Reviving Rail, Water Transportation, Citizens Want Repeal Of 112-year-old Railway Act

BY TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA

ONCE upon a time, traveling by rail was the preferred choice for many Nigerians. It was also the most popular means of conveying goods across the country and the rail management body known then as the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) was a busy organisation.
The company was then at its best pursuing its vision statement, which was: to be a world-class rail transport organisation, providing safe/efficient, affordable, reliable, widely linked network and customer-oriented services. Today, a visit to some of its facilities scattered across the country show remnants of the good old days.
As the years rolled by, the corporation and its coaches went moribund; the rail service lost its enviable position as a first-rate means of transportation. At the expansive railway compound in Ebute-meta, Lagos, most of the infrastructure, which aided the movement of passengers and goods, are not only in a dilapidated state, they depict state of antiquity.
While for several years, NRC struggled to maintain some skeletal services, particularly on the Iddo-Ota terminus, the corporation got a new lease of life last year, when the Federal Government injected into it 25 new locomotives, which were commissioned by President Jonathan, in a widely publicised train ride to Abeokuta from Lagos, during his campaign tour.
More were still to follow, as NRC kicked-off the Mass Transit Train Service (MTTS) between Lagos and Ilorin; and recently, the free train-ride for Osun State citizens going home for the Eid-el-Fitri holiday.

Once a coach, now a bathroom

DURING a recent train-ride from Iddo to Ijoko in Ogun State, it was a trip that re-created the images painted by the late Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo, who in a song had said the mass transit lorries in Lagos popularly called Molue, carried 44 seating, 99 standing passengers.
On the train ride, it was more than the Molue experience, as passengers jam-packed their way into every available space on the coaches. Those standing stood backing each other in the bid to get some ease. It was to say the least, too close for comfort, as many of the passengers were seen wiping their faces and bodies with handkerchiefs.
At departure, the train did not leave the terminal in Iddo jam-packed, though all the seats were already occupied. Some passengers got on board when the train reached Ebute-meta. By the time it arrived Mushin, it was filled to the brim.
As the train moved on to Sogunle, few people forced their way in through pleading and others joined by jumping in from the window and forcing themselves on those already hanging by the door. When the train got to Ikeja, it stopped again and those who could risk their lives climbed onto the roof of the coaches.
Nobody alighted from the train until it got to Agege and Iju Station. By the time it got to Agbado, more than half of the passengers on board had alighted. The train finally terminated its journey at Ijoko after over three hours.
Majority of the passengers were traders and those working in informal sectors. However, many of those who joined the train from Ebute-Meta and Yaba stations were corporate-looking passengers and students. Keji Abosede, a student of Lagos State Polytechnic, who resides in Ijoko, said she comes to school and returns home daily by train.

Newly acquired locomotives

WITH so much pressure on the nation’s road network, which has left most highways in deplorable state of disrepair and also turned them into death traps, stakeholders have called for the revival of the rail and water transportation systems as alternative means of transporting bulk goods within the country.
For many who had followed various government programmes towards actualising the nation’s vision 20 2020, one of the areas, they felt government need to expedite action if the vision is to be realised is in the transport sector.
To them, the vision may be a mirage if Nigeria with a population of over 150 million, fails to diversify her transportation sector from its present dependence on road for the transportation of bulk goods within the country.
The panic created in the nation’s air space, by the recent air disasters, observers felt should compel government to consider seriously water transportation as a viable alternative for mass movement of people, particularly within the coastal areas of the country.
Former employee of Nigeria Railway Corporation, Pa Michael Ogbebor, while lamenting the situation, advised that the only way to tackle unemployment and the chaotic transport situation is to fix the railway. “I am worried that all tiers of government are wasting scarce resources to construct and fix roads on a regular basis. The solution is to reduce the stress on our roads by fixing the rail system,” he said

