Nothing improves the quality of life in cities like a reliable, well-planned public transit system. The fact that ease of travel is often a metric considered in ranking cities and states on the Livability Index underscores this. But beyond the bragging rights that a positive ranking can confer, governments around the world recognize that there is a causal relationship between the economic situation of their cities and the quality – and, indeed, affordability – of public transport accessible to the vast population. Governor Dapo Abiodun clearly understands this.
As Governor of Ogun State, arguably Nigeria’s industrial capital, he sees firsthand the municipal challenges that come with being neighbors to Lagos State, the country’s largest economy. Daily cross-border migration makes a seamless transport system quite expedient. This is a challenge that the Ogun State Multimodal Transport Master Plan is meant to address. “This transport policy takes into consideration the short, medium and long-term approaches to the development of our transport sector,” Abiodun explained at the launch of the public transport buses last week.
Buses that are significantly installed with free Wi-Fi represent the pilot phase of the transport master plan have started transporting commuters within Abeokuta and will expand to other cities. The extension of the planned route beyond the state would be done primarily in collaboration with the Lagos State Government under the Lagos-Ogun Joint Development Cooperation. If the deal goes through, it means Ogun State-owned buses carrying passengers could use the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes in Lagos and vice versa, roughly along these routes: Abeokuta Mowe, Kara, Marina, as well as Ifo and Ado Odo -Ota axis. It is just as well that Governor Abiodun’s administration has done massive road rehabilitation and reconstruction to open up new lanes for these transit buses.
Some may cynically scoff at the decision to install free wi-fi on buses. But for Governor Abiodun, this is in no way demagoguery. It is rooted in the awareness of the vast opportunities inherent in information and communication technology, especially in a state like Ogun, which has the highest student population in the country in institutions of higher learning. So the saying that ICT is the new oil is not rhetoric from the podium. He understands that for the many young ICT savvy people in the state, it has become a lived experience.
A recent report published by the National Bureau of Statistics validates this position. As the report for 2021 shows, Ogun State has the second highest internet subscription rate in Nigeria. According to the report, percent of internet subscribers in the country, 12 are based in Lagos State while six are based in Ogun State.
The multimodal transport master plan includes road, rail, river and air transport components. The vision is to interface in such a way that each mode of transport does not just exist in isolation, but complements each other in a somewhat unbroken chain for intra- and interstate travel. On rail transport, Ogun State leveraged its proximity to Lagos to strike a deal that would see the ongoing rail project developed by the latter extended to the former. Essentially, the 37 kilometer red line (expected to be completed in December this year) from Marina in Lagos would extend to Ijoko and Kajola, two border communities in the local government area of Ifo in Ogun State.
This agreement also involves the extension of the 27.5 kilometer Blue Line railway project which runs from Marina in Okokomaiko, a high density community on the outskirts of Lagos, to Agbara, an industrial zone in Ogun State. . It is important to note that the ongoing construction of the Atan Lusaka road by the Abiodun administration has been designed to maximize the economic benefits that an extension of the railway line to this industrial heartland would bring.
In the same vein, there is currently a track-sharing agreement between the Nigeria Railway Corporation and Ogun State, which hosts some major stations along the Western Railway Corridor of Nigeria. These include the five popular stations comprising Agbado, Kajola, Papalanto, Laderin and Olodo, as well as the other five approved by the NRC at the end of 2020.
At the heart of the expansion of rail and the sustained improvement of the road network is the implicit understanding of their ability to further open up rural communities. This fosters a sense of inclusion, especially in communities whose residents may have long felt literally cut off from the immense opportunities that an improved road network and regular rail service would normally confer. This is a key objective of Governor Abiodun’s administration’s development strategy, which seeks to inspire economic growth through critical enablers such as removing factors that stifle business, establishing safe neighborhoods and a largely affordable integrated transportation system.
Another crucial part of the state’s multimodal transportation system is the construction of an airport. Governor Abiodun is understandably optimistic about its completion, which should be completed by December this year. “The impact of the agro-cargo airport will have positive effects on hotels and warehouses being built in the region. We estimate that in the first 18 months we will create at least 25,000 jobs at this airport,” he said.
State policies, to a very large extent, derive their validation from the results they generate. One of the most reliable measures to assess growth could be drawn from the ability of states to generate internal revenue. In 2020, Ogun State was ranked fourth behind Delta, Rivers and Lagos. Although its position is still fourth in the semi-annual rankings for 2021, the state’s IGR figure saw a 131.5% year-over-year growth.
Indeed, the remarkable performance of the state on various development indices is further proof that social and economic growth is not fortuitous, but the product of a careful and scrupulously designed plan of action. So whenever the Governor expresses his vision of making Ogun State an economic powerhouse – as he often does – it is not mere rhetoric that flatters the gallery; it is a belief strongly rooted in the kind of belief that can only come from evidence-based reality.
– Nwuzor, public affairs analyst, resides in Abeokuta.