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Non-completion of Lagos rail robbing residents of intermodal transportation facilities

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A lecturer at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Lagos, Dr. Olayinka Agunloye, in this interview with GBENGA SALAU, spoke on factors that may have facilitated the non-completion of the Lagos rail project, stressing how the delay has robbed intended users of service.

The Lagos rail project is about ten years now, why do you think projects are delayed?g
From the information given by the Lagos Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LAMATA), the delay in the completion of the rail project is not due to financial issues, but largely as a result of technical reasons.

For example, the recovery of right of way was a challenge. Upon overcoming the issue of right of way, there was the issue stage of alignment. For instance, there was one wrecked ship under the lagoon, which needed to be removed. Beside that, some of the public facilities along the corridor needed to be relocated, which all contributed in slowing the pace of things. The realignment of right of way was also an issue. So, basically, the project has been dogged more by technical reasons.

In view of the numerous failed deadlines, which usually lead to review of contract sum, many suspect there is something fishy with the rail project. Do think along this line as well?
From the trend of events, personally, I do not see any hanky-panky in the delay in completion of the project. Why I am saying so is that when you talk about technical issues in transportation, you cannot say this is the time that a particular issue that propped up in the execution of the contract would be resolved.For example, even as at 2015, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode still promised that the project would be completed by the end of the year. The fund is there as the project is not just funded from Lagos State internally generated revenue, as other stakeholders are driving it. So, the fact that we already know the source of funding for the project suggests to me that hanky-panky would not be a factor in the delayed completion. Also, the fact that the media representative of LAMATA at a time said the inflation that may have been incurred as a result of the delay would be taken care of by the government also suggests to me that the delay is more of technical issues.Also, when you look at the aspect of the Railway Act, I believe that the state would not want to do something outside the law, which would require that it realigns because realigning takes time.

But there is no way several deadlines would be missed without it impacting on the cost implication of the project?
One thing I know is that they must have factored that into the project cost and the bill of quantity. So, the financial implication of the delay in completion will be taken care of. But from available information, the government has said that it would bear the burden of the financial implication of the delay. So, to answer your question directly, somebody has to take responsibility and the state government is taking responsibility.

But wont taking responsibility for this extra cost affect adversely other ongoing projects that are beneficial to taxpayers, especially as the state is relying majorly on internally generated revenue to fund it? We might need to do some investigation into whether it will affect taxpayers or not. But from the look of things, I believe it will not have any negative effect on the taxpayers because the issue of tax is not coming in here, except there is indirect tax.

But it is taxpayersí money that should have been channeled to other needs that would be used to pay for the upward review of the contract sum?Of course, definitely that would have been considered from the inception. The difference is that other things they would have done with that money would probably not be attended to, and if the project has been completed, the money that is still going into it would have been channeled to other projects. But it does not have to do with increment in the normal tax to be paid by residents. There is also the perspective that from the first day of completion that ought to be 2011 till now, you can imagine the amount the huge sums of money that are still being poured into the rail project.

Are there socio-economic implications of the delay?
If the project had been completed, the travel cost and time for residents on that route would have been affected positively. Also, some goods and services along that route would have reduced too. Due to the hectic traffic on that route, as a result of the construction work, some workers may have lost their jobs.Additionally, that corridor would have served as the best transport corridor in Lagos; as a corridor that has the facility for intermodal transportation facilities. This is because if you are coming from Badagry, you can decide to go through not less than three modes. You can use the BRT buses, train or water. Since this project has not been completed, it has not given room for efficient use of the intermodal means of transport, which is not available in other corridors of the state.There are claims that cost of rail projects in Nigeria are on the high side, especially when compared with similar projects in other countries.

That could be a bit suggestive, as that might not really be the case. I have the feeling that projects in Port Harcourt might be a bit higher than project in Lagos. The reason this particular project might be more expensive could be the right of way and the terrain of the right of way. If your terrain goes through the lagoon axis, definitely the cost of the project would be higher than projects that would be executed on dry land. It is not just about Lagos, it is about the geography of the location of the project.

One of the reasons projects are more expensive in the Niger Delta is because of the amount paid to suppliers because it is not all suppliers that want to go to that area. This is aside the terrain, which is not very friendly for construction works. So, the peculiarity of the project and the geography of the location are the major determinants of the cost of projects.


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Olayinka Agunloye
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