Transport Minister, Senator Idris Umar

However, the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, has said his ministry is working assiduously to diversify the nation’s transport system, especially the rail and waters ways in transportation of bulk goods within the country.
To allow for proper harnessing of the railway, established about 112 years ago, the Minister recently announced the Federal Government’s plan to repeal the Nigeria Railway Act of 1955 to allow states and private sector participation in rail business. According to him, the liberalisation of the railway business will ensure rapid development of the sector.
As it stands, the country’s legislation does not allow private sector to play any role in the rail sub-sector. The Nigeria Railway system transformed from its first and initial name ‘Government Department of Railways’ to Nigerian Railway Corporation in 1955 through the instrumentality of the Statutory Act of Parliament, which apart from changing the name of the railway industry in Nigeria, equally conferred on it absolute monopoly as the institution recognized by law to carry out railway services.
But the system is outdated and regardless of what amount of resources is invested into its rehabilitation, only very little can be achieved with the current obsolete technology. Today, rail transport accounts for an insignificant part of the transport subsector and therefore contributes too tiny a proportion of value-added in transportation.
Road transport has taken over the traffic previously conveyed by rail, with severe consequences for the state of the roads in the country. Rail transport, all over the world, is known to be very safe, cost effective and labour intensive. It is also usually the most suitable mode of transportation for heavy traffic flows when speed is an advantage, because of the lower cost per person per load.

SOME success stories in the rail transport include the completion of rehabilitation of the Lagos-Ibadan-Ilorin-Jebba narrow gauge rail, substantial completion of rehabilitation of Jebba-Mokwa-Zungeru-Kaduna-Kano narrow gauge rail line and rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt-Aba-Umuahia-Enugu-Makurdi-Lafia-Kuru-Buachi-Gombe-Ashaka-Maiduguri narrow gauge line.
The railway has also recorded improved transportation services with 12,000 passengers daily on Lagos-Ibadan routes, 10,000 metric tonnes of cement from cement factory in Ewekoro to Ibadan and acquisition of 20 pressurized fire proof Tank Wagons, each with the volume capacity of 45,000 litres, an equivalent of 27 trailers for conveying oil and gas products.
Revitalisation of the rail line, which includes the spur line to Jos, Kafanchan, and Kaduna junction, according to the minister, will be completed before the end of the year, a 10-month completion period. He listed other efforts initiated to turnaround the fortunes of the corporation as the procurement of workshop equipment; installations of 5,000KVA, 1,000KVA and 750 KVA generators; refurbishment of over 500 wagons and coaches; and recent arrival of 20 units of pressurised tank wagons for hauling of petroleum products.
On water transportation, which is another mode of transporting bulk products, the Federal Government, through the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has already dredged the River Niger from Baro in Niger State to Warri in Delta State. With the dredging, the government planned to accelerate trade and boost water tourism by creating a reliable and safer access.
The Managing Director of NIWA, Ahmed Aminu Yar’Adua said with the dredging of the River Niger, future market will open up to improve accessibility of existing areas for boat, habour and inland ports development as well as create avenue for investment and provide job opportunities.
Already, about 2,700 tonnes of ceramics tiles were recently transported by barge in three trips from Onitsha to Lokoja with zero damage along the dredged lower River Niger Channel. This is an equivalent of 135 trailers trip at 20 tonnes capacity per trailer with about 20 percent damage because of bad roads.

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Lagos Revamps Technical Colleges To Tackle Unemployment

BY TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA
THE main auditorium of the University of Lagos came alive recently. The 5,000-seater auditorium, famous for hosting social engagements, was crammed with young people. The occasion was not a musical show, an award night or a sports event; rather, it was a company’s aptitude test that brought thousands of youths together for one purpose: the unending search for employment.

By noon when the test commenced, hundreds of youths who could not gain entrance into the already filled-to-capacity hall clustered into small bands around the hall to wait patiently and join the next batch of fresh graduates looking for the opportunity to prove their mettle and brilliance.

From their strained faces, it was obvious they were disillusioned with several failed attempts at clinching just any job. Any hopes placed on a positive outcome from the screening examination were punctured by reports of a gale of mass sack in the same banking industry they were aspiring to.

