By Prince Justice Faloye
We thought we had heard it all when a 419 kingpin sold a nonexistent airport for $242m. Then, a ship was mysteriously pickpocketed and disappeared from Lagos Marina. Little did we know that a Lagos Governor could obtain by 419 deception and renamed a whole railway line as Sanwo Olu’s government is doing by falsely claiming the Ijora-Agbado section of the Lagos-Kano federal standard guage railway line that has been in operation for 10yrs from Ijora-Agbado, initially with four return trains daily but has dropped to two return trips.
The Sanwo Olu phanthom claim of the Red Line is to distract from the APC’s woeful performance over 23yrs of only laying 16 kilometers of the 160 kilometers of raillines required of four lines needed to adequately serve and transform Lagos. The standard gauge railway is for long distance high speed trains to destinations like Kano. The Lagos part of such long distance route was first laid 125yrs ago in 1898 from Lagos to Abeokuta before extended to Kano. It remained a narrow guage line from Iddo or Apapa to Agbado/Ijoko to Abeokuta for over hundred years until the Jonathan Goodluck government in 2012 signed a contract with the Chinese to upgrade it to a standard gauge railway from Lagos to Ibadan. By 2013, there were trains between Iddo/Apapa to Agbado/Ijoko with new trains.
The Lagos government begged the Federal government to use the federal line. The Lagos government unseriousness with railway development became glaring when instead of buying new railcars with guarantees, Governor Sanwo Olu bought two railcars that had been abandoned for 11yrs in Wisconsin State, USA for an undisclosed amount, usually higher than international market prices.
The Lagos state government is falsely claiming to be more involved in the construction of the federal line, like claiming they will be sharing responsibilities of signals system when the signal office will be staffed and paid by the federal government. Some claim they are laying 5km of rail to connect the Federal government line to Marina, when in actual fact it is part of the Blue line from National Theatre/Ijora to Marina metroline, whereby passengers will switch lines where they intersect, and not a continuation of the standard guage line as falsely portrayed. Everything from lines to stations to signals and bridges or tunnels, has been costed and paid for in the Jonathan Goodluck contract with the CCECC, the Chinese builders.
The sad part of the political lie is the buffoonery that sees railway as political tokenism, ignoring the fact that road traffic costs the Lagos economy over four trillion yearly, leaving an average Lagosian stuck in traffic for over two hours daily, contributing to pollution that costs an extra N1billion and over 10,000 lives, majority children, annually. Most depressing is that Sanwo Olu is ignorant of the economic history of industrialization and it’s direct relationship with railway development, whose huge employment and income multiplier effects propels the economy, especially in steel and chemical manufacturing. The accelerated development of the complete metroline in 4yrs as planned by Labour’s Lagos governorship candidate Gbadebo Rhodes Vivour will increase Lagos GDP exponentially.
Instead Sanwo Olu and his Godfather are contented with running an Agbero road transportation system which they can overtax for political funding and weaponize the Agberos poverty as political thugs. Their arrest of our railway development that arrests our industrial development has kept Lagos more or less a colonial tradepost trading imported goods and food, beverages and tobacco that account for half of the Lagos GDP. Unfortunately, the trading, retailing and wholesale has tiny multiplier effects to provide good paying jobs for the majority of Lagos. Especially since the goods traded have little value added in Lagos since manufacturing only accounts for 10% of GDP while agriculture accounts for less than 2% of the GDP.
With over 85% still dependent on and overstretching road transport, a more balanced development of transportation modes would develop manufacturing through railways and agriculture and through water transport. But how do we help someone pushing an obvious lie, apart from voting him out for incompetence and corruption. For over 20yrs we have waited for railways, and all we get are red lies, and a budget that has increased from an initial N135m to N1.2 billion, nearly ten times over.
The political cynicism stinks when you consider that the 4th Mainland Bridge conceptualized as far back as 2003 is still being used as an election promise in 2023, twenty years afterwards.
This is not only about their failures in transportation and industrialization, but the impunity, inefficiency and outright thievery encoded in their political DNA since Tinubu days. Despite Agriculture only contributing just about 1% of Lagos GDP, therefore needing massive investment, but in the 2020 budget the agriculture sector got N12.84 billion which is less than half the amount allocated to take care of Sanwo Olu and his principal officers in the state cabinet (N29.9 billion).
And even when a massive amount is allocated like with the N167.80 billion allocated to the health sector, not a single new hospital was built. International standards show N653 million will build and equip a sophisticated modern hospital, while Kwara State built the largest oncology center in West Africa for N2.5b, Lagos State could not build a single new hospital out of the billions in budget allocations for captial projects in the health sector. Under Tinubu, N9.81 billion was allocated to health at N140 per dollar, at the rate of N1.575 billion per 120 bed hospital, which would have built 6 standard hospitals but he built none.
In education, Lagos budgeted in 2021 N146.935 billion out of which about N80.597 billion was for capital expenditure, with a promise to construct 24 new schools and renovate 134 existing schools. But by 2022, no school had been built. This is like the Tinubu Ten Point Agenda that promised to build 20 new Millennium secondary schools but built only 4 schools in eight years, despite allocating the [education] sector N16.575 billion between 2002 to 2007. At the exchange rate of N160 to a dollar, and cost of N500 million per new school and N10m to refurbish 400 existing schools, Lagos should have had 20 new Millennium secondary schools, one in each local government.
The same thing has occurred through every Lagos State administration for the last 23 yrs – not having the right priorities and even when budgets are made and disbursed for capital projects, the projects cost times four the standard price or not done at all. You wonder what is their claim to power when there is a shortfall of nearly four million homes, 70% living in habitats below international standards, majority of schools are in desperate need of repairs, healthcare heavily skewed to Lagos Island while other local governments face serious shortfall. Honestly, these people are just ‘dulling’ Lagosians.
Enough is enough, Lagos must be free from this parasitic governance that only excels at overtaxing the masses to fund Tinubu’s political empire. Enough of the buffoonery, we are not fools that will swallow metro lies as metrolines.