Nigeria: Buhari commissions Africa’s ‘first metro rail with sea-crossing’

By Ben Ezeamalu
Posted on Wednesday, 25 January 2023 15:00

President Buhari officially commissioned the Lagos Blue Line Raile on 24 January 2023 (photo: @Opetuyii)

Nearly 40 years after he cancelled a Lagos State government rail project as a military dictator, President Muhammadu Buhari returned to the state to commission the Lagos Rail Mass Transit on Tuesday.

Buhari, accompanied by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and other Lagos government officials and traditional rulers, rode in the new, electric-powered train from Marina to the National Theatre, a roughly 5km journey that lasted 15 minutes.

“Since 1999, Lagos State government has not enjoyed the kind of support it has enjoyed since your administration came in seven and a half years ago,” Sanwo-Olu, who is running for re-election in March, said to the president.

The rail project, known as the Blue Line, is a 27km rail route that will run from Marina to Okokomaiko when completed. It will be completely powered by a power supply system supported by a reliable Independent Power Project and a backup arrangement.

‘Most audacious project’

The first phase of the project, which was commissioned by President Buhari, is a 13km stretch from Marina to Mile 2. There are three stops in between: at the National Theatre, Orile Iganmu, and Alaba.

The Blue Line is the first metro rail system with a sea crossing in Africa, and the first by a sub-national in the world, according to the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA).

The train is projected to transport 250,000 passengers daily when commercial operations begin, according to Deputy Governor Obafemi Hamzat.

“It is the most audacious project to be funded by a sub-national government,” he added.

The former Lagos governor and now the presidential candidate of Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, flagged off the construction of the light rail in 2003, although actual work did not start until six years later. Although Tinubu was absent at the event, the governor and his deputy paid tributes to him for being “the visionary” of the project.

Buhari then vs now

Before his election as president in 2015, Buhari served as Nigeria’s dictator in 1983 after a military coup overthrew a democratically elected government. As part of his draconian policies as the head of state, he threw all the elected politicians into jail, including Lateef Jakande, the civilian governor of Lagos.

He also cancelled Jakande’s metro line, a rail project designed to facilitate mass transit.

Tuesday’s commissioning of the Lagos Blue Line Rail, built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, was part of a two-day visit to the state by the president. The event began with the rendition of the Nigerian national anthem, followed by the Chinese national anthem.

Afterward, Governor Sanwo-Olu signed the agreement for the second phase of the rail project, which would continue from Mile 2 and terminate at Okokomaiko, along the Lagos-Badagry expressway. The expressway links Lagos to Cotonou, Benin Republic.

Cui Jianchun, the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, said the Blue Line is sustainable because Lagos provides a thriving business environment. He added that in the coming years, Nigeria and China would strengthen their military as well as business ties.

The Lagos Rail Mass Transit consists of six lines designed to transport a large volume of people across the state. With the commissioning of the blue line, the remaining ones include the Orange Line (Redeemed Church to Marina), Brown Line (Mile 12 to Marina), Purple Line (Redeemed Church to Ojo), Green Line (Marina to Lekki), Yellow Line (Otta to Iddo) and Red Line (Agbado to Marina via Iddo and the airport).

Governor Sanwo-Olu said the government would commission the Red Line before 29 May.

On Monday, the president also commissioned the Lekki Deep Sea Port and a rice mill at Imota where he reportedly told the governor “you are doing well.”

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