Lagos. What a place! With a population of over 20 million people, the bustling city remains the centre of attraction to not only Nigerians but also to West Africans. It holds about 12 percent of country’s 167 million people.
Despite its rather limited landmass, the city for several decades served as the administrative capital for the Federal and Lagos State governments. The ensuing institutional land uses such as government secretariats, educational institutions, airports and military barracks competed for space with the spiralling demands for new housing estates, a development informed by the steady flow of migrants into the city.
Under military fiat, governments acquired large tracts of land for such uses, which now seem to constitute major bottlenecks around the areas where they are located. This is attributable to the fact that, due to the city’s rapid growth, most of the acquisitions, previously in fringe areas, had become a contiguous part of the metropolis, surrounded by densely built-up areas. The city grew towards these places and practically wrapped around them.
A colleague in the urban planning profession, Prof. Leke Oduwaye, shares these sentiments, saying that the land area surrounding the institutional land uses are high density residential areas which generate high volume of human traffic as well as private and commercial vehicles during the morning and evening peak periods.
He lists some of the uses to include Federal Secretariat, The Cemetery, Police Barracks, Dodan Barracks, Golf Course (all in Ikoyi); Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos Island; University of Lagos, Akoka (UNILAG); Yaba College of Technology, Yaba (YABATECH); Federal School of Health Technology, Yaba; Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba; Army Barracks, Onike; Army Barracks, Yaba; Army Cantonment, Maryland; Police College, Ikeja; and Murtala Mohammed International and Local Airports (MMIA), Ikeja.
Others are: Army Resettlement Scheme, Oshodi; Lagos State University, Ojo; Navy Barracks, Ojo; Kirikiri Prison Complex, Kirikiri; Army Barracks, Ojo; International Trade Fair Complex, Ojo; Festival Town, Amuwo Odofin; Lagos State Government Secretariat, Alausa; Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja; Old Lagos State Secretariat, Ikeja; and Lagos High Court Complex, Ikeja.
Dr. Oduwaye, who is Dean of Faculty of Environmental Sciences at UNILAG, frowns at the man-hour loss, psychological stress and environmental pollution resulting from the persisting snarl along the Herbert Macaulay Road corridor within the Lagos Central Area, which he believes is due to the presence of a group of institutions like UNILAG, Queens College, YABATECH, Federal College of Education (Technical), Federal Technical College, Federal School of Health Technology, LUTH, Army Barracks (at Yaba-Abule Ijesha and Onike) and Atan Cemetery.
Some of the institutions are considered development and real estate un-friendly because they seem to tie down large, high-priced tracts of land, of which a substantial part could be converted to residential and commercial uses that are in high demand.
Perhaps this was the thinking when, several years ago, the Nigerian Army collaborated with a team of investors to build “The Arena,” a shopping complex located within the confines of the Maryland Cantonment, but with its main access from the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway by Oshodi. To some extent, the complex encouraged a Maryland-Oshodi through traffic, but recent insecurity challenges appear to have put that development to rest.
Similarly, the impression was that the new residential use that the old Federal Secretariat in Ikoyi would be put to could be a relief by enabling through traffic. However, the project has stalled following a face-off involving federal and state officials.
While the exorbitant toll charged by the airport management on the road linking the Lagos-Abeokuta Highway with the Isolo/Ire-Akari area has discouraged through traffic within the MMIA, the combination of LASUTH/Old Secretariat/High Court complex appear to be the cause of an extensive traffic congestion, which is routed through the Oba Akinjobi Road.
Observers are suggesting that such massive, non- thoroughfare tolerant land uses should either be pulled down, trimmed or opened up to allow for through streets in order to improve spatial interaction within Lagos.
Oduwaye wants ring roads to be constructed to collect traffic around the metropolis for those who have nothing to do within the central areas of the city, to connect areas where they intend to visit in the city.
“This is particularly required around the south-western end to link Apapa to Ojo, Igando, Abule-Egba, and Sango-Abeokuta Expressway. The construction of the Fourth Mainland Bridge at the Lekki-Ibeju end to link Ikorodu will serve as part of the Lagos Ring Road project,” he says.
A poser: do some of the military facilities still require so much land today, when war equipment and warfare now come in compact, computerised and remote-controlled packages?
By Michael Simire