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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Rains Expose Lagos’ Crumbling Roads, Bridges as Sanwo Olu’s Covid Focus Neglects Infrastructure

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It is no longer news that Nigeria is still trying to grapple with the effects of COVID 19 which hit the world early on in January and took a hefty toll sometime in February.

A good number of countries like Germany, New Zealand, South Africa have put plans in motion to overcome recession with stimulus packages ranging from Germany’s 160 billion euros to South Africa’s R500 billion and have also accelerated spending’s on infrastructure and the economy as a whole.

Nigeria on its part seems to be focused more on fighting COVID 19 while Infrastructure and Security have been relegated to the background by almost all state governments leaving the economy in dire straits.

Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital for example has recorded impressive results in the fight against COVID-19.

Its Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu of Lagos has however persistently ignored calls to fix dilapidated roads which have now become death traps as the rains fall in full force or likewise check the growing spate of insecurity across the state.

The port city of Apapa continues to experience crushing gridlock with billions of revenue lost monthly by importers and exporters using the port facilities at Apapa and Tin Can ports.

In the case of the roads which are fast becoming death traps to Lagosians with gullies and craters littered around Lagos, former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, stated in the past that the state recorded a whooping loss of N250 billion to traffic annually.

This is besides the pains businesses and families who often spend four or more hours for a 30 minutes’ journey are exposed to daily due to the excruciating traffic jam.

Despite this revelation by the former governor, he did little or nothing to salvage the challenge.

A resident of Lagos, Segun Akanbi, lamented, “the current Governor came in with a lot of promise, performed fairly but has now diverted focus to the fight against COVID 19 to the detriment of other aspects especially roads.”

There is almost no area in the state that is spared of bad roads, but the worst-hit places are: Mile 2, Abule Ado, Alakija, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway up to Ikeja Along, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Oworosoki- Oshodi Expressway, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Ikorodu Road, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Funsho-Wiliams Avenue, by Costain area, which has been closed to traffic for construction work on the Costain bridge.

Others are: Kirikiri Road, Apapa, which has worsened traffic gridlock caused by truck operators who have taken over the road leaving little or no space for other road users. Satellite Town Road, Oriade LCDA, Otto-Wharf Bandary Road, Ajegunle, In Ajeromi- Ifekodun LGA. Chivita-Canoe Road, Oshodi-Isolo LGA, Isheri-Osun, LCDA, Ishawo, Road, Idimu Pipeline, Ikorodu, among others.

These days, it is a dreadful experience for commuters and motorists to navigate through Lagos-Badagry Expressway. Plying the international road has been hectic due to several failed portions on both sides of the highway, worsened by persistent rainfall which has forced motorists to spend valuable hours maneuvering the road.

In the case of the Ports, stakeholders and residents also continue to appeal to both state and the Federal Govt that a lasting solution be found to solve the gridlock and the infrastructure decay on the Apapa port and Tin Can Island access road to no avail.

President, Muhammadu’s Buhari, gave an ultimatum that made no impact as it is still business as usual with a lot of loss to Nigeria, stakeholders and residents.

Even the visit of Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo brought no respite.

A recent study indicates that at least three of every ten years spent in Lagos is lost to traffic. It means Lagosians spend an average of seven hours 20 minutes in traffic every day.

An economic analyst, Kolapo Oluwo averred that the long hours spent daily in traffic with its attendant economic as well as health, emotional and relational costs is colossal.

“For a potential megacity and the economic hub of the country it shows the incapacity and lack of visionary leadership, despite media campaigns and allusions to the contrary.”

He noted that: “Lagos is the commercial, economic, as well as financial capital of Nigeria accounting for over 50 percent of the industrial and commercial establishments, as well as 70 percent of manufacturing activities. In addition, it has the most active stock exchange in West Africa; its four ports collectively handle about 75 and 90 percent of the country’s imports and non-oil exports by weight respectively. Even more, its international airport handles about 80 percent of airborne exports and imports and 80 percent of passenger movements in and out of the country.”

Oluwo Further said, “the state’s population has continued to grow rapidly – put at between six to eight percent per annum – and is a dragnet for school leavers and other economic migrants from other parts of the country. It is projected that the population of the city will grow to 36 million by 2050.”

A public Analyst, Emeka Ohanyere buttressed this saying despite its huge population and importance, road is the city’s most common and available means of transport. Rail and water transportation are meanwhile relatively under-developed in Lagos.

“Years of military rule, underinvestment and poor maintenance of existing transport infrastructure has seen Lagos lag behind other major global cities in the utilisation of efficient public transportation system such as urban rail system and modern high capacity buses.”

As at 2006, it was estimated that the city’s transport infrastructure and services were at levels that supported a population of six million.

In 2006, the government developed a transport master plan to integrate road, water, rail, and cable-car transport to provide one of the most efficient systems of transportation in a megacity.

Shortly after, in 2008, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was launched as a stop-gap measure while seven train lines were planned to link all parts of the states and even Ogun state with light rail.

However, due to paucity of funds, only the contract for the blue line (the 27-kilometre Badagry line running from Okokomaiko to Marina via Iddo) was awarded at the colossal cost of $1.2 billion (compared to similar projects in other parts of Africa awarded for just a fraction of that amount) to be completed in 2011.

It was projected others will be awarded subsequently and the entire master plan will be completed in 2020.

Analysts have however argued that as governments grapple with the health care challenges associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic toll must also be considered.

Economist, Muyiwa Akintemi says this is a central question that should preoccupy the government as rescue packages amounting to trillions of dollars are announced around the world.

“One critical step government can take is to earmark part of the stimulus spending for infrastructure. During a crisis of near unprecedented scale, paying people’s wages, supporting the most vulnerable and keeping businesses afloat are important priorities in the immediate term. But these measures alone will not bring long-lasting results. By contrast, investment in new infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, renewable energy and digital networks, will create jobs and deliver tangible assets that will fuel long-term economic growth.

“We have seen in the past; infrastructure spending is one of the key levers that government can pull to stimulate the economy. Spending on concrete and steel, when well directed, boosts both short-term demand and long-term productivity, especially in a time of economic crisis. According to a 2014 study by the IMF, an increase in capital spending of 1.0% of GDP leads to a 0.4% uplift in output that same year, and a 1.5% rise four years later.”

He noted that this economic dividend occurs because building new infrastructure lays the groundwork for future economic growth, whether that’s an improved transport network to move goods, a digital backbone to power a new economy or education facilities to train a skilled workforce for the future.

“Moreover, countries that spend on new capital stock tend to attract more private investment – as we have seen time and again, the availability of reliable underlying infrastructure boosts productive capacity and enables sustained economic activity,” Akintemi concluded.

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