ALTHOUGH Lagos is the smallest state in Nigeria, with an area of 356,861 hectares of which 75,755 hectares are wetlands, it has the highest population, which is over five per cent of the national estimate. The state has a population of 17 million out of a national estimate of 150 million. The UN estimates that at its present growth rate, Lagos will be third largest mega city in the world by 2015 after Tokyo in Japan and Mumbai in India.
Of this population, Metropolitan Lagos, an area covering 37 per cent of the land area of the state is home to over 85 per cent of the population. The rate of population growth is about 600,000 per annum with a population density of about 4,193 persons per sq. km. In the built-up areas of Metropolitan Lagos, the average density is over 20,000 persons per square kilometre.
Governor Babatunde Fashola, last Tuesday, undertook an extensive tour of projects across the state and disclosed that his administration would launch a capital intensive housing estate of about 1008 flats at Ijora for the teeming populace, even as he said that the first phase of the state’s light rail project, from Iganmu to Marina in Central Lagos, would be completed in June this year.
He said: “People should be able to live close to the train station and walk about a kilometre to their homes. So it is a dream, it is beginning to come together. This is what we saw and we will deliver it. What we are going to do in Ijora from this year with about 1008 housing units is not consistent with a government that is demolishing.
“We are builders and not demolishers. We are focused; we know where the target is. We are locked on target and that is why we are all out here as a team from our Local Governments to House of Assembly, members of the House of Representatives. This government is tight, it knows where its goal is and it knows what its people expect of it and would deliver it.”
Projects inspected by the governor during the tour that lasted the entire day include Iganmu, Alaba and Mile 2 Light Rail stations, on-going projects at the Lagos State University, LASU; Maternal and Child Care Centre, FESTAC; Okota-Ago Palace Road, Ejigbo-Ajao Link Bridge, network of roads around Jimoh Ajao Street, Igando HOMS and Resettlement Relief Camp, Igando, on-going projects at Alimosho General Hospital (School of Nursing and Hostel among others) and Samuel Jinadu Street in Markaz area of Orile Agege among others.
Iganmu Light Rail project
Speaking at the Iganmu Light Rail Station where he also inspected the tracks already laid for the rail and the coach engine positioned as well as flagged off the track laying commencement, Fashola said while the first phase of the project would be ready in June, work on the rail would continue to Okokomaiko even as the expansion of the Lagos Badagry Expressway continues.
He told newsmen: “You know we have the two projects linked together, the road expansion and the Light Rail simultaneously. And now we are trying to see how we can take the Rail from the National Theatre to Marina. Hopefully, when that is done, we can heave a sigh of relief. Though there is still work to be done, but so far so good.
“This is what we do with the money which we borrow; we do not borrow money to pay salaries, we don’t borrow money to run our overhead. We are investing it in infrastructure. This is the type of transportation that I dream for this country; this is the type of transportation that I dream for this state and not mass transportation by motorcycles.”
He recalled his visit to Ajah Ferry Station recently saying the station links with the Ferry Terminal in Ikorodu as well as the one in Mile 2 adding, “This is what we have been talking about. It may be taking sometime but this is the dream we have, it is manifesting itself more clearly”.
Noting that China opened what is, perhaps, the fastest high speed rail in the world that covers about 300 kilometres per hour, Fashola declared, “Why can’t that happen here? It is really no rocket science, if we can’t invent it, we can buy it and that is what we are doing. We are buying facilities to have it installed here”.
Fashola, who had earlier addressed some residents of Iganmu at the venue on the need to keep the surroundings of the project clear of refuse, stressed the need for them to take ownership of the project, pointing out that no traveler on the train would like to be seeing refuse on the right and left sides of the Light Rail when it finally becomes functional.
Also, after inspecting the Mile 2 Jetty, built by first civilian governor of the state, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Fashola, noted that when he visited the Jetty three years ago “all sorts of things had happened. People had actually built on the property, government property. It was a walk back”.
However, the state government later reclaimed the premises. The boats in the water were left there and they are aluminum boats. “Aluminum boats don’t die; so before the end of this year, those five boats will be back fully retrofitted, with new engines, new seats and new navigation systems. And so we are adding another five boats to our Lagos Ferry Service in addition to the two we got in December. That gives us seven.”
Noting that there are other operators who are running metro ferry plaza, Fashola declared, “if we finish the retrofitting of the Mile 2 boats and Mile 2 Terminal, it means that the old waterway running from this place to Marina is back and available to people of Amuwo Odofin, Mile 2 and all others and this will extend now to Oke-Afa where we are building another jetty in the course of this year.”
What it will translate into is that residents can get down at Mile 2 rail terminus which is about 300 metres from Mile 2 and take the ferry boat to Marina. “This is the inter-modal transportation that have started falling into place”, the governor said.
Lagos-Badagry road expansion
On the progress of work on the Lagos-Badagry Road expansion, the governor said what is going on now is soil replacement process as shown by the observed heaps of sands because the soil in the area has become unsuitable having been used as a refuse dump over the years.
He said there is also a pipe network just as there is a need to take care of a gas pipeline and the relocation of electricity cables, explaining that construction workers cannot just go in and remove PHCN cable without getting the PHCN involved. “We are at the stage where we are relocating facilities. That is why to the uninformed, it would appear as if we have stopped work. We have not stopped work; relocation of those facilities is going on.”
The issue of relocation is also on going as compensation is being given to people who had to give up their properties so that the work can get done. He expressed hope that by the time casting and preparation of all the concrete which are going on behind the scene, and the relocation were concluded, the pace of the project would be accelerated.
The governor was not specific on date of completion, which he tied to challenges that are very observable and those that are not very observable but surfaces on the field and have to be solved. He also identified funding as one of the determinants, adding that it was one of the reasons he went to the House of Representatives to appeal for the approval of a second tranch of 200 million dollars out of the 600 million dollars World Bank loan which the government intends to use to partly finance the project.