Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, said on Thursday that his administration will ensure that the Blue Line of the Lagos light rail project is functional by December this year.
It sounded like music in the ears of his audience at the banquet hall of Lagos House, Ikeja, during the Fifth Lagos Corporate Assembly, a forum for public-private sector engagement.
“The truth is, you might not see the contractors but they are actually working on the waters for now and by December this year, the project will start running. So work is seriously ongoing,” said Gov. Ambode in response to questions from chief executives and members of the organised private sector (OPS), who were worried that not much work seemed to be going on with the first phase of the project which would connect Mile 2 to CMS.
Ambode’s December expiry date sounds eerily similar to the expiry date given by former Rivers governor Rotimi Amaechi (currently the minister of transportation) during a session he held to mark his 49th birthday in May 2014. By that time, the governor had pumped in billions of naira into the state’s monorail project which he started in 2010 and hoped to complete in time for it to be a legacy project of his administration. In 2014, there were no rail lines or trains; all that there was to show for it were huge columns across various parts of the Rivers capital, Port Harcourt.
Amaechi was challenged about the project. In fact, a guest compared it to the failure of the Goodluck Jonathan administration in the area of power. ”There is a difference,” Amaechi shot back. “Monorail has an expiry date. The expiry date is December this year. Pres. Jonathan does not have an expiry date for the power problem. I dare him to announce an expiry date.”
December 2014 was Amaechi’s expiry date, and yet up till date, only those massive columns remain in Port Harcourt, a testament to waste and incompetence. Last August, the technical consultant to the state on the monorail project, Arcus Gibbs, revealed through its managing director, Wiero Viguezang, that it advised Amaechi to discontinue with the project after it had received N22.9bn. That’s just for consulting.
At the time when Amaechi was bragging about completing the project in December, his special adviser on MDGs, Desire Bobmanuel, claimed that the project would have gone much farther if not because the governor kept reviewing it. “He wants it to be such that his successor would have no excuse not to continue it. Initially the rail terminal was designed to accommodate one train; the governor asked that it be expanded to accommodate five trains,” said Bobmanuel.
Sadly, Amaechi’s successor, Nyesom Wike has said he may discontinue the project, even though that will be dependent on the outcome of a cost-benefit analysis by a committee he is yet to set up.
All these are food for thought for the vibrant Gov. Ambode. Lagosians are taking note. December 2016, you said, Governor. From your lips to heaven’s ears.