Lekki: Once Upon A Time


Lekki, a suburb of Lagos, was once a sleepy and seedy land. That axis was so remote that it reminded one of a dungeon of a sort. Prisoners, hardened ones, were banished to that enclave. The old sage Pa Obafemi Awolowo was in deed a victim of such wicked incarceration.

However, it is this historically relevant event that began to draw attention of government and Lagosians to this sprawling seashore settlement.  That was a few decades ago. Today, the Lekki axis has become a hub of activities – social, religious and commercial. This potential world tourist destination, with vast hectares of land for agriculture, has not failed to capture the attention of some recent past governments in Lagos state.

In their resolve to decongest the Lagos metropolis, various housing estates have been developed in the Lekki – Ajah area, either by the state government or other private developers. The Victoria Garden phase 1 and phase 2 were built in the last one and half decades. The Cooperative Estates, Goshen Estates and other private homes have since dotted the landscape of this suburb inhabited by the rich.

Subsequently, many people recently began to loathe the idea of living in the Lekki region, because of the detestable traffic congestion prevalent there. The reality was that the only access road to the environment, the dual carriage-way from Victoria Island Lekki – Ajah – Epe had become too small for the volume of traffic the area now attracts. This therefore necessitated the intervention of immediate past administration of the state and the incumbent governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola who contracted the expansion of the road to private construction company. This is part of the grand design to make Lagos state the dream Mega City it has been projected to be in the very near future.

Lagos State government officials have indeed mouthed this idea severally, in order to encourage Lagosians that the best is yet to come as they look forward to a  better welfare package from the government of the day. Governor Fashola himself described the development in Lagos state especially with the transformation going on Lekki as the biggest project in Africa.

The developmental project in  Lekki from all indications and as the governor explained at several meetings of stakeholders, before the road expansion began, was too enormous for government to bear. Private partnership was therefore involved to mobilise funds. This arrangement required that the private partner would recover it expenditure through the collection of toll as it is case all over the world until the concession period expires.

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However, this idea of collecting tolls has not gone down well with many residents of this environ. They have complained about it, saying it amounted to multiple taxation of responsible citizens who pay their taxes regularly. There was also the question of having to pay toll as many times residents pass through the toll gates.

Nevertheless, the state government had resolved through sustained dialogue to esnure that these compelling issues are amicably resolved, and the genuine fears of the residents are fully assuaged. Recently, the government assured the general public especially those who regularly use the Lekki-Epe route that commuter vehicle transporters would not be allowed to arbitrarily increase fares on the route since the road expansion programme has obviously saved them from losing several man hours as it was the case in the past when traffic jam was very severe on the road. This same line of thought may also be applied to other road users who shall definitely have cause to appreciate the initiative of the state government in the long run. And also, the economic benefits that shall accrue to the government and people of Lagos State eventually shall be obvious for all to see, especially as it shall complement the fourth Mainland Bridge being planned.

A word of counsel here shall however do all stakeholders in this context some good. A tallying system, whereby residents/regular road users can get identification by paying their tolls in advance may be an option for those who ply the road regularly as against the current situation whereby motorists have to pay tolls every time they drive through the road. This method shall surely assist in easing the brouhaha that has so far been generated.

•Charles Efe Ikhaghe writes from Lagos.

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