WE share the joy, relief and optimism of the government, people and residents of Lagos State over the imminence of a second airport for the city. A metropolis of more than 20 million people and a bustling centre of commerce like Lagos definitely needs more than one airport.
The approval for this project was issued to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, about a fortnight ago. The event represented progress on a venture conceived in the 1980s and briefly spade-worked by the regime of Babatunde Raji Fashola.
An airport in the Lekki Free Trade Zone is indispensable, given that a new seaport and one of the largest refineries in the world – Dangote Refinery – are at completion stages. It will enable indigenous and international stakeholders to move in and out seamlessly, rather than having to drag through the nightmarish traffic and other risks on the streets of Lagos to and from the Murtala Muhammed Airports in Ikeja.
We hope the state government will amicably settle with the landowners without leaning too hard on the constitutional powers of the Governor to acquire land for the public good. These laws are for the people’s welfare. The government should carry the owners of the 3,500 hectares of land along.
Secondly, the fears of legal entanglements should not hamper the project. The pact that former President Olusegun Obasonjo’s government signed with Bi-Courtney Air Services Ltd not to allow another airport in Lagos until after the expiration of its 36-years at the MMIA (2) is at issue. Experts agree that it cannot stop the LASG from building its own airports as its peers have already done.
We are, however, worried about preparations for the establishment of this facility. What manner of planning do we have around it? The coming on stream of these three gigantic projects will drastically alter current living conditions as we know it. Dangote Refineries and the Seaport will attract armadas of petrol, diesel and gas tankers into this zone. If the Apapa experience is anything to go by, then the residents of that zone had better be ready for harsh ordeals.
Already, the Victoria Island to Epe Expressway is too clogged with traffic, even before the opening of these projects, which are guaranteed to morph human and vehicular traffic to geometrical proportions.
To make the airport, seaport and refinery benefit rather than punish the people, the transport infrastructure of the Lekki/Epe end of Lagos must be world class. Apart from wide trunk roads, there must be trains and other modes of transport connecting vital sections of the peninsula to other parts of the city.
If adequate transport infrastructure is not provided, that zone will choke, and residents will be forced to relocate. That is failure. We must avoid that.