful eviction. Not until a visit by President Muhammadu Buhari, when he had to go through Western Avenue, did Sanwo-Olu order the relocation of the parked trailers, after so many months of traumatic congestion and avoidable car accident deaths.

The ancestral approach to modern transportation couldn't be more obvious when the Lagos government decided to conduct roadworks simultaneously on Third Mainland, Western Avenue and Mile Two/Iganmu, effectively strangulating economic flow of the citycenter. As we speak, a fire around Apongbon has kept the road leading to Lagos economic center closed for several months in a modern world where Chinese build entire roads in a month. Apart from the major routes constantly blocked, majority of the 2,600 kilometers of roads are in bad state.

Some might think that maybe since Lagos is a port city with islands, Tinubu would have had the vision to develop water transport. But water transport only caters for 74,000 of the 22 million Lagosians despite the traffic congestion suffered by commuters for several hours between Ikorodu and Lagos Island. Considering the Lagos economic center being an Island, with only 74,000 people acessing it through water transport, one would have expected more bridges or tunnels to reduce traffic. While London with just one river has 34 bridges to serve 8 million people, New York made up of islands and with similar population size to Lagos has hundreds of bridges and tunnels. Yet, Tinubu's Lagos has a mere 4 bridges for 25m people. The only bridge built by Tinubu and his people was the one going from the street he lives, Bourdillon Avenue to Lekki Phase 1.

Nigeria has 195,000km of roads out of which only about 60,000km are tarred. We need about 3,0000 km of new standard gauge railway. At least 3 West to East railway lines - Lagos-Calabar coastline, the Ilorin to Yola Middlebelt line and Sokoto to Maiduguri Sahel line. Nigeria's single most important economically liberating infrastructure is the Lagos-Calabar line, whose multiplier effects in linking the 3 productive regions will increase the Nigerian economy by at least 1,000% in ten years. Like Tinubu whose only contribution to Lagos bridges was one built from his street to the next island, the British built our existing railways for their selfish exploitative agenda, which only run from Southern ports to Northern desert fringes, just to drain Nigeria of its cash crops and dump their manufactured goods, through seaports linked to their own isles.

Railways not only transport people and goods, but develop local economies along its routes and stations, which brings about near full employment. The impact of railways on industrialization and economic development used to be the most popular topic for Economics graduates’ final projects back in the Eighties, especially for those of us that also took up the two electives of Transport and Urban Economics. Development economics acknowledges railways are a basic requirement for economic development, heavy manufacturing and an industrial oriented culture. Railways and their related economies are major employers in UK, USA and other industrialized nations. While water transport made the British Isles Great by transporting slaves and their produce across its colonies worldwide, the United States of America, a continental agricultural country like Nigeria, became industrialized and a world power due to the 1800s Railroads boom, linking its cotton plantations to major cities and ports. Linking all Southwest, Southeast and Southsouth states by rail will make Nigeria Great.

Development economics informed the decision to push for internal economic integration and linkages, as opposed to colonial exploitation, resulting in the commissioning of the over a thousand mile Lagos-Calabar line that would open up the South, enabling states to build railways to link the mainline to their states. The Jonathan government signed an agreement with the Chinese to finance and build the $12b Lagos-Calabar railway, which would have been China's single largest foreign investment. Unfortunately the APC government sabotaged the project, either out of ignorance or as a concession to those who supported them to power.

On APC coming into power, following Amaechi's irrational theartrics on a China bound plane to stop Finance ministry officials from attending planned talks, the APC government ended up cancelling the dream agreement with the Chinese that had both the money and experience. APC re-awarded it first to GE USA that neither had the finance or experience, before hawking it to Russia. The project is now mired in election time propaganda that the Lagos-Calabar railway line would be financed by the British Standard Chartered Bank that is obviously out of its depth in finance and expertise for such a project.

The only hope of continuing this most important economic infrastructure across the South is a regime change that could mend fences with those financially and technically capable, and show we are serious. A candidate like Peter Obi and especially his vice presidential candidate, Datti Baba-Ahmed with a PhD in Economics can understand the economic importance and urgency of the railway to tackle employment, industrialization and economic development as soon as possible.

There is also the strong question of integrity and truthfulness, just as we don't have the clear perception of what is happening to the Lagos-Calabar railway, what is clear to Lagosians is while Tinubu/Sanwo-Olu Metroline contract claims to be 29 miles from Marina to Okokomaiko, the only sign of work is the 12 miles of work is from Marina to Mile Two. It has taken Tinubu over 12 years to build a 12-kilometer metroline from Mile Two to Marina, so it would take him to the end of next millenia to complete our much needed Lagos-Calabar and other other West-East lines for economic integration.  

Nigeria needs a vibrant development focused leadership to give us the Big Push in transportation essential for industrial takeoff. Not one with ancient rent-seeking agbero perspectives to pull handbrakes on our transportation and manifest destiny as leaders in Africa.

Nigeria desperately needs a leader, not only for railways but roads and water transport, to empower our economy to a productive stage. Obviously, Tinubu has shown over the last 23 years of retarding Lagos development that he is incapable of laying the foundation of an  integrated transport system to integrate Lagos, the smallest but most populous state, not to talk of Nigeria.

Rather than reinforcing failure by promoting Baba Go Slow of Lagos, Sanwo-Olu and the MC Oluomo gang to arrest and exploit Nigeria's transportation system, Lagosians should rise to free themselves from Agbero transportation model by bringing to an end their 23-year hegemony by voting them out in the next governorship election, if they don't want to wait till next century to catch up with other major African city transportation systems that have overtaken them over the last decade.

It is not rocket science to turn around the transport system in Lagos and we are seeing young politicians, like the MIT trained Gbadebo Rhode-Vivour, Lagos governorship candidate, present clear and exhilarating plans for Lagos Transport systems with a compassionate human face to deal with the trauma of Lagos traffic congestion. While the over 1,000 mile Lagos-Calabar lines are the must-have for Nigeria, Lagos being small needs less than 100 miles, from Marina to Ajah Axis and Marina to split into lines to cover Northern Lagos Metropolis, which is very achievable within 5yrs of a serious government, unlike the past 23 years that took a mile a year.

Investment is not only required to buy more water boats, but to visibly increase emergency rescue units that could convince more people of its safety.  The Lagos-Ikorodu bridge is also a must to link the two heavily populated areas of Ikorodu and Ajah. All these could have been done if not for Baba Go Slow's focus on taxing people without infrastructure, to sustain a political structure of thugs and touts. We need people with a vision of modern trains, bridges and other transport modes at the heart of our transportation system, not thugs extorting the masses.

WE MOVE.. even better by freeing Lagos.

  • Justice Faloye is the author of The Blackworld: Evolution to Revolution