Some weeks back, Nigerians were regaled with stories of a significant growth in the country’s GDP for the first quarter of 2012 but not much was heard about tales from the other end of the stick – the increasing number of unemployment.

Thousands of unemployed Nigerians who turned up for INEC Aptitude Test in Abuja… recently.


Figures recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that unemployment rate in the country is worrisome, a situation where university graduates now take odd jobs to survive. According to the United Nations, only three out of 10 fresh graduates in the country are sure of employment.

This fact is corroborated by the Statistician General of the Federation, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of NBS, Dr. Yemi Kale, when he said unemployment rate in the country hit an all-time high of 23.9 percent in December 2011 from 19.7 percent in 2009.

According to him, the total number of unemployed Nigerians rose from more than 12 million in 2010 to over 14 million in 2011, with the figure escalating by 1.8 million between December 2010 and June 2011. “The most affected are those in the age bracket of 24 and 44 years,” he said.

To worsen the problem of unemployment is the lack of skilful artisans. This is because many Nigerian youths are not seeing a career in vocations like carpentry, welding, masonry and auto-technician. Those that ventured into it are not well trained and they lacked the technical and vocational skills to excel.

Consequently, many Nigerians are jobless while recent reports claim that the country loses about N960 billion in capital flight to foreign artisans, as they now take over jobs that Nigerians should ordinarily do.

At a forum in Ikeja, Chairman of Odu’a Educational Trust Fund, Sen. Olabiyi Durojaiye, gave a sordid account of what Nigeria annually loses to nationals of Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and Benin Republic among others. His account indeed struck a chord in the minds of stakeholders at the forum when he said about N960 billion is being lost annually to non-Nigerians providing technical services in the country.

WORRIED by this untoward trend and determined to reverse the trend, the Lagos State government has decided to reinvigorate its technical colleges, establish some specialised training centres, including the School Leavers Modern Apprenticeship and Graduate Vocational Employability Skills programmes, to stem crime rates and develop technical manpower in relevant areas of specialty.

Citing dearth of technical and vocational skills, the state government is re-injecting life into its technical colleges by commissioning the newly established Samsung Engineering Academy designed to train and re-train graduates from the state technical colleges and end the use of expatriates as technicians in the country.

The commissioning took place three months after the state government unveiled the School Leavers Modern Apprenticeship (SL-MATP) and Graduate Vocational Employability Skills (GV-ESTP) programmes, which Executive Secretary of the State Technical and Vocational Education Board (LASTVEB) and former Rector of Lagos State Polytechnic, Mr. Olawumi Gasper, said were designed “to stem crime rates and develop technical manpower in relevant areas of specialty.”

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (middle) inspecting the computer section during the commissioning of Samsung Engineering Academy at the Government Technical College, Agidingbi, Ikeja. With him are Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye (second left), Executive Secretary, Lagos State Technical and Vocational Educational Board (LASTVEB), Olawumi Gasper (second right) and member, Lagos House of Assembly, Gbolahan Yishau (left).


Introducing the scheme, Gasper said it was primarily initiated to create new opportunities for two categories of people – school leavers and unemployed graduates. According to him, Lagos population “grows exponentially and is currently put at 18 million. About 70 percent are below 35 years and we are in danger of harbouring misdirected, unskilled and angry youths ready to engage in criminal activities.

“The first scheme is tailored to engage school leavers who do not secure admission into tertiary institutions. It will afford those who enroll both work-based on-the-job training in industries and accredited workshops and college-based instructions in the state’s technical colleges. The programme seeks to attract the very large school leavers who are often casualties of JAMB and turn them into self-reliant skilled young boys and girls early in life.”

Gasper said duration of the schemes differ and depend on the choice of vocation. School leavers enrolled for SL-MATP will spend between nine months and two years depending on desired trade and occupation while graduates who enroll for GV-ESTP combining vocational trainings with employability skills will successfully complete the programme in nine months.

Following the Samsung Engineering Academy is the inauguration of the CG EKO LLP Automobile Training Centre in Ikeja, an outcome of the state’s partnership with Coscharis Motors Limited, designed to train over 640 auto technicians and put an end to the dearth of technical professionals in the state.

