The ambitious light rail project, will Lagos get it right?

by Ajadi Daniel

The Lagos light rail project is taking too long to come. Initiated in 2008, the project is supposed to address the transportation challenges experienced in the state, linking the mainland with the island, as well as the interior to the core of the city, Lagos has needed this improved transport system before now, yet it is better late than never.

The financial cost of the project probably explains the delay in its completion. The Lagos light rail project is an ambitious project that will require several millions of dollar to accomplish. The initial fund for the project alongside a 10 lane highway reportedly came from the World Bank. The exact cost of the project cannot be immediately ascertained. Information from some sources claimed that Lagos expected $600m from the World Bank, to be distributed in three tranches of $200 million. Presently the World Bank seems to be off the project, likewise the Chinese construction company who are no longer on the project, thus prompting LASG to seek another investor. But some of these challenges may be put to rest with the partnership between the Lagos state government and French consortium, Alstom transport. Phase one of the project will now be completed by the Lagos state government through internally generated revenue (IGR).

The new date for the completion of the project is now 2022. Yet, the question is whether we can trust Lagos government on this new arrangement and completion date, giving the challenges experienced since the inception of the project. Why did it have to take this long for the government to take this initiative? Rather than postponing the delivery date of the project on more than three occasions, why not carry out a new study on the project to determine why it is taking time to be completed? And lastly, the state has not explicitly explained to her people the details of the project, how much they have spent and the challenges they are experiencing in delivering the project. What happened to the initial agreement with the World Bank and the Chinese construction company who were involved in the project before now and took up the construction to this point, and if they are still involved, what is their stake under the new arrangement?

There is need for transparency when it comes to the execution of projects by the government, and when we talk transparency, we are not necessarily limited to the issue of finance, but also the processes involved.

 Lagos need to prioritize the project, and begin to explore other ways of implementing the project even if the partnership with the French company does not work.

 Maybe the light rail project is bigger than what Lagos can afford at this time, maybe they the project itself was set on a political foundation which affected a critical feasibility studies on it before going all out considering the resources at the disposal of the state. A social commentator on the Lagos Light rail project accused government in Nigeria of dreaming up projects that they obviously know they cannot fund; they also often fail to understand the need to divide projects into small operational sections that can start to generate revenue to complete the other sections. So the Mile 2 to Orile section could be developed to become operational so as to fund other sections of the project in the city.

If we must have the light rail project by 2022, which is the new date, Lagos would need to prioritize the project and do more than it is doing, as well as consider the options of dividing projects into operational sections that will be completed to fund other sections.

We hope that by 2022, Lagos would have gotten it right.

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