Honourable Prince Bayo Balogun is a member representing Ibeju Lekki Federal Constituency of Lagos State. He is a former chairman of Ibeju Lekki Local Government. In this interview with Lekki Times, he speaks on the infrastructural development around his Federal Constituency and what people should expect.
As a member representing Ibeju Lekki Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, what is the size of Ibeju Lekki?
Ibeju Lekki is 646 square kilometres and we can say it’s about one fifth (1/5) of the total landmass of Lagos State, which is about 3,345 square kilometres; in relative terms. If you compare Lagos Island, which is just 5.3 square kilometres , you will be getting over 120 times it’s size. That is why Ibeju Lekki is considered the new Lagos because it has the opportunity of starting a new whole development. And still about comparison, Ibeju Lekki like I said is 646 square kilometres while Singapore is 720 square kilometres. Ibeju Lekki is housing the biggest refinery in the whole world today – Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical, the Deepsea Port, Free Trade Zone, and airport, which is about to commence soon, apart from so many residential estates.
So, Ibeju Lekki on its own in the very near future will be the economic and industrial hub of Nigeria. By the time Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical starts, it will be saving Nigeria over 50 billion dollars used in importing refined products. It will increase the earnings of Nigeria’s maritime business by about three to four times by the time the seaport begins either later this year or later next year. In the area of revenue coming from residential estates, that is the tenement rates and all the regular permits collected by land and physical planning, Ibeju Lekki will be contributing the highest revenue to the state and the federal purse. So, when I said in the next few years, Ibeju Lekki is going to be a place to be.
What provisions will be made to accommodate the low-income earners as most developers only concentrate on building houses for high-income earners?
The government of Ibeju Lekki will not house people, business people will do business. Businesses respond to needs. When you said estates will not house workers; who is a worker and who is not a worker? Dangote too is a worker. He may be a worker for himself. So, everybody is a worker. You also talked about the category of houses available; if you want to check the high-brow areas, and you won’t see a labourer there, are there no other developments within the areas? So, within Ibeju Lekki there are places where there are bungalows or even shanties. Ibeju Lekki is a wide area. And if you visit Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical, there are a lot of development along the area, housing people who need such houses. If you are into real estate, you respond to the needs of the people, you respond to the category of people that want to buy into your property. There are people catering for the low-income earners, there are people catering for the medium, and the high-income earners. Ibeju Lekki is a place where you have a development for everybody. Even in the developed parts of the world, you see the high-brow areas, then there will be supportive communities that will be housing workers working within those areas.
Are the existing roads wide or strong enough to withstand the heavy traffic that will result from all these developments in the area?
Yes, that is the biggest challenge we are facing today. Luckily, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has been so proactive and has been engaging the management of the whole of the Free Trade Zone because the Free Trade Zone is the major project housing all these other smaller ones. They have like a master plan for the Free Trade Zone, which will include the rail, the widening of the coastal roads. The design also include the rail that will go along the coastal line up to Port Harcourt. So, these are the major designs we have on ground in Lagos. All these have been put in place during Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu era in which other governors have actually keyed into.
The issue now is how fast and how well are all these roads coming up? Unfortunately, the widening of the coastal road was supposed to be handled by Dangote which was to start at some earlier date, unfortunately, it has not happened, the state government has actually taken it on itself to get a different contractor to handle it. I believe the execution or the planned award if it has not taken place should be done anytime from now because they have already started working on the right of way of the road. We can also see the one from Eleko Junction now to Epe, it is almost completed by our current governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu. The governor has been doing a lot, if you are coming down from Etiosa, you will see what is happening by VGC and other major bridges going to connect behind the VGC, having another parallel road to this Lekki Epe road. The coastal line too instead of the one coming from Akodo from the Free Trade Zone going back to Epe through Eleko, we want to extend it to go on that coastal line and connect Abraham Adesanya. That I have been working on. I started working on the road when I was council chairman and now, I have also been working on it. Fortunately, we brought in the Deputy Governor, Mr Femi Hamzat, who is also the Commissioner for Works to come and see the road when we commissioned the 500 metres which I just completed through my constituency project; he has also promised that they would use the state to complete the remaining which will burst out at Abraham Adesanya. That will create another paralleled road; from the right, there will be another one from the left. So, it will not be only this Lekki-Epe Express Road that will bring so much traffic away from the major and that is also going to open up all the virgin lands we still have within the area.
So, there are a lot of efforts going on in the area of the road. Like I said from the beginning, again the size of the local government is so vast that one major road in Ibeju Lekki will be like covering four or five other local governments within the mainland; that is how big the area is. The one from Eleko to Ayetoro is about four kilometres, the one Mr Governor is just doing now going to Epe is almost 30 kilometres. So, when you talk about projects within Ibeju Lekki, it is always massive. And because of the terrains, we have here – high water level, it is not advisable for us to use asphalt; most of the time now is either concrete or interlock which will ensure that the road becomes durable and will not be water-locked during any major rain. It has been so much work on infrastructural development within the area.