At the commissioning, Governor Babatunde Fashola reiterated that one of the major ways out of youth unemployment was investment in technical and vocational education. “It is the only way to grow our economy, to reduce unemployment and to arrest youth restiveness,” he said.

He canvassed a shift to Information and Communication Technology (ICT), without which the governor said it would be difficult for the economy to grow. “Nigeria is moving into cashless banking. A lot of electronic data will be needed. Where are the technicians to do the job? I see them in the students of this academy and our upcoming children. We need homes. We need power. We need to produce more water. This nation is being run on an infrastructure that is about 40 years old. So, we are going to need the engineers and technicians in very large numbers.”

THE driving force behind the establishment of Samsung Engineering Academy within the complex of Agidingbi Government Technical College according to the Managing Director of Samsung Electronics West Africa, Mr. Nicholas Shin, is aimed at training electronic engineers, who “will be relevant to the company and absorbed 100 percent by the company after graduation.”

The governor dismissed the notion that technical and vocational education is placed below the system of senior secondary school. He blamed the notion on the inadequate attention given to vocational education by successive government, which is a parallel education to senior secondary education from SS1 to SS3 in the orthodox school.

“What technical and vocational education provides is a three-year programme like the orthodox schools. But instead of writing the West African School Certificate Examination, they sit for the National Board for Technical Education Examination (NBTE). It is equally equivalent to WASC with which they can proceed to any university of their choice. Our economy today requires young vibrant entrepreneurs who are willing to create and generate the wealth and employment opportunities in this sector.”

Fashola called on other entrepreneurs to partner with the government on other four technical colleges in Epe, Ikotun, Amuwo Odofin and Ikorodu, in order “to make each of them a model of one technical specialty or the other. We are seeking for other partners to make any of the technical colleges a model of specialty either in carpentry, block making or masonry. We are looking forward to such strategic partnerships,” he said.

Ekiti… Legislator Blesses Constituents With Projects

BY TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA
HE stirred the hornet’s nest in the buildup to the July 14 governorship election in Edo State when he moved the motion against the deployment of 3,500 soldiers to Edo to keep peace, openly condemning the decision of the Federal Government. Not done, he again stood up in parliament to express displeasure over President Jonathan’s failure to sign into law some pending bills, which are of urgent importance, enumerating some of the bills that were passed by the sixth National Assembly, which were not assented to by the president.

This time around, Bimbo Daramola, Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is stirring his constituency’s blood with projects to make life easier for the people of Ekiti North Federal constituency. Without overreaching himself, he decided to spread the dividends of democracy through far-reaching interventions in the health and education sectors, in an attempt to up the MDGs status of Ekiti State.

The parliamentarian’s flagship project is the building of a 32-bed hospital centre, known as the JTD Memorial Hospital, Ire Ekiti, well-equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, which will serve the people of his constituency and beyond.

Apart from this, several youths from his constituency have benefited from his various empowerment programmes, ranging from scholarships (to brilliant but indigent students), free health services to the less privileged and the senior citizens, monetary support for the needy to start small and medium scale enterprises, provision of generating sets to support business owners in the event of power outage, provision of grinding machines, motorcycles and tricycles to mark his first year in office.

Governor Kayode Fayemi (middle) and Bimbo Daramola (right) at the commissioning of the 32-bed hospital centre in Ire-Ekiti… recently.


According to Daramola, “my genuine concern for the wellness and well-being of our people and society is sacrosanct. I believe in the social contract, though unwritten, that exists between the people and those who they elected to lead them.

Noting that the job of a legislator is clearly to represent his people and make good laws, not necessarily to undertake interventions in critical areas, he said his actions were motivated by his sensitivity to the plights of the constituents.

“I have not received a kobo from the National Assembly to purchase cars, build hospital, buy motorcycles, grinding machines, and sponsor marriages or other multifarious demands made on me by my constituents, but as a person who feels concerned about the well-being of my people, I have identified with them through my Constituent Support Outreach.”

