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EASING TRAFFIC CONGESTION: How Lagos is unlocking business potentials

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•N500 billion Fourth Mainland Bridge set to keep state in productive motion
•360 inner roads restored

By Olasunkanmi Akoni

Notwithstanding the current economic recession and security challenges, transformation is ongoing across Lagos State. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had, in his 2016 new year broadcast to residents, assured of his commitment to ensuring that the state witnessed improvement in infrastructural development, job creation and security.

*Third Mainland bridge
*Third Mainland bridge

“2016 will be a ground breaking year for the good people of the state,” he had promised.
In the spirit of continuity, Ambode expressed commitment to the state Development Plan (2012-2025) structured under four pillars: Social development and security, infrastructural development, economic development and sustainable environment.

Whereas Lagos is Nigeria’s economic nerve centre, the pillars are geared towards further unlocking the state’s business potentials.
Ambode added: “The challenges we face today, as a state, are good enough ingredients to bring out the best of all of us. Together, we shall push forward and not look back; with our hands firmly on the plough, we would work hard to tackle poverty, ignorance and social decadence in our state.”

Acknowledging the current economic downturn in the country, the governor stressed that in order to sustain the progressive and radical transformation of his predecessors, his administration must redouble efforts, be creative, innovative and be committed to excellence in all fronts.

Doing business with ease
Decongesting perennial gridlock at junctions is one of the ways to making Lagos the preferred destination for business.
The Ambode administration knows this and that is why it is creating a conducive atmosphere for commerce and industry. Like the time it takes you to get to work, keep an appointment or conclude transactions to achieve that, the government works round the clock to keep the traffic flowing.
Some of the measures in place include the ongoing construction of flyovers being built at Abule-Egba and Ajah aimed at reducing hours spent in traffic; multi-layby facility at Oworonshoki  and the expansion of road to fasten traffic at Alapere which has already cut bumper-to-bumper movement from two hours to 40 minutes on Third Mainland Bridge and  improved productivity.
New highways are also emerging. The dual carriageway from Epe to Itoikin is expected to end 30 years of carnage and hardship on the axis. The Fourth Mainland Bridge project, set up by a consortium of investors at over N500 billion, is also said to keep Lagosians in productive motion.
To reduce human obstacle to traffic flow, more footbridges are springing up and the old ones are being fixed at Berger, Ojota, Mile 12, Oko Filling, Olopomeji, Anthony, among others, with commuters safer.
From the highways, construction and rehabilitation continues to the major roads. The roll call: Completed 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, are getting the greatest attention of the administration. At the last count, over 360 inner roads had been restored.

At the fourth Town Hall meeting since he became governor, the mammoth crowd that besieged the Muslim Praying Ground, Badagry gave the impression that he was still on the campaign trail.

This was going to be a different ball game, afterall; instead of addressing the general assembly of the people from the constituents in the Lagos West Senatorial District, the largest and most populous of the three in the state, Ambode took them in segments, youths, People Living with Disabilities, workers unions and non-governmental organizations, community elders and political stalwarts.

His words: “Today’s town hall meeting, the fourth in the series, gives us the opportunity to meet with the people of Lagos State to hear directly from you about your needs and suggestions on how we can serve you better.”

This drive for closer civic engagement reflects the passion of the governor to bond with the people and bring empathy into public service. For a naturally reticent high performer, the interactive research into popular thinking was indeed a grab for the details of the yearnings of the common man on the street and doggedness to bring change into their lives.

Such antecedents were recorded during the third town hall meeting in Ikorodu when a welder requested from the governor and got a welding machine and generator. A community seeking the rehabilitation of Ibeh Road also got what it asked. Some say he was born with the attributes; others believe that 27 years of managing the accounts of local governments and funding the needs of the poor and the under-privileged have nurtured a soft heart for those on the fringes of life.

Gradually, the vision of Ambode is taking roots in the mind of the people.
Cognisant of how security can help business to grow, the administration rolled out a massive anti-crime equipment to enable the police and other security forces combat criminal gangs by air, at sea and on road, and raised the level of vigilance and coercive capacity of the state to return fire for fire.

