•Commerce and travel to operate simultaneously
•Project ready in four months
•Tunnel to be added

By Olasunkanmi Akoni

Oshodi was not a place anybody would be proud of. Chaotic in terms of human and vehicular population, it was also everything that was wrong with metropolitan Lagos. To explain the chaos, studies show that Oshodi is the busiest transport interchange in West Africa with over 5,600 buses spread over 13 different motor parks loading daily. It has over 200,000 passengers boarding per day, about one million pedestrians and 76 per cent of the area is dedicated to transport and related activities.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode

Although two dual carriageways take you through Oshodi, it could take two hours to drive through a distance of less than five kilometres. Reason: Army of hawkers selling their wares and beggars soliciting for alms battled for right of way with vehicles. Oftentimes the hawkers and beggars would take more occupy two of the three lanes of the expressway, leaving vehicles to crawl in the remaining lane and leaving traffic to stretch several kilometres. It was in the time of molues. The molues drivers would park in the middle of the road to load.

Standstill. Smelly. Area Boys everywhere. Reign of terror by touts in the night. All that happened before 2007 when the state administration forcibly removed hawkers and other undesirable elements from Oshodi to free it of the chaos. Today, the regeneration project has recorded several milestones, thanks to the determination of the Ambode administration to create a new Oshodi. You can now drive through the area in minutes. And no more terror by touts in the night because everywhere has floodlights and there is good security presence.

But that is a tip of the iceberg. Governor Akinwumi Ambode is building world class motor parks and markets in Oshodi to signpost what has been described as 24 hours transport system in Lagos.

Ambode had, in May 2016, unveiled the Oshodi regeneration project estimated to cost over N22.4 billion ($70 million).

The regeneration project, being done under a Public Private Partnership, PPP, arrangement, commenced with massive demolition of structures in the area.

It boasts of three world class terminals to curb indiscriminate parking and picking up of passengers by unruly commercial bus drivers by the roadside.

“We have a solution to the Oshodi menace. The Oshodi interchange you see today will be replaced by an iconic, world class transportation and commercial hub. That is in keeping with the vision of this government to transform the key city centres of the state to reflect the mega city status of Lagos, aimed at improving the physical structure, security and more importantly creating the 24-hour economy which we promised,”Ambode had said then.

The redevelopment is expected to consolidate the 13 city and interstate parks in Oshodi into three multi-storey bus park and terminals situated on four floors.

The first terminal is being constructed at the Mosafejo Market axis and would be for inter-state transportation while the second terminal is at the former Owonifari Market. The third terminal is adjacent to NAFDAC office and designed for intra-city transport activities.

These terminals boasts of standard facilities including waiting area, loading bays, ticketing stands, drivers lounge, parking areas and rest rooms.

Accessible walkways and pedestrian bridges/sky-walk will link the three terminals.

Provision is made for bus lanes, lay-bys, green parks to soften the environment, proper waste management, fencing and a dedicated security team.

A shopping mall covering over two hectares will operate from the old Mosafejo settlement. The mall is scheduled to have recreation and entertainment facilities, among others.

“When we complete this project, we would have completely rebranded and remodelled Oshodi from a decadent situation to an iconic state. The crime rate in this area will be drastically reduced, if not eliminated”, Ambode had also said at the unveiling of the project.

“This model allows the effective allocation of tasks and risks in the development of the interchange and also ensures that finance can be easily obtained for the project.

“The regeneration would definitely redefine the economic outlook of the area, as government’s goal is to make every nook and cranny of Lagos economically viable”.

A Ghanaian, Sunday Mensah, while narrating his experience during his first visit to Oshodi in the 1990s, said he was shocked at the way the axis has been re-structured. “When you get to Oshodi, especially for a first time visitor who had been wishing to visit the place, you would be disappointed. That was in the past. Now see what is springing up there. Marvellous.”

Lagos Gross Domestic Product, GDP, according to Ambode, is $2 billion, and considering the state status as the commercial nerve center of Nigeria, deserves more.

As the fastest growing megacity in Africa, a transport interchange that compares with Victoria underground station in London and Strasbourg Stations in France is needed to attract tourists and make commuting in the state easy. “If Lagos is to be globally competitive, we need to change the outlook of the way the city runs,” the governor had stated.

Initially, some residents had kicked against the plan after the state pulled down Owonifari Market and relocated the traders there to Isopakodowo Market. But after construction commenced, it became obvious that the action was not misplaced.

Justifying his action during a meeting with stakeholders’, Ambode had said: “I mean, I find it very disturbing that our children in Oshodi would have to travel to Lekki or Ikeja to have access to good shopping mall. So, what we have decided is to regenerate Oshodi.”

While assuring that his action was not to usurp transport management from members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, and Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN, the governor added: “I promise you that there will be no job losses.”

He pointed out the paramount interest to government was to ensure that residents have comfortable means of transportation as against the archaic mode of moving from one point to the other.

Also speaking on the regeneration project, Special Adviser to the Governor, Mrs. Yetunde Onabule, explained that the concept is premised on urban renewal, environmental reorientation, transformation and security.

On how the project would serve multiple purposes, Onabule said the state would experience exponential increase in the flow of tourists because the area would become a destination for anyone who wishes to see the architectural design of Oshodi and experience where commerce and travel operate simultaneously.

Managing Director, Planet Project Limited, the contractor partnering Lagos State Government to deliver the interchange, Mr. Biodun Otunola, said, “Whether one is rich or poor, he has to move. And that is why in other parts of the world, they spend heavily on public transport facilities.”

The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, recalled that the state designed a 25-year development plan in 2001. “This is to ensure we scale up the level of infrastructure. The consistency that we have will help retain the project.”

  • Project 70 per cent complete

About four months to the date the new Oshodi is due to be delivered, the project, according to the contractor handling the project, is about 70 per cent completed.

Even after concerns were raised over the completion date, Planet Project MD, Otunola, said the 70, 000 square meters project would be ready on due date because the three terminals were already up.

To ensure the project is delivered as planned, no fewer than 700 workers, he said, were engaged.

“The first terminal is for intercity transportation including to West African countries. It is 24 hours transport system. The second and third terminals are for Bus Rapid Transit, BRT”, the MD added.

“The project is all encompassing, that is, passengers would have the opportunity to shop and relax before embarking on their trips. As an extension of the project, a PPP hotel would be built within the axis. Also, a shopping mall would be available for passengers”.

  • Tunnel

While conducting journalists round the facility, Otunola announced that a tunnel had been added to the project to “take commuters from each depot to the terminals”.

He stressed, “With this, we will be preventing buses from halting traffic flow within the axis.

“This is because on ground in each terminal, there could be about 70 buses waiting to commute passengers. And for them to join other vehicles after loading within same area would further compound traffic”.

The project designer disclosed that their feasibility study revealed that no fewer than 300, 000 passengers board vehicles to different destinations from Oshodi.

“But with the facility we are constructing is designed to service 1 million people daily when it becomes fully functional. Some of the facilities included in this interchange are 18-lifts and one elevator. It would be equipped with Closed Circuit Television, CCTV, camera to ensure adequate security.”

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