Lagos Traffic Law: Panic Over Enforcement, Imprisonment

BY TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA

TO transport operators of different categories, the signing of Lagos State Road Traffic Law (2012) has been generating fright and panic over imprisonment clause despite repeated attempts by Governor Babatunde Fashola and his aides to allay fears that the law was not enacted to sentence traffic offenders, but rather deepen the culture of public safety.

The law, which repealed the 2003 Road Traffic Law, according to the governor, contains some innovative clauses that were brought into the legal regime, first to ensure public safety within the state, and second, to boost Lagos megacity status.

Section 36 (3) of the law states: “In sentencing a person convicted of committing an offence, the court may, in addition to or in lieu of the prescribed sentence, direct suspension or revocation of the driver’s license and direct the person convicted to render community service,” thereby setting a tone for deterrence and voluntary compliance.

But the section is not complete in itself. It is only operational under Section 347 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (2011), which sets definite circumstances and conditions by which any court of competent jurisdiction can order a person convicted of certain offences to render community service.

Also, the court, under the same section, can direct a person convicted of committing an offence to enroll for and attend courses at the Lagos State Drivers’ Institute (LASDRI) for a period not less than seven days at his cost. At the discretion of the presiding magistrate, such person may be sentenced to both community service and enrolment in the drivers’ institute.

This, thus, explains why Fashola during the week, said the law is all about the safety and benefit of Lagos residents as it was not meant “to send anybody to jail. A jail sentence will be an extreme case, especially when the presiding magistrate has identified an offender to be hardened or such person has been committing a particular offence over and over again.

“Unlike the provision of the old traffic law, the new law has made provisions not only for payment of fines, but for convicted offenders to engage in community service such as directing traffic for a specified period among others. The objective of the new law is to get people to comply rather than getting them arrested or apprehended. There is nothing spectacular about the provisions in the new law that is not applicable in distant locations.

“So, the popularity of the law is very evident. Everybody should comply. For anyone who is convicted, he will either undergo compulsory training at the drivers’ institute or community service by managing traffic. Traffic management is a reality of the country’s large population. That is why we have also introduced a traffic radio to provide advance information to residents on how they plan their route,” Fashola said.

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AN in-depth examination of the law gives an insight into various challenges it intends to solve. Under Section 1, for instance, the law prohibits the use of any specified road by vehicles of specified class; regulates the conduct of persons driving, or riding any vehicle or animal on a highway and restricts the use of sirens as well as the sounding of horns or other similar appliances either in general or during specified period.

Subsection 2 and 4 gives power to the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) officers “to arrest where appropriate and prosecute any persons reasonably suspected of having committed any offences under the provisions of the law.” But LASTMA’s power to prosecute any suspect is subject to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

Section 3 also prohibits any person from riding, driving or manually propelling a cart, wheel-barrow, motorcycle and tricycle from no fewer than 11 highways, 41 bridges and 496 routes, which are all stated under the Schedule II of the new traffic law. As contained in the schedule, these categories of vehicles are restricted from plying any route in Eti-Osa Local Government, which covers Victoria Island, Lagos Island as well as Ikoyi.

Under Subsection 4, commercial motorcycle riders are expected not to carry more than one passenger at a time. Aside, the subsection also states that a pregnant woman, a child below age of 12 and an adult with a baby or heavy load placed on her head or which obstruct normal sitting shall not be carried as a passenger, an act, which authors of the law, believe can cause untold suffering and multiple loss.

If any operator fails to comply with these provisions, subsection 5 therefore spells out stiff penalties ranging from serving a three-year imprisonment or rendering community service or the offender might have his vehicle forfeited to the state government, but an award of such penalties will be at the discretion of a presiding magistrate.

The Schedule I x-rays a wide range of traffic offences, which relates to any form of action that precludes drivers from operating with two hands, such as eating and drinking, making use of mobile phone, counting money and smoking while driving.