N4.8b security equipment
The first set of equipment, made available to the security forces which cost N4.765billion,  include 100 4-door saloon cars, 55 Ford Ranger Pick-Up vans, 10 Toyota and Cruiser Pick-Ups, 115  power bikes, Izuzu tucks, three helicopters, two gun boats and 15 Armoured Personnel Carriers. The equipment were fitted with revolving lights, siren and public address system, vehicular radio communicators and other security gadgets. To motivate the personnel, government procured bullet proof vests, uniforms and expanded the insurance and death benefits of security officials.

The second set of equipment, launched on the administration’s first anniversary, comprised 140 Ford Rangers, 335 power bikes fitted with communication gadgets, bulletproof vests and other kits valued at N1.85billion.

The vehicles and equipment were distributed among the 107 police stations and 13 police area commands in Lagos State. Other beneficiaries include the Customs Service, Immigration Service, the Nigeria Army, Airforce, Navy, DSS, AIG Zone 2, Civil Defence, Federal Road safety Corps, LASTMA, NDLEA, Lagos State Task Force and the Nigerian Prison Service.

The Ambode regime also inaugurated the Emergency Rescue Management Centre, mobilized with heavy duty equipment that can respond and manage disasters at short notice. This armada of armaments in the hands of the security forces was followed by the re-branding of the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, with a new emblem to demonstrate swiftness and readiness to go for the jugular of criminal offenders.

Yet, without intelligence on the activities of hoodlums, the equipment and men would be ineffective. This has led to renewed interest in neighbourhood security and collaboration with local voluntary vigilante groups to provide information and activate the uniformed forces. With the toll free number, 767 as the code, citizens are tipping off the police on the men who make their environment ungovernable.

A critical role is played by the Neighbourhood Watch, the state’s eyes and ears in the communities, whose reports on black spots feed the logistics of the RRS.
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. An anti land-grabbing bill in the state was passed and signed into law by Ambode. The anti-kidnap teams in the police had busted several incidents most notably the case of three students of Barbington Macaulay College, the Iba monarch while cultists are raided daily and made to face the wrath of the law.

The governor’s clear declaration to the men of the underworld that Lagos would be too hot for them sent the right signals to the appropriate quarters. There were reports that most now hibernate in the border communities. Inter-state teams have been launched to flush them out to further keep Lagosians in peace and business growing.

On June 22, 2016 the administration completed rehabilitation work on the dilapidated Berliet Bus Stop on Apapa- Oshodi Expressway, which had been neglected for several years.

The impact of this is not lost on Lagosians as this road leads to the foremost Lagos ports through which imported goods are conveyed by road to the metropolis and all parts of the country.

On August 11, 2016, Ambode commissioned the first state-owned helipad for medical emergencies in Nigeria at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, disclosing that the upgrading of the 247-bed and five theatre suites for pregnant women, popularly called Ayinke House, would be ready for use by 2017.

The Epe touch
That a complete rural or a semi-urban environment could be transformed into a 21st century urban status in the face of enormous economic and security challenges Nigeria is currently facing may appears a mirage. But the reality on ground is that an unprecedented transformation is ongoing in Epe.

To those familiar with Epe, the township is one of the oldest six divisions that comprised of Lagos State. Others are Ikorodu, Badagry, Lagos Island, the Mainland and Ikeja. But Epe has been less fortunate to witness any form of modern touch.

By stroke of luck or the divine intervention, a new dawn has berthed in Epe, courtesy of Ambode, who is turning the once agrarian/fishing community into a huge construction site.

Ambode, thirsty for urban renewal scheme vision of the entire state, launched two projects aimed at Epe transformation: infrastructure provision and tourism development.

During the flagged off ceremony of what officials described as “the world-class Epe-Marina Lagoon reclamation project”, the latter was aimed at giving a quantum leap to the tourism potentials of Lagos State. But to make tourism development meaningful, it was considered that road construction became imperative.

The governor stated that the lagoon reclamation projects in Epe and Badagry, upon completion, would look like that of Dubai in United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Epe-Marina Lagoon reclamation project is a complete redevelopment of project site to facilitate development and promote tourism and it comes with sand filling to the lagoon up to about 200 meters and dualization of the network of roads in the axis with functional walkways.

Newly built Slip Road at Alapere, Ketu by Lagos State Government commissioned on Saturday, September 17, 2016.
Newly built Slip Road at Alapere, Ketu by Lagos State Government commissioned on Saturday, September 17, 2016.

