Lagos: State of shimmering lights

College Road, Ogba, Lagos

MRS Caroline Fregene had taken a commercial bus from Oshodi to Orioke bus stop in Ejigbo to spend the weekend with her grandchildren. When the conductor led the elderly woman out of the bus at her destination, she looked around and told him she had not got there.

“I told you I was going to Orioke,” she said. “This is Orioke,” the conductor replied. “No,” the elderly woman insisted. “There are no streetlights in Orioke that I know.”

“Mama, Ambode don bring street lights,” he told her and jumped into the vehicle.

Dramatic exchanges such as this are becoming routine in the transport corridors of the towns and cities of Lagos State, where shimmers of street lights welcome citizens home from work every evening and see them off every morning. The streetlights are chasing darkness out of neighbourhoods and putting pimps and pickpockets, who lurk in corners to waylay citizens out of business.a

Commercial drivers are earning more by extending their business hours till late in the night and unemployed drivers on standby for colleagues who close early, target the night shifts. More factories now run shifts at ease, assured that security of their workers in the small hours is available.

Renowned economist, Professor Pat Utomi, who doubles as founder of the Lagos Business School, was returning to Lagos when he looked through the window and beheld the city in shimmering splendour. Speaking at a book launch recently, he said: “It is as if you are in London.”

Community leaders in Lekki, Ikorodu, Badagry where communities in darkness for decades are stepping into light share the sentiments. They are waiting for the metering of their homes so that the light can lighten the burden of living. Gradually, the dream of making the state a 24-hour economy where production, exchange, distribution and consumption take place round the clock is looking real. So far, networks of roads totalling 600 km have been lit and the Electricity Board restored lights in 366 locations.

Driving through Third Mainland Bridge, Ikeja and environs, Berger to Iyana-Oworonshoki, Murtala Muhammed Airport Road, Okota through Isolo to Ikotun, Sango to Onipetesi at night comes with renewed vision and security. But it is not an urban phenomenon. Communities in Lekki, Badagry, Alimosho received over 100 transformers to ensure efficient distribution of power to their homes.

To make this dream come true, the state government relies on five gas-powered Independent Power Projects located in  Akute, Alausa, Mainland, Island and Lekki Peninsula to supply energy to the streetlights and other public facilities. Looking for energy to keep Lagosians ahead has also led to the deployment of solar power in schools and primary health care centres across the state under the Ambode administration.

The journey, says Akinwumi  Ambode, governor of Africa’s fastest-growing business capital, has just begun. The future is to provide energy security for Lagos State by providing the state’s electricity needs internally and cutting reliance on the national grid.

That assignment is the task before Wasiu Oluwo, the Commissioner for Energy & Mineral Resources and the Advisory Committee on Power, a public-private think-tank of industry leaders. Soon, the dream of an independently powered Lagos, which Bola Tinubu, the pathfinder who set the state on this course as governor between 1999 and 2007, saw, shall come to pass.

Business nests on the time value of money. The state government knows this and makes it happen by improving conditions conducive to commerce and industry. So, decongesting perennial gridlock at junctions is one of the ways to deliver this value. Flyovers being built at Abule-Egba and Ajah will reduce hours spent in traffic.  A multi-layby facility at Oworonshoki  and the expansion of road to fasten traffic at Alapere has already cut bumper-to-bumper movement from two hours to 40 minutes on Third Mainland Bridge and  improved productivity.

New highways are emerging. The dual carriageway from Epe to Itoikin will end 30 years of anxiety. The Fourth Mainland Bridge project set up by a consortium of investors at more than N500 billion will keep Lagosians in productive motion. To reduce human obstacles to traffic flow, more footbridges are springing up and the old ones are being fixed at Berger, Mile 12, Oko Filling, Olopomeji, Anthony among others. Commuters are safer and better.

From the highways, construction and rehabilitation continues to the major roads. The roads include Ajasa Command, Ago Palace Way, Ejigbo-Idimu, Meiran, Okota-Isolo-Ejigbo, Ajara-Erekiti-Badagry, Mushin- Isolo, Freedom Road, Lekki, LASU-Iba and the network of major roads in Epe Township. Indeed, the inner roads, which empty commuters to the highways daily, appear to be getting the greatest attention of the administration, as no fewer than 360 inner roads have been restored.

Traffic management is taking a leap with the on-going construction of Oshodi inter-change which will provide three terminals and shopping area while distributing movement of passengers and vehicles efficiently to other parts of the megacity. And to prepare the grounds for more inter-modal traffic, the state is building more jetties. The Ibeshe Terminal has been completed and new jetties are being built at Ebute-Ero and Oworonshoki.

Domestic air traffic is also emerging as a part of the Lagos reality with the decision of investors to build two airports in the Lekki axis of the state.

Projects coming on stream include  Epe and Badagry Marina, waterways infrastructures, Ilubirin Mixed Development, Thomson Reuters GIS platform, first DNA Forensic Laboratory in West Africa and the first Medical Park in the country.

Governor Ambode’s decision to invest in communities as the closest tier to the citizenry has begun a revolution and changed the calculus of power. In October, 2015, he established the Office of Communities & Communications with the mandate to encourage the communities to take ownership of government. This clarion call has woken up the 3, 241 community development associations, the 57 community development committees and myriad of residents’ associations across the state. The litmus test is the monitoring of the 114 road projects being built across the 57 council areas in the state by the concerned CDAs.

On the occasion of his first anniversary, he held a great reception for people with disabilities and appreciated the contributions of persons who have excelled in their chosen professions undeterred by the physical limitations of birth or circumstance. It is now state policy to give room to persons living with disabilities on public transportation. It is a cardinal rule of employment to accommodate persons with disabilities in the civil service. A N500m fund to empower the disabled has been launched.

As soon as Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, the newly –elected governor of Lagos State took the oath of office on May 29, 2015 with a promise to protect every Lagosian and bring prosperity to every home. A massive roll-out of anti-crime equipment to enable the police and other security forces combat the criminal gangs on air, at sea and on road raised the level of vigilance and displayed the coercive capacity of the state to return fire for fire.

The  first set of equipment, which cost a whopping N4.765billion,  included 100 four-door saloon cars, 55 Ford Ranger Pick-Up vans, 10 Toyota Land Cruiser Pick-Ups, 115  power bikes, Izuzu trucks, three helicopters, two gun boats and 15 Armoured Personnel Carriers. All the equipment were fitted with revolving lights, siren and public address system, vehicular radio communicators and other security gadgets. To motivate the men, the government procured bullet proof vests, uniforms and expanded the insurance and death benefits of security officials.

The second set, launched on the administration’s first anniversary  cost N1.85billion.

Another interesting development is the inauguration of the Emergency Rescue Management Centre, mobilized with heavy duty equipment that can respond and manage disasters at short notice.

The preparedness has made it easier for the government to confront the new wave of economic crimes such as bunkering of petroleum products and extortion-based activities such as militancy, kidnapping, land grabbing and cultism. A committee to track land-grabbers works round the clock to nab them in the act. The anti-kidnap teams in the police has busted several incidents most notably the case of three students of Barbington Macaulay College.