Are these roads going to be toll-free?
Well, it depends on how you source the money. I read something in one of your magazines in which a lawyer was boasting that he was going to take up the state government and will not allow it to collect tolls on the road. Nigeria is going through a heavy debt burden; we have to go borrowing every day to fund. Most of the money being borrowed is not actually put into effective use and this will become a debt to our children there is no better way now to develop our infrastructure instead of getting loans is to do Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
You m%ust engage the private sector. In engaging the private sector, you will be sure that there will be proper maintenance, and you will be sure that there will be good monitoring. Instead of us going begging for money here and there, why can we engage PPP at all levels? Let the local government practice it, let the state government practice it, and then the Federal Government. If you want to do PPP, what do you do? You toll, you have to recover your money. You see sometimes, we tend to cry more than the bereaved; people say ‘no’ government cannot do this, but the government must raise funds. Government has the responsibility to take care of the country and its citizens. But it is going to use some funds, so money must be made available. Which one do you prefer is what you should be talking about?
Do you prefer the way we are borrowing money left, right, and centre? But if you are giving it out as a PPP, no matter how stupid your contract is today, by tomorrow it will be over if it comes back to the owner but if you get a loan, you get more burden and you get your loans being increased every calendar year. So, the only thing you can lose in the PPP is the project itself; you may lose revenue from it for a period of time and you may not even lose revenue from it, you may not be able to get revenue from it because you have not got anything from it before: so it is not that you are losing what you have not been getting. The thing now is that if you say, ok, you are going to run this facility for 30 years, it’s not between now and that 30 years you may not be getting revenue, but immediately it comes back to you, it’s 100 per cent of the assets, I get and transfer to you after the expiration of the contract.
So, this to me is a way to go about ensuring that we have sustainable project financing in place. If you know that a particular road in your area is viable, there are a lot of people passing on that road, what stops me as an individual from investing in the construction of a road in such an area? If it is done by the private sector, you will be sure of prudence and efficiency in every aspect of the project. If you borrow money and at the end of the day, the project gets stalked, then whatever money you have got should be forgotten. So, the issue of anybody stopping the state or instigating people not to pay at the tollgates is a serious disservice to Lagos State because the state is a mini-Nigeria as we all know. We have people from every state living in Lagos, if you condition some people are living, you will see that the state government still has a lot of work to do.
When we are talking about the road, we are only talking about Lekki-Epe Express Road, we not talking about the ones that will be entering every community. So those ones are still there but we must, first of all, handle the major ones which are the backbones of the road network. Lekki-Epe Express Road will connect to ‘T’, ‘D’ junctions. The road from ‘T’ will be going from Epe to Ijebu Ode either bringing people or taking people out of Lagos. The other option you have now is to pass through Ikorodu if you are not passing this area. So, that is why the major roads are very important.
Yes, we can be talking about being more efficient in toll collection. It’s not just the price, the system of collection. How fast are people moving at that point of payment? Sometimes they create so much traffic. It must be digitalized, we can longer continue with manual payment; it is when you digitalise it: then you have a chip on your vehicle or by your card, you place and the door open instead of wasting over 30 or 40 minutes in the queue. When the idea is to reduce traffic, then you are also being part of that traffic but once you have a project, if you are midwifing a project, you cannot foresee all the outcomes. I think we should be a bit lenient with the government, let’s work with the government to ensure that they have the confidence.
If this Lekki arrangement is distorted, it is going to distort every other investment into this country because if an investor sees that in Nigeria the rule of law is no longer effective, you cannot call people to order, then investors will run, it is not how well you talk to the people on televisions and make the noise; how practical have you been? It is very important for us not to do anything to jeopardize the recovery of investments of those who have invested in the bridges that are being tolled.
I hope Ibeju Lekki will not be like Apapa where residents are locked out from the rest of Lagos?
With the size of Ibeju Lekki and the experience people have seen already, people will have are Team parks within the Free Trade Zone. The problem is not the vehicles, because they have to come and line up on the road. When you have trailer parks within the area, they will now be working with the deep-sea port, the refinery and other major things, and since it is a free trade zone, there will be trailer parks. If you need to load 200 trucks and if the queue inside your premises can only take 30 trucks, it is just for you to have rules on the ground that give them information on how many vehicles should come over to either the refinery or the seaport. If it’s a situation where they have to be moving in every 20 minutes, they will wait for people to call them, ok, 20 other people can come in. But what we have in Apapa, there is no provision of such things. Apapa is actually a residential area turned highly commercial. So, that is the only area we have to work together in this axis to ensure that we don’t get into such a crisis that Apapa is in today
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