 

THE law has equally stoked stern reaction from different quarters. Chairman of Motorcycle Operators’ Association of Lagos State (MOALS), Tijani Perkins, described the law as anti-people. He observed that the new traffic law might create more social problems than it intends “to solve originally. Furthermore, the law breached an agreement, which associations of motorcycle operators had with the state government on August 24, 2010. The agreement spelt out the routes on which okada riders can operate in the state.”

An okada rider, Tope Aronipin, said the law is meant to punish operators for practising in the state. “For a long time, Fashola has been trying in vain to stop us from ‘eating’, and this time around, he won’t succeed. I am, however, happy for the law banishing agberos from the road. These people are just criminals and touts, who rob commercial bus drivers and okada riders in broad daylight in the name of collecting tolls.”

Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeola Ipaye, cited instances where human heads were smashed due to reckless operations of commercial motorcycle riders, traffic gridlocks created as a result of lawless driving of many motorists, and diverse cases of armed attacks on unsuspected residents, all of which he said, necessitated the enactment of the law “to avoid a situation whereby Lagosians are used to such gory scenes.”

In 2010, Perkins said it was agreed that okada operators would not ply all bridges and highways across the state. But he expressed dismay at the enactment of the new traffic law, which he said, was designed to disengage all okada operators out of business. “It is unfair to restrict our operations to Trunk C and D roads. This is unacceptable to us. On the 2010 agreement, we stand. We also have rights under the 1999 Constitution and shall exercise them.”

He explained how socio-economic challenges brought thousands of his colleagues to eke out a living from okada business. “How can the state government decide to disengage people going about their lawful activities without providing alternatives, especially in this era of depressed economy. As a body, however, we have decided not to take the matter to the court of competent jurisdiction until the law is gazetted and its enforcement equally takes off,” he said.

Musiliu Saka, like many of his colleagues, is not too happy with the enactment of the law, which he believes, will threaten sources of livelihood for many citizens with its adverse ripple effects on the society.

On his part, a bus driver, who plies Ketu-Oshodi route and simply identified himself as Bamidele, said the law would not work, urging that what the government had succeeded in doing was to empower LASTMA officials to continue their extortion spree. “This is a way of further enriching the highly corrupt LASTMA officials. Tell me how one could drive in a day without falling foul of the law. The government is indirectly saying we should pack our bags and go to our villages. Some aspects of the law are simply draconian,” he said.

Marine Bridge: Waiting Endlessly For Restoration

BY TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA
BEFORE the Lagos State government wielded the sledge hammer on squatters under the Marine Bridge area of Apapa three months ago, all sorts of anomalies and criminalities were game.

For those familiar with the bridge, the area was a beehive for criminal elements, who were into selling and buying of hard drugs and weapons. But since a new lease of life began that ended nightmares of gridlocks and insecurity in the area, driving on Marine Bridge seems not to pose any more threat.

However, in truth, no observer really needs a civil engineer to forecast the structural integrity of the bridge given the level of wearing, a havoc wreaked by human activities on some of the pillars upon which the entire structure rests.

Coming from Apapa, one wing of the bridge that leads to Sapara thoroughfare has been permanently closed for a while due to a recent fire incident that damaged two pillars upholding that particular section. The state of many pillars upon which the bridge rests from Marine Beach in Apapa to Ijora Causeway directly opposite the Costain Loop, is also suspect.

The sorry state of the bridge came to the fore shortly after the state government, with support from the Federal Government, put an end to the menace of traffic gridlock and illegal parking of tankers, trailers and trucks on the bridge. During the operation that eventually restored order to Apapa and its axis, federal government’s officials led by the coordinating minister for the economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, visited the Marine Beach, Creek Road and Ijora Causeway, and acknowledged the degree of damage done to the area.

At the instance of Apapa’s degraded environment, dilapidated bridges and collapsed drainage system, the FG promised to intervene. Three months have gone by and the area is yet to receive any such assistance.

Dilapitated Marine Bridge after a taskforce operation, which dismantled shanties and evacuated trailers and trucks gave the area a new lease of life.


