Friday, 2nd June 2023

Drive time in Lagos: A reverse is an error Nigerians cannot afford

By Guardian Nigeria
06 February 2023   |   2:16 am
Living in Lagos can be overwhelming, from the constant increase in living costs to the usual challenges commuters ensure across the city.

International air travellers checking-in at Lagos Airport after over six-hour delay due to industrial action by NAHCO workers yesterday (Inset: Stranded passengers at the entrance of new international terminal in Lagos)…yesterday. PHOTO: WOLE OYEBADE

Living in Lagos can be overwhelming, from the constant increase in living costs to the usual challenges commuters ensure across the city. A decade ago, a journey from CMS to Ajah in the evening could take four hours or more. Superheroes have nothing on Lagosians regarding living in the city, especially those cute and well-trimmed Avengers. One thing is sure, we wake up every morning, throw on our superhero costumes and invade the city with one major goal: to win, to conquer.

If you can live in Lagos and succeed, you can live anywhere in the world. It is the commercial beating heart for Nigeria’s nearly 200 million people. The state sees busloads of Nigerians flow into its borders in search of opportunities. Lagos State demands innovative solutions to the critical challenges its people face – transportation, housing, poverty, health, and more.

Despite it all, one thing is glaring: There’s something special happening in Lagos. As a starry-eyed 21-year-old immigrant from Edo State lured to Lagos in 2009 by the promise of a better career, pop culture, urban lifestyle and unrelenting music on over ten radio stations, Lagos State has grown to become a home. And over 14 years as a resident, the city whose testimony was once covered with the cloak of darkness, gloom, and lost hope is emerging with undeniable light. Under the leadership of the current governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the transformation is the fastest-paced, but it is grindingly consistent, unceasing, and decisive, making Lagos a slow-going but persistently improving city-state.

The transformation process is slow, painstaking, and can be very unpleasant. In 2018, the governor made a promise to the citizens of Lagos state via his Twitter handle, “If elected, I shall immediately embark on the full restoration of the glory of Lagos and make you the people, the cornerstone of government and revamp the environment that has now become a cause of serious anxiety to Lagosians and relieve Lagos of the persistent gridlock that has made lives brutish for us.”

It’s been four years, and there has been actual progress. It may not be complete, but it is undoubtedly visible to unbiased observers. Slowly, Lagosians are watching his promise come to life. In these four years, we have witnessed the transformation in road infrastructure – current data shows that over 300 road projects in the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) have been completed, including the Lagos – Badagry Expressway up to Agbara, Agric Isawo Road linking Lagos Ibadan Expressway, Isuti Road dual carriageway which connects Igando –Egan road to the Isuti Jetty to enhance intermodal transportation system, Victoria Island – Lekki – Circulation Project Oniru Axis, Idowu Taylor and many others.

These road projects by Governor Sanwo-Olu’s administration are bringing about a high level of ease for Lagosians and have proven that he is truly a man of his word. Truly, we can attest to him being a capable, competent and tested hand to make Lagos greater than it currently is. One major issue that continues to raise its ugly head in Lagos State is the loss of lives on our roads. The stories have been heartbreaking, families have lost their loved ones, and fear has become an unwelcome visitor lurking in the hearts of Lagosians. However, in these four years, the death toll has reduced drastically since the construction of bridges in specific areas.

A total of 15 bridges are currently being constructed for this cause. The few of them which have now been completed are as follows: the construction of a dual Carriageway Bridge along Old Ota Road, Pen cinema, expansion of Ikotun – Egbe Bridge and extension of Iyana Ipaja Bridge, The Ojota/Opebi Link Bridges, Ogudu Alapere Link Bridge, Kosofe which crosses the outfall from Chinatown Alapere to Ogudu Road and 3rd Axial Expressway, which is currently ongoing.

This project has certainly brought about relief for many Lagosians. But being the Centre of Excellence certainly has both its advantages and disadvantages. One of these disadvantages, which should be at the top of the list, is its growing population. At 351,861 hectares, the state has the smallest land area in Nigeria but is the most populated. Such an increase has also led to some challenges in accessing transportation which has been tackled with the introduction of the LAGRide transportation system with 1,000 units of Sport Utility Vehicles [SUVs]. He also commissioned 4 Bus Terminals – Mafoluku, Yaba, Oyingbo and Ajah, constructed 14 new BRT stations, launched 500 units of First and Last Mile (FLM) buses as alternative means of transportation in addressing the security threat constituted by commercial motorcycles, popularly known as ‘okada’.

By March 2022, the Lagos Bus Service Limited (LBSL), which the 21-year-old took on his first public ride from CMS to Ajah in 2009, recently celebrated its 20 millionth passenger – an unprecedented landmark achievement. “Our government’s focal point shall be to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of the people of Lagos State.” Babatunde Sanwo-Olu made this promise to Lagosions on September 16th 2018. And we have watched his actions prove continuously that he has a heart sold out to Lagos State.

Across the country, Nigerians are witnesses to rising issues of robbery, banditry, kidnapping and corruption. Essentially, it has been challenging for over 40 million families and over 80 million people living below the poverty line. With inflation beating every pocket raggedly, more people are holding their governments and representatives responsible. As part of the millions of young Nigerians who have stopped believing in manifestos and well-designed promises, Lagos has been a sigh of relief. As West Africa’s economic powerhouse and Africa’s 4th largest economy, the state’s strategic importance leaves little room for error.

These are only but a handful of the massive transformations that have taken place under the leadership of Governor Sanwo-Olu, but the works speak entirely for themselves. If what Lagosians need from their leaders are empathy, competence, innovation and intelligence, it is clear that the former banker has proven himself. Choosing to ignore these visible transformations would be like buying a car and refusing to acknowledge the ease and comfort it brings to its owner.

*Beatrice Akwuruoha is a marketing consultant and founder of Infuse.*

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