Speaking on why the Epe-Marina and Badagry-Marina projects were embarked upon simultaneously by the state government, he said: “We want to actually duplicate what you see in Dubai-Marina. This is a whole stretch of two kilometers of real estate and new tourist centres that we are putting in Epe and Badagry at the same time.
“We believe strongly that coming out from our retreat that we said we are going to grow the IGR of Lagos State by 2017 to N30billion and 2018 to N50billion, we believe that some of these projects that we are commencing now are just inlets to our dream of growing the IGR.

“We know that by the time we are expanding tourism potentials of Badagry and Epe at the same time, we will be able to get new investors that will be able to come to our new locations to do other things beyond what you see about recreation, tourism or entertainment and then get a whole lot of investments into Lagos State. This is part of our dreams and dreams do come true.

We are looking at the future of tourism from both axis. You cannot put tourism in those places without doing the infrastructure that is required to allow people to come in and that is why we are also doing the road network,” the Governor said.

Governor Ambode, who equally inspected the on-going dualization of about 25 network of roads in Epe, said the massive investment of government in the area was part of the grand plan to transform the axis and same was in line with the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) project.

He expressed satisfaction with the level and pace of work done so far, saying that the quality was of international standard.
However, observers, especially, real estate practitioners, expressed optimism that the projects, upon completion, would decongest the heartland of Lagos as people would be encouraged to move to Epe and Ibeju-Lekki axis.

“And by implication, land will continue to appreciate as the axis is one of the best terrain for real estate development in Lagos State”, said Mr. Dipo Adesegun, a developer, based in Lekki Phase 2. Ambode was also of the same optimism by saying that with the expansion, the whole lot of Epe and Ibeju-Lekki axis will be developed.

“We are inspired to see how we can look at the phase two of this project as quickly as possible. This road dualization is expected to be completed in 16 months but because we are ahead of schedule, we are looking at the first quarter of next year.

“With this, we have just injected 30 kilometers of standard roads into Epe and the meaning of that is of course changing the economy of Epe Township, real estate will be boomed and we are encouraging commerce and industrialization.

“This project is the backbone of the Lekki Free Trade Zone, Deep Seaport and the proposed Airport. All the State Government is doing is stimulating the economy and that is what is happening here,” he said. However, the road network project stands out as one ambitious vision that has come to place Epe on the map of the fastest growing community in Lagos with the possibility of attracting migration from the metropolis.

Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs.) Oluranti Adebule (middle), cutting the tape to commission the Slip Road in Alapere, Ketu, being supported by member, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Tunde Buraimoh (left); Chairman, House Committee on Transportation, Hon. Mojeed Fatai; Managing Director, Planet Project Limited, Mr. Biodun Otunola (3rd left); Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Prince Anofi Elegushi (3rd right); his counterpart for Food Security, Mr. Ganiu Okanlomo Sanni (2nd right) and Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Engr. Adebowale Akinsanya (right) during the Commissioning on Saturday, September 17, 2016.
Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs.) Oluranti Adebule (middle), cutting the tape to commission the Slip Road in Alapere, Ketu, being supported by member, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Tunde Buraimoh (left); Chairman, House Committee on Transportation, Hon. Mojeed Fatai; Managing Director, Planet Project Limited, Mr. Biodun Otunola (3rd left); Special Adviser to the Governor on Transportation, Prince Anofi Elegushi (3rd right); his counterpart for Food Security, Mr. Ganiu Okanlomo Sanni (2nd right) and Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Engr. Adebowale Akinsanya (right) during the Commissioning on Saturday, September 17, 2016.

The project, handled by Messrs Granebury Construction, is to be executed in three phases, involves rehabilitation of Strategic/Arterial/Inner Roads.
The  Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Ganiyu Johnson, an engineer, listed the roads to include Lagos Road, Oke Osho/T Junction, Aiyetoro/ Roundabout;

Central Mosque Junction/Orita Marun Stream, all categorised as ‘Grade A’. Others are Oloja Estate; Bature/ Otunba Adeniyi/Omotayo/Uthman Mustapha and Raman/Ishawu Owolabi, which are in category ‘B’.
According to Johnson, the meeting became imperative because some properties that fell on the Right of Ways (ROAs) would need to go, “but that as a responsible government, we want to carry you along in the execution of this noble project.”

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