Alluding to the apparent neglect, Governor Babatunde Fashola during a recent visit to Apapa, lamented the litany of Federal Government’s failed promises, citing instances where the central government had pledged interventions on critical issues within federal jurisdictions with respect to Lagos State and its failure to make good its promise, which he said, was not fair and just.

He made reference to the ocean surge, which is eroding Alpha Beach in Lekki. Fashola cited the FG’s failure to refund over N60 billion, which the state government spent to rehabilitate federal roads in the state, noting that the latest instance “is the clearing of Apapa and its environs, which has opened up Apapa Central Business District after years of economic paralysis.

“The state government has been solely responsible for the sustainability of Apapa since we completed the removal of the shanties. So far, the Federal Government has not contributed its quota. We cannot bear the burden alone because this port is the number one seaport in the country and the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority is evidently responsible for the traffic gridlock along Wharf Road.”

Fashola noted that the Federal Government does not compensate Lagos State for all the damage it did to infrastructure in the state. “We get nothing from all the money they are making from the ports. I would expect a FG with conscience to take a decision that since we are running our tankers through your roads, this is what you get every year to repair the roads.

“Instead, they are carving out our land. But we have started reclamation of our territory with or without them. Regenerating the blighted areas would cost over N12 billion,” he said.

Giving the breakdown of what it cost the state to clear Marine Beach and Ijora Causeway, Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, said it cost N100 million to clear all the shanties and remove abandoned vehicles from this axis. “We have completely cleared the place. And today, it is very easy for one to drive through Apapa, but the state is yet to receive FG’s response in different areas it pledged to make intervention.”

Artistic impression of the State government’s proposed Apapa Regeneration Plan


UNTIL early May, Apapa was a no-go area despite its strategic significance to the country’s domestic economy. This was partly due to illegal parking of trailers, tankers and trucks, which almost entirely took over the entire roads leading to Apapa, where the country’s key seaport is located. Consequently, a number of businesses had no other choice than to relocate from Apapa to save their capital.

This was worsened by the indiscriminate mounting of shanties in different parts of Apapa by illegal occupants, whose activities had escalated crime rates. According to the Chairman of the Lagos State Taskforce on Environment and Special Offences, Mr. Bayo Suleiman, it explained why cases of robbery, rape and all sorts of criminalities were rife in the area, thus threatening individuals and businesses alike.

He, however, said with the advent of the new era, which has yielded much result, the gains of the exercise, such as reduction of traffic gridlocks, removal of criminal hide-outs and shanties and cases of degradation that are being remedied, must be sustained.

On the next line of action, the Special Adviser to the governor on the Environment, Dr. Taofeek Folami, said unveiling of the Apapa Regeneration Plan followed the demolition exercise.

“We will be landscaping the space we reclaimed in Marine Beach and create a recreation centre for residents of Ijora and Ajegunle. Some of the facilities that will be available at the recreation centre are basketball court, a football pitch, among others.

“We have done the design for the project. The streetlight from Ijora to Apapa has been designed and the estimate made. At Ijora Olopa, there would be a basketball court and boxing rings, where residents of Oyingbo, Ebute-Meta, Iganmu and Alaka, among others, can come and relax at their leisure.”

Folami added that besides sport facilities, which would adorn the reclaimed spaces, an outdoor advert boards would be created at strategic places, which would serve as a source of revenue for the state.

Bello said the cost of regenerating Apapa is huge, which explains why Governor Fashola set up an inter-ministerial committee to ensure full implementation of the project. The ministries to be involved include the Environment, Agriculture, Works and Infrastructure, and Lagos State Advertising Agency (LASAA).

“The project is quite big and might be difficult to put a specific cost to it because it will require that the drainage system be rehabilitated and road infrastructure fixed. At the moment, the state government needs over N6 billion to reconstruct the road from Marine Beach to Apapa alone. This is as a result of the petrochemical products spilt on the roads by those who turned the roads to their workshop, causing major degradation to the environment,” the commissioner stated.

Explaining the damage done to the area, Bello said all the spilled oil from the tankers goes underground and pollute the underground water.

