PHILIP ASIODU: We Lost Lagos Metroline To Our Stupidity As A Nation
That was a terrible thing. It shows the irresponsibility and lack of memory of some of those who had taken decisions on some things since the destruction of what we had.
You know in 1964, Konisberger led a United Nations team to survey Lagos and directions of growth and make recommendations. And that Konisberger report recommended that Lagos should build a mono rail from Ikeja to Ebute-Ero.
It could see the way Lagos was growing and the need for mass urban transit. That was in 1964. That same report recommended a regional approach to the supply of water damming Ogun River, just like New York is supplied from Upper Hudson River.
That was to supply Ogun State and Lagos. Unfortunately, when the civilians came Jakande didn’t like the idea. That’s that. We had already in the vote 1964 to 1965 money to start central sewage around Tinubu Square and to be expanded. It was abandoned.
At that time, we thought we should not have government offices scattered around. We got through council in 1964 what we called planned construction of government offices. We were going to practically acquire, Holist Street, Oke Suna Street, and all the streets down to Race Course. Anyway, all these were part of the concept.
Now, let’s go back to the Metroline project. With the coup de’tat of 1966, that put paid to that. By 1967 states were created. Even before the Konisberger report, there was a report from a group that came from Canada. They made recommendation on inter city transport. Lagos is like Venice. Go to Venice, there are a hundred lanes, water transportations, there should be a hundred ferries going between Ikoyi Victoria Island and where you have Lagos State University, LASU, in Ojoo. Under the colonial government we used to go to Apapa by water. We have not exploited all that.
On the Metroline issue, nothing happened. We were retired in 1975 after the coup. I went into private life. Later, we resuscitated the project. There is no way you can carry everybody — workers, passengers within a short time on road where a city is more than two million. You want to put everybody in taxis? It’s not possible. We were able to persuade the government. At that time, Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua was the Minister for Transport to make it that one, in principle; every city above two million should have mass transit. Two, arising from that we would identify 14 cities that were about two million or already two million; with of course Lagos. For Lagos, we agreed that they should go and design for construction a mass transit line immediately. We selected RTP of France. The fantastic thing they have in Paris is coordinating the buses with the subways etc linking one another. It’s fantastic. They had also worked in San Francisco, USA. They were appointed and we all agreed. Their credentials were very good.
We went from Lagos to Ibadan, Ilorin, Kaduna, Jos, Kano, Markurdi, Enugu, Aba, Port Harcourt, Benin City, Warri and Abuja, which was projected to be the capital. RTP decided on designing Lagos. Then the military government said they were going to hand-over in 1979. They bought the idea. Of course, they wanted to plan a Transport Commission but that they would leave it to the civilians. But in the meantime, the French RTP had done preliminary studies and handed over.
Jakande came. Some people went to him and sold the idea of light municipal mass transit or something. So, he had to fall back to the RTP decisions. And we were lucky, we secured $450 million loan at six percent fixed interest rate for 25 years. One month later, it was impossible to get such loan because of change of policy. But there we were lucky that for 25 years we would have had this at give-away. And economic studies have already shown that charging the prices people were already paying, we didn’t need subsidy. The country would benefit. They looked at Abidjan and Cairo. Abidjan wasn’t quite ready. So, Cairo. They started designing Lagos and Cairo the same time. Then people”(Buhari/Idiagbon)” did coup against Shagari and decided to cancel the project of which we had already paid 15 percent per $60 million. Work had started in Yaba. They then took us to court and they found us guilty naturally and fined us $60 million. I am sure that’s part of what we settled finally in the Paris Club debt.
It must have become $3 billion dollars and not one kilometer was constructed. You can see the stupidity and how we waste money. But these same characters — then, we had not gone back to civilian rule — were very happy in 1990 to be honoured guests in Cairo at the commissioning of Cairo Mass Transit which has made all the difference to Cairo! We are not ashamed. They all went there. Maybe they did not know what they were doing. How can a country lose time, lose treasure? And they have brilliant Nigerians manning places abroad. Then as a country we make ourselves objects of ridicule.
They showed me what they are planning now. I am not opposed to it. Half bread is better than none. Let it go ahead. By now we should have been extending the previous plan towards Okokomaiko and Victoria Garden City.
That would have removed two- thirds of the cars from the road on a week day.