“From this, ultimately, residents will extract water for use and tomorrow, we will be talking of cancer and related diseases. The people must be made to understand this. We are determined, however, to transform this place”.

For Okunubi, Dreams Do Come True

By TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA
Words failed seventeen-year-old Fehintola Okunubi last Thursday when reality dawned on her that her lifelong ambition to become a Biomedical Engineer was falling into place as she clutched a $40,000 scholarship to study in any Canadian university of her choice.
Born with an amniotic band, which led to the amputation of her leg, she had always aspired to surmount the odds, train to become a Biomedical Engineer and in the nearest future establish a centre where artificial limbs would be produced and people trained locally, so that with modern-day medical equipment, babies born with same condition would not have to go through her pains and lose their legs.
But then, it was a hope heading for the rocks as there was no university in Nigeria offering her dream course, while studying abroad was beyond her reach, as her parents made it clear they could not afford such.
Fehintola was about resigning to fate again when she stumbled on an advertisement calling for entries to participate in a Canadian scholarship by Luz Neema Foundation, a subsidiary of Comfort Zone Educational. Armed with a top drawer West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) result and resolute resolve, she was shortlisted for the final round of oral and written tests before emerging winner of the maiden edition.
Breaking into tears during the presentation of the award in Lagos, Fehintola said the scholarship, covering only tuition for the undergraduate programme, was godsent. “Everybody around me had
discouraged my choice because no university in the country was offering the course. I had even settled for what I could get here and hope to return to my dream course later in the future when pursuing a Masters degree. It is a dream come true,” she said.
Chairman of the event and Majority Leader of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Dr. Ajibayo Adeyeye, while congratulating the winner for again proving to the world that there is ability in disability, made a donation of $500 to Fehintola to augment her living expenses in Canada.
He said the problems facing the education sector calls for concerted effort from all stakeholders in the Nigerian project. “The reason why in Lagos State, it seems all our planning and strategies are failing is because other states are not doing what they are supposed to do and it is choking the available infrastructure. For instance, if we plan for a hundred pupils, we get a thousand accessing the facility. If we build schools to accommodate a thousand, 10,000 pupils would be registering for admission, which is why private efforts such as the Luz Neema initiative should be encouraged.”

Mrs. Mobo Oresegun, Founder,  Luz Neema Foundation (left); Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly, Dr. Ajibayo Adeyeye presenting the scholarship to Fehintola Okunubi, as member board of trustee, Femi Odugbemi looks on during the presentation.


Founder and administrator of the foundation, Mrs. Mobo Oresegun, said she is awarding the scholarship not because she does not have faith in the country’s educational institutions, but because their is a lapse which needs to be filled.
“Nigeria is blessed with extremely brilliant and dedicated students who are interested in pursuing a brighter future but many are handicapped by several socio-cultural and financial challenges. Furthermore, there are some courses, which are not currently available in Nigerian universities. People should be interested in environmental courses like weather forecasting, hydroscience, global warming as a way of planning for the future.
“We need to move in tandem with the industrialised world and equip our educational system beyond the saturated courses our universities presently offer. We, especially, would love to see Nigeria at the forefront of providing innovative ideas and not just a nation of importers alone. This is the gap Comfort Zone Educational is determined to bridge,” she said.

A member of the board of trustee, Mr. Femi Odugbemi, noted that Nigerians like to whine about the state of things in the country, “but a young Nigerian, Mobo, is doing alot to change the course of the country and enrich the future, one person at a time.”
Comfort Zone Educational is a consulting firm dedicated to recruiting, counselling and application processing for Nigerians to study in Canadian universities or colleges. Application for the second award has commenced and would last till September 30, 2012 with forms available online at http://www.luzneema.org.
According to the organisers, feedback from the first edition shows a number of secondary schools indicated interest in the scholarship scheme but its students were unable to participate due to unavailability of SSCE results. The foundation was requested to hold another award towards the end of the year to enable freshly graduated secondary school students the